Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Stage Editor
After a week hiatus, Scandal is back with an emotional and dramatic new episode. After Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) was rescued from her captors by Stephen (Henry Ian Cusick), in one of the biggest plot twists this show has produced, Olivia is back in D.C. and dealing with a subject very close to her heart in the latest episode entitled, “The Lawn Chair.”
This week’s episode put Olivia (and Kerry Washington herself) in one of the most stressful, realistic, and breathtaking situations to date. In recent months, America has banded together following the unrest in Ferguson, MO. With the US being split into racial factions, it was the only time a television show took on the political and difficult subject. Shonda Rhimes and everyone on the writing staff at Scandal took these real-world events and wrote a beautifully crafted episode. It wasn’t about the difference between blacks and whites. It was simply about a man grieving his son who was wrongly shot dead in the street. The best scene to demonstrate this comes at the end of the hour when Clarence (Courtney B. Vance), the father of Brandon Parker, goes into the Oval Office to greet President Grant (Tony Goldwyn). There is no political agenda being spoken about. There is simply an emotional hug and bond between two fathers who have lost their sons. The episode showed the possibility of equality instead of dwelling on what has happened in the past and present.
Kerry Washington has always done a moving and incredible job on Scandal, but this episode was by far one of her best. She eloquently moves through the tough scenes and gives her greatest performance this season. Coming off of an emotional roller coaster of being tortured and kidnapped, fans got to see Olivia dealing with the aftermath of these events. Although she is a strong woman, she shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress. When the case of Brandon Parker arises, it is the first time fans see Olivia’s faith in government and the justice system waver. In one of many powerful scenes in the episode, Olivia disagrees with how the police are handling the situation so she crosses the battle lines and joins the group of protesters. With tears in her eyes, she begins to chant and take their side. The justice system has failed her and it shows. Washington continues to grow as an actor and bring the character of Olivia to monumental heights.
The other outstanding performance was given by the incredibly talented Courtney B. Vance. Vance portrays the character of Clarence flawlessly. He brings real and relatable grief as he shows Clarence holding a loaded gun and sitting over his dead son in a lawn chair. His acting is outstanding. Vance’s best scene of the night comes when Olivia and Marcus Walker (Cornelius Smith Jr.), a local black-rights activist, approach him about Brandon possibly pulling a knife on the cop. In a gut-wrenching scene Clarence stands up and points the loaded gun at Olivia and Marcus. With tear-filled eyes blended beautifully with confidence, Clarence screams, “He doesn’t carry a knife.” This simple, but powerful line echoed throughout households tonight and allowed viewers to think. Vance effortlessly portrays Clarence’s heartache, frustration, and sadness.
The other highlight of tonight’s episode was the brilliant work of Michael Welch. Welch plays the role of Officer Newton, the white police officer who shot Brandon cold blood. This role would be a tough one for any actor to take on and Welch did it with grace, poise, and beautifully crafted acting. With both sides of this sensitive subject being played out on screen, Welch approaches the role with truth and honesty. In his greatest scene of the night, he delivers a chilling, heartbreaking, and truthful monologue to the entire D.C. Metro Police Department and Olivia. Huck (Guillermo Díaz) and Quinn (Katie Lowes) figure out Officer Newton had a man in custody in the backseat of the squad car that saw his entire encounter with Brandon. When Olivia confronts him about this, Welch delivers a chilling monologue about being a police officer and how he risks his life everyday to protect D.C. This beautifully crafted monologue is a testament to the incredible writers’ room on Scandal and the masterful acting of Welch.
Elsewhere in the Scandal universe, Fitz, Cyrus (Jeff Perry), and Mellie (Bellamy Young) are trying to find a suitable new vice president. When Cyrus wants to bring in an actual contender into the ring (one that could run for president), Mellie reminds Fitz he made a promise to help her run for president in 2016. By the episode’s end, Fitz and Mellie have brought the naive and hilarious Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani) on as vice president. This should be an interesting new character to bring into the Grant Administration.
Scandal continues to deliver hard-hitting, realistic, and flawless episodes week after week. This episode was one of the best in terms of writing and acting. The words on the page came to life effortlessly on the screen by the incredible team of actors. Scandal continues to create some of the best drama on television and this week showcased it.
Scandal airs on Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.
Overall Episode Grade: A