Blood Pressure Recaps is a series in which I monitor my pulse during pivotal, suspenseful scenes of a TV show to test its thrill levels. Last night’s season finale of Scandal is the first guinea pig.
For much of its existence, Scandal has been a welcome source of emotional convulsions. But like a stone-faced terrorist mom, this season was tough to love. Thursday night’s moderately paced finale may be proof that the funnel of suspense that typically moves this series has either vanished or it’s on a break somewhere, shriveling up in the sun.
Thrilling or not, Scandal still has some juice and last night’s finale, “You Can’t Take Command,” revealed the start of some major new developments. Just as Mellie is shifting into a more powerful, deserved position from First Lady to Senator of Virginia, her husband President Fitz has kicked her out of the White House. He’s also finally fired Cyrus as his Chief of Staff and righthand bro, after learning about both Cyrus and Mellie’s alliance with Rowan Pope. Huck’s still a madman. Sweet, adorable assassin Jake is still hopelessly enamored with Olivia. And most important (ugh), Liv and Fitz, Fitz and Liv, Olitz, are back together.
Everything is in flux. And yet, season four failed to leave me in shambles like Scandal normally does. It’s surprising, given how promising it started: with Olivia kidnapped and imprisoned, a storyline that seemed abruptly abandoned. In that winter premiere, when Liv finally has a chance to escape and runs toward a door, key in hand, only to be stopped by one of her captors, I literally felt my heart racing. We knew she’d get out, but her desperation and loneliness at that point was pretty dreadful.
For me, the excitement dipped after that episode. But a Scandal season finale is different. Shock is inevitable. To prepare for the impending distress, I bought a blood pressure monitor from a local CVS to keep track of my heart rate during major scenes.
Would this finale turn me into an emotional wreck? Would it make me convulse? “Here we go!” I said to no one.
Scene: Rowan Pope chats with Mellie at the White House
The central, magnetic force of last night’s finale is Liv and Jake and their doomed mission to shut down B613. Unfortunately, Eli and his grimaced monologues met them at every stop, starting with a quick visit to the White House to blackmail Mellie into cooperating with him by showing her a few snapshots of her affair with Andrew.
Once again, Mellie is at the mercy of a dude. And when Fitz later kicks her out, she’s also lost her key partner. Still, Scandal has increasingly become a proud feminist vehicle: storylines this season have included a sex tape scandal, slut shaming, Olivia Pope’s sexual rebirth, a girl caught having sex on video, military rape, Lena Dunham as a tell-all sex author, women running for president and domestic abuse. So clearly this is just the beginning of Mellie’s power evolution.
By the way, a normal resting pulse is somewhere between 60-100. At this point in the episode, I’m extremely chill.
Scene: The bus full of dead jurors
A bus full of dead jurors is probably something that should get your heart rate going. This was the first shocking scene of the night and among the many heinous acts that Rowan has pulled to flex his Command power—murdering the grand jurors working the B613 trial.
Despite seeing all this gore, my pulse is a cool 75.
Scene: Liv chats with Mama Pope in prison
Mama Pope is known to read Olivia for dumpster-level filth. This time when Liv visits her in prison to learn her methods for dealing with Papa Pope, mom can’t help but wonder about Liv’s intentions. “You sure do love a problem,” she says. “You’re so vain... Baby, this uppity fantasy world that you’ve decided to be a part of, it’s not real, boo. Now you need to come on back down to this planet where the world doesn’t revolve around you.”
“It’s not real, boo.”
“It’s not real, boo.”
Mama then slyly lets Olivia know that in order to take down her dad, she has to let important people know how evil he is. This still doesn’t end well. Liv and Jake end up in prison and David, under the duress of Cyrus, forces the two to sign papers disputing their knowledge of B613.
Note that my pulse is still a cool 71, so at this point I’m wondering if I’m even alive? Maybe it’s not Scandal. Maybe it’s me.
Scene: Quinn threatens to shoot Huck
Huck is straight mental. He is on a heartbreaking spiral into madness and so much beyond saving that it feels like his death seems imminent. Is there even anyone or anything that can save him?
The revelation this time is that Huck is the one who carried out Rowan’s juror massacre. Quinn confronts him and for a minute, but I already know there’s no way she’s killing Huck, so I’m only mildly shocked.
Scene: Liv sends Papa Pope to jail; Fitz fires Cyrus
We thought there was no way Papa Pope was going down easy—and yet, he kinda did. Liv found a loophole in his operation, after figuring out that he’d been embezzling money through his innocent Smithsonian job. Eli/Rowan is just a mortal man for now.
The last shot of him screaming Olivia’s name from behind bars may be cathartic for Liv, but he’s still one of the few characters on Scandal whose presence alone is chilling and thus essential.
Turns out, this was the moment my pulse was the highest. Papa Pope will do that to you.
And then the final nauseating scene, where Liv and Fitz reunite at the White House, ready to rekindle their whatever-ship. Shonda Rhimes tweeted that the writers rightfully had a “a verbal knock down drag out fight about this ending.” For good reason: Jake was once again ready to boo up with Liv, but her heart wasn’t in it. I’ll take him if she won’t.
Liv’s mom is right. The truth is that this is a vicious cycle and Liv creates problems that inevitably need fixing. Just like her, I’ll be back next season to do this all over again, both gluttons for punishment.
Images via screenshots/ABC
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