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Television doesn't get any better.
I groaned when I heard I was going to have to wait an extra week beyond the start of the television season to see the third season premiere of Scandal. I knew the premiere would be the best of the shows I follow. I knew it would break the series' own ratings and audience records. I knew it would make it onto my personal list of the best television episodes I have watched. I knew Twitter would go nuts. I knew there would be some season-defining dialog. And I knew that the acting, writing, and directing would all be worthy of an Emmy.
The only thing I didn't know was what would actually happen. But what did was simply incredible.
The premiere opened with a recap of the closing events in the season 2 finale, where the leaking of the name of the woman who the President was having an affair with, was leaked. Right from the first second, the episode was in top gear, with the high intensity, tension and jaw-dropping drama that we Scandal fans have come to love. The mixture of black & white, color, stills, moving and freeze-frame shots, set the scene immediately for what would be a meticulously crafted episode at the technical level. Use of the camera, scene transitions, cinematography and the musical score throughout the episode, surpassed anything that has been seen in the series previously, and I have no hesitation in my mind in calling the premiere the most technically superior episode of the series to date.
The following scene featuring Olivia and Rowan at the airport will define this season of Scandal. The words "I am the hell, and, the high water" ushered by Rowan at the close of that scene paint a disturbing picture for many of the characters even though in the context of that scene they were directed right at Olivia. Rowan has knowledge as well as power, and his intentions remain largely unclear. But I can say one thing with absolute certainty, and that is that Joe Morton and Kerry Washington were absolutely sensational in this scene, and throughout the entire episode, and I cannot wait to see more of the duo together in the future. The scene at the airport was my favorite scene of the premiere because of the superb acting and the season-defining dialog.
For me, the premiere clearly defined six ringleaders that now exist in the storyline - up from four that existed in the previous two seasons. They are Fitz, Olivia, Mellie and Cyrus, with Harrison, and Rowan the newcomers this season. What is fascinating about the development of these ringleaders is that they all have an objective, but their objectives involve one or more of the other ringleaders' buy-in to work. Harrison now qualifies as a ringleader for me because of the way he took charge of a situation, and the fact that he communicated with Cyrus. Rowan is without doubt a ringleader too, given his knowledge and power, and dealings with both Cyrus and Olivia.
Alongside this, the scenes featuring Fitz and Mellie were particularly powerful. In the bunker with Olivia, Mellie played her hand and tried to make the way the affair allegations were confirmed, suit her agenda, but later on in the Oval Office, Fitz shut that down completely, and declared war on Mellie. There's no doubt that their marriage is on the line, but it is in neither's best interest to divorce the other. Where the Scandal writers take them is anyone's guess.
I also found the scenes between Fitz and Vice President Sally Langston fascinating to watch. We saw Fitz kick everyone out of the Oval Office bar her, and offer her a drink, before stating how Sally wasn't surprised that he had cheated, but that he was planning on coming clean and admitting it. He then told Sally to capitalize on his damaged reputation by taking the moral high ground so she could gain further respect within the party. I didn't see any of this coming, but I don't think any of it can come to fruition now that Harrison and Cyrus pinned the affair on Janine Locke.
We also learn a lot about a few of our main characters. Through Olivia's interactions with her father, and the kill folder Cyrus orders compiled, we learn a comparatively massive amount about Olivia Pope's past, because we knew next to nothing prior to the season 3 premiere. This presents a host of new questions, including the circumstances of her mothers' death, her fathers' past careers, her education, and her inspiration for her work. In addition, Jake and Fitz have a much closer relationship than anyone but them and Rowan knew prior to Cyrus being made aware of the full story. And the slightly infamous assassin/surveillance guru, Charlie, has changed allegiances once more, and now works for Rowan.
But perhaps most importantly, how will Harrison's new-found confidence in his leadership abilities, impact life for Pope & Associates, and those at the White House? He made critical call this time that may pay off, but it was not what Olivia, or the President, initially wanted, and those are the people who matter. As a result, someone else is being thrown under the bus - Janine Locke - just like Quinn Perkins and Amanda Tanner were back in the past two seasons. Is this history repeating itself all over again?
There's so much more that I could mention about the premiere, and there's many more questions that I am really looking forward to finding the answer to, but there simply isn't the time to go into further detail. Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to the ride that the talented Scandal creative team will take us on this season. It's drama at its absolute best. Period.
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