Is This Man TV’s Most Terrifying Villain?

Photo: ABC/Craig Sjodin.
This article contains spoilers about the Season 6 premiere of Scandal. When you think of TV's most notorious villains, there are a few figures who probably come to mind. Sherlock's Moriarty, Daredevil's Fisk, and Jessica Jones' Kilgrave are obvious choices. We know these characters are the bad guys; they're horrible people. But they're not the only antagonists in the TV landscape. Sometimes, characters who are just as sinister, like Scandal's Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) are hiding in plain sight. From the show's onset, Cyrus has always been one of Scandal's greatest evil masterminds, giving even Rowan (Joe Morton) a run for his money. Before last night's episode aired, I predicted that if Mellie won the election, Cyrus would kill Rowan and become Commander-in-Chief himself. Cyrus was the brains behind Fitz's (Tony Goldwyn) presidency. He was the shrewd genius who orchestrated an active-shooter situation to bring Gov. Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) into the public eye. Cyrus hired a hit man to kill his own husband, though he called it off at the last minute. And he, along with the CIA director, went behind Fitz's back to try to kill Olivia instead of saving her from the kidnapping. Over time, we've seen the show's "white hat" characters — namely, Olivia (Kerry Washington) and David (Joshua Malina) — lose their standing as the "good guys." But Cyrus never pretended to be good. Sure, he sucked up to Fitz plenty of times during his presidency, but it was only to feed his own power-hungry ambitions. There is no level to which Cyrus won't stoop. This is a man who adopted a child for the sole purpose of having leverage over his partner. If that doesn't frighten you, what does? In Scandal's sixth-season premiere, Governor Vargas wins the presidential election — only to be shot before delivering his victory speech. Naturally, Olivia is quick to believe Cyrus is behind the assassination. Taking Vargas out of the picture entirely would give Cyrus a shot at the office, and the power he so desperately wants. Olivia doubts her assumption after seeing Cyrus at the hospital where Vargas died. Shaking and covered in blood, Cyrus is the picture of a shock victim. His performance is so convincing that Olivia actually buys it, even if only for a few minutes. The OPA team uncovers a deleted voicemail from the assassination tipline. The message, from a Vargas staffer, claims simply that "it was Cyrus Beene. He killed Frankie Vargas." Personally, I don't buy the idea that Cyrus was behind the attack. If he wanted to eliminate Vargas, wouldn't he rather wait until after the inauguration, so that he'd actually be next in line? The precedent for choosing the next commander-in-chief in this situation is murky, and it's a pretty big risk for a questionable payoff. And Cyrus put a lot of work into getting Vargas elected; if he was just going to kill his way into the White House, it would have been a lot easier to weasel his way onto a Republican ticket than to change parties to be Vargas' running mate. The voicemail also seems like a red herring. Cyrus was on stage with Vargas, so if the staffer knew he was behind the assassination, it would be because they uncovered his plans to hire a sniper. In that case, wouldn't they have reported Cyrus to the authorities before Vargas was shot? "It was Cyrus Beene" is not a helpful tip; it's a conspiracy theory. I'd love for the shooting to have been orchestrated by Tom — maybe a last-ditch attempt to win Cyrus back? It would also be excellent if Michael was behind it, too. In reality, though, it was probably Jake and/or Rowan.
But whether or not Cyrus actually tried to have Vargas killed doesn't change the fact that he's clearly going to be this season's villain. And he might just be able to out-do Papa Pope, evil-wise. Rowan is cunning and murderous, but he still has a weakness in caring about Olivia. After James' death, Cyrus has not appeared to care about any other human beings, which makes him an incredibly dangerous villain. Regardless of how Vargas died, Cyrus was definitely feigning sadness, both at the hospital and when he stood next to Fitz the next morning. Even standing there, with Vargas' blood on his shirt, Cyrus would have been thinking about his potential ascent into the oval. And at Fitz's press conference, Cyrus was trying not to smirk — some of Jeff Perry's finest acting ever on the show. Cyrus is ruthless, and he'd be thinking of himself, even on this occasion. Cyrus Beene is an opportunistic snake. Whether or not he killed his way into the presidency, he has no problem, as Mellie puts it, stepping over Vargas' charred body into the Oval Office. He's excellent at pretending he cares about other people, and about America, which makes him a scarier, and far more interesting, villain than Rowan ever was. It's the United States of Beene now, and that's absolutely terrifying.

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