Scandal Season 6, Episode 15 Recap: "Tick Tock"

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
It actually worked out well that ABC had to air the final two Scandal Season 6 episodes in a two-hour block, because "Tick Tock" was an episode made up of a whole lotta nothin' -- and it benefited immensely from "Transfer of Power," which was both incredibly confusing and awesome at the same time.
In the penultimate episode of the season, Olivia (Kerry Washington) and her cohorts captured Maya (Khandi Alexander) before the first commercial break, which gave Alexander and Joe Morton plenty of time to yell at each other over who loves Olivia more. That's basically what their issues with each other boil down to -- who loves her more, who has done more to protect her, etc.
After much scenery chewing and a lot of filler, the Gladiators, led by the newly-minted head Gladiator Quinn (Katie Lowes), figure out that Maya isn't some kind of mastermind in this case. She's actually just the hired gun. This reveal feels really cheap at this point, because it negates Maya's reason for being there. Maya as mastermind works because of the mystery of why she would be working against Olivia. Maya as hired gun feels like a quick way to drum up drama for an episode before we get to the actual meat of the season.
Maya says her reasoning for taking the job is to try to protect Olivia and that's all well and good, but once we learn the truth in the final episode, it makes all the Maya stuff kind of annoying.
That's basically hour one of the finale, with a small, baby-shaped bombshell dropped in there for Quinn. She's pregnant. Dun dun dun?
Thankfully, "Transfer of Power" manages to right the ship so that Scandal can go out on a high note this season. An insane, implausible, ridiculous high note, but a high note nonetheless.
I've actually been wondering for several weeks now what is the point of assassinating Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) if Mellie is the real target? He wins the election and she's not going to be president now anyway, so there's no political reason to dispose of her. Or if it's that she's being targeted for a personal reason, now she's even easier to kill, right? It makes no sense to go to such lengths just to take Mellie out.
So the finale lays it out for us -- who is in the best position of anyone right now if Mellie dies? Why, it's Luna Vargas (Tessie Santiago), because now she's not only the new president of the United States, but she's a blood-stained, Jackie Kennedy-esque widow. It's a brilliant power play (even if there are a couple sticking points I can't quite get past, which I'll get to in a minute).
But I would have been pretty satisfied if that had been the entire solution to the season's drama, because it's a neat twist. What would have been especially neat is if the show had leaned into the idea that Olivia and Jake (Scott Foley) can't take Luna out because Mellie needs her as VP (and also needs her presidency to remain scandal-free as much as possible).
What an interesting Season 7 plot it would have been to watch Olivia and Jake fight against Luna while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy for outward appearances.
However, this is Scandal and it can't ever be that simple (if you can call that simple).
It turns out that Luna wasn't the true mastermind. She thought she was, but it was in fact good ol' Cyrus (Jeff Perry) who was pulling the strings all along. He must have had to do it very carefully to make Luna think she was in charge, but he orchestrated the whole thing, with the ultimate goal being that Olivia would eventually suss out who was behind it all (Luna, though, not himself) and would take Luna out, then Cyrus would be the obvious choice to replace her and he would get what he wanted all along -- power.
Now, this does raise a few sticking points. Was Mellie supposed to die or not? Maya as hired gun seems to have independently decided not to take Mellie out, so what was Cyrus' end-game there? That Mellie would be killed, Luna would become president and she'd pick Cyrus as vice president? Was that what they worked out?
But the way Cyrus was speaking to Olivia at episode's end, it seems like he always thought Olivia would take out Luna, so was the goal that Luna takes out Mellie, Olivia takes out Luna and Cyrus becomes president? It's not very clear.
Luna admitted to Olivia that she was behind her husband's assassination, so she's been working this plan all along -- but what guarantee did she have that Mellie would name her vice president? If you'll remember in "Mercy," Mellie first offered the job to Cyrus. Who suggested Luna? That conversation was kept off screen, so should we assume it was Cyrus?
It's also a bit hard to swallow that Cyrus would go through the rigamarole of the whole prison thing in order to get to this point, so the entire season feels completely absurd.
This is an instance where we actually wish the Maya thing hadn't entered into the picture at all and the final two hours of show had been devoted to this plot, so that perhaps we could have been shown flashbacks of moments here and there when Cyrus manipulated things ever so slightly in his favor (like maybe by suggesting Luna as VP in that closed-door meeting in "Mercy").
Still, even for as confusing as the plan was, it did make for an interesting turn of events when Olivia figured it all out. First, the scene where she and Jake made Luna kill herself was amazing. Stone. Cold. It was maybe the most hardened we have seen Liv be in six seasons (and that is saying something).
But an even bigger twist is that Olivia is going to take over running B-613, presumably with Jake by her side to help out, and she doesn't seem to have much problem with installing Cyrus as vice president. Dark Olivia is not the Olivia we started Scandal with six years ago, but damn if she isn't really interesting and kind of awesome.
If you don't think too hard about the events of the season, Scandal definitely went out with a bang and set up a very intriguing final season.
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