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Scandal - Season 2 Review - "Gladiators, In Suits"

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"Gladiators, In Suits" 

That famous line first introduced to us by Harrison in Scandal's pilot episode just under 14 months ago, completely hooked me, with line and sinker included. It's become the catch phrase that all Scandal fans know and love, and it sets the foundation for the series, which has fast become ABC's best drama, and the best of its genre on television

For a show that has been around for a mere total of 29 episodes, it's astonishing how much has happened in such a short space of time. I've never seen a show fly through so many storylines as quickly as Scandal has. It's really quite incredible.

I've spent the last couple of weeks watching the second season from start to finish, and taking notes along the way. If there's one thing that’s absolutely certain about this show, it's that it is 10 times better when you watch the episodes back to back. But that’s for another debate. So let's talk about this season

The premiere saw the outcome of the court case relating to the then Lindsay Dwyer (aka Quinn Perkins). Quinn was in line for the death penalty after being framed by Hollis Doyle for the bombing of Cytron - the software firm that we later learn Hollis hired to help fix the election in Fitzgerald Grant's favour. Olivia Pope pulled some strings with Supreme Court Justice Verna Thornton who got the judge to grant Quinn an acquittal on what seemed to be a technicality. Quinn then had to put up with the wrath from Abby for a short time before Olivia talked some sense into her

Following the trial, prosecutor David Rosen had his career obliterated. In the courtroom after the verdict, he vowed to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, and retired to his flat where he began digging around.

Meanwhile, at the Whitehouse, following a sex tape which was leaked in season 1, Mellie decides to force Fitz to get her pregnant in an effort to save his presidency as well as their reputation. In the premiere of this season, she was several months pregnant. The term "America's Baby" was born soon after, and Mellie induced the birth a month early in a bid to bring Fitz back to her side. The ploy worked to a certain extent, but it was clear that neither parent wanted a lot to do with the baby at all, considering the circumstances in which it was conceived.

The second baby this season was to Cyrus and his husband James. They adopted an African-American baby girl, with Cyrus abruptly giving in to James' demands because he wanted to give James a reason to stop digging into the Defiance conspiracy. It worked for the most part, though James had given enough information to David Rosen to keep things going. Cyrus and James had a bit of a break-up thanks to their working lives, where they were effectively in competition with each other, with James working for the press, and Cyrus being the President's Chief of Staff

Perhaps the single story arc that got everyone talking, and the viewership and ratings skyrocketing, was the shooting of Fitz. Mellie and Fitz were on their way to a birthday gala that Mellie had organized, much to Fitz's disgust. Following a heartfelt discussion in the limo, Fitz stepped out and was shot three times, with one of the another of his staff killed. The ensuing chaos saw Olivia return to the Whitehouse to gain control of affairs, and Cyrus work incredibly hard to prevent Vice President Sally Langston take over the Whitehouse. Huck was stuck between a rock and a hard place because he cleaned up after the assassin - his girlfriend at the time - and was caught by law enforcement, then tortured for answers. Surprisingly, David Rosen was instrumental in getting Huck freed, and the real shooter captured. Meanwhile, Mellie forged Fitz's signature on some fairly important documents, to promote the perception that Fitz was alive and kicking, when in fact he was still in a coma, with levels of memory or brain damage highly uncertain. Fortunately, after a few wobbly days, Fitz was back to normal but with a new lease on life

Of course, the mastermind in the middle of most of these happenings I've mentioned is lead character Olivia Pope. She's had a pretty busy season! That begins with a total of three pretty full-on relationships - with Fitz, Edison Davis, and Jake Ballard. In addition, she saved Quinn's life, helped Verna Thornton through her chemotherapy, kept the President's office alive during Fitz's hospital stay, handled Thorngate, and looked after David Rosen. Huck had a breakdown, the round table was under pressure from Definance, and the crew at Pope & Associates remain in the dark about Olivia's true relationship with the President. There was also a hospital stay in there as well, and that's barely brushing the surface

Harrison and Abby have worked flat out through the season on all sorts of schemes. Harrison heads the firm while Olivia is away - which is quite a lot of the time. Abby struck up an on/off relationship with David Rosen, which Olivia asked Harrison to destroy for the sake of Abby and the firm. Abby still managed to get hold of the Cytron card, and when it was revealed that Rosen's life was in danger, she was the first to ensure his safety. Late last season, and earlier in this season, it was Harrison who was Quinn's defense lawyer. Harrison was also the lawyer representing David Rosen when he was in a bit of strife.

Huck and Quinn have become a pretty tightly connected duo this season. Quinn did some digging around early on to find out how she became Quinn Perkins when she used to be Lindsay Dwyer. The pair have spent increasing amounts of time together this season, with Huck teaching Quinn how to hack, how to tail someone, and how not to follow a director of the CIA into a dry-cleaners. Huck even gave Quinn a family to watch, and she even plunged a drill into Billy Chambers' leg. Huck doesn't let a lot on, but he does seem to be rather concerned about how quickly Quinn is inheriting his skills, when Huck has been hurt so harshly from the lifestyle. In flashbacks mid-season we saw Huck's family, and his subsequent torture in the 'hole'. The torture he was put through then, and later when he was accused as being the shooter that shot Fitz was harrowing, and damaged him further. We also saw him break down, reciting the words 'seven fifty-two' which a flashback later showed was the train Olivia was due to catch when they first met in the subway. Huck also called in his former spy buddies for a little reunion mid-season too.

David Rosen's season didn't begin on a positive note with his prosecution of Quinn for the Cytron bombing unsuccessful. Him and Abby have enjoyed and on/off relationship, and he's spent a lot of time at Pope & Associates in the latter half of the season while his life was under threat. During that time, he wasn't sitting around though. He was covertly investigating the 'mole' and used a few fake Cytron memory cards to con his way to some relationships. He also spent a few nights safecracking, as we saw in the finale. But his eventual success in exposing the 'mole' paid off, with his promotion to the District of Columbia US Attorney position by Fitz

Cyrus and James have had a very interesting season, and are in a unique relationship, not only because they are gay, but because they work in complete contrast with each other. It's James' job to dig up the dirt, while it's Cyrus' job to prevent it from escaping the walls of the Whitehouse. James told Cyrus he was out of town to see his parents when in fact he was in Defiance, Ohio, to find proof of election rigging. Cyrus and James also became parents as I touched on earlier, with Cyrus finally agreeing to adopt while using it as a strategy to prevent James sniffing around. Cyrus also had a heart attack but that didn't keep him down for long - he ordered the Secret Service agent in the ambulance with him to shoot the paramedic that was helping him

Hollis Doyle, Verna Thornton, and Jake Ballard have all had strong recurring roles this season. Hollis and Verna were part of the round table (with Cyrus, Mellie and Olivia) who fixed the election results in Defiance, Ohio. Hollis is a billionaire oil magnate who framed Quinn for the Cytron explosion and did most of the dirty election rigging work. Verna Thornton swayed Quinn's murder trial, and was killed in her hospital bed by Fitz. Jake Ballard befriended Olivia as part of his work for B613, and is an old friend of Fitz's. He met the same fate Huck did a few years back when he was thrown in the 'hole' to brainwash him of the memory of his relationships

Last but not least, the President and First Lady have a tumultuous relationship at best. They can be adorably close, or miles and miles apart. The vile anger and rage they dish out to each other on a frequent basis is pretty astonishing at times. They’ve both played dirty too, with Mellie using the media and Fitz using his power to push blockades in her path. Despite their grievances, they’ve been fiercely loyal to each other all along, despite threatening otherwise, with Mellie maintaining a bedside vigil when Fitz was in hospital, and Fitz being with Mellie while she was giving birth. We also saw flashbacks featuring the election campaign, and Fitz's father turning up to lend support before dying suddenly.

So I've used 1500 words thus far, but not made a lot of sense apart from summing up some of the many major story arcs, and the main characters. So I'll now talk about this season of Scandal as a whole

Let's start with the story. Firstly, its grown much more complex since the quick fire seven episodes of the first season. It's extremely fast moving, and changes constantly. It's also entertaining, intense, and keeps you on the edge of your seat most of the time. Its very well thought out, with no glaring errors. The altered time sequences are a little difficult to get your head around though, but they do enhance the story by bringing the next election much closer.

Another arc I didn't talk about earlier was that of East Sudan. I've really liked watching this arc unfold because it hasn't taken front and center, and it hasn’t been anything too serious in terms of disruption of the story. Using Sudan as a base for international affairs instead of the likes of Afghanistan or Iraq is very refreshing, and it helps separate the show from real life and remind people that Scandal is fictional, just a little. The CIA operatives captured there also meant that the arc was condensed even more, and made it more personal for the characters involved. It also served as a base for the 'mole' storyline very nicely.

The assassination arc is my favourite arc of the season. It was a true game changer to begin with, and required the characters to evolve rapidly. The new set of challenges faced, and the actions the characters took to account for them were great to watch play out. It changed their perspectives, and their relationships with one another, for better or for worse. It also brought Sally Langston out of the woodwork - a devout Christian with completely different motivations and opinions. Had she known about Fitz's adultery with Olivia, who knows what would have happened.

The Scandal cast are just outstanding. I believe it’s the best cast of any TV series, bar a couple. Many of them come from another of Shonda Rhimes' series, Grey's Anatomy series where they had once-time or recurring roles. The chemistry of the cast and their characters is just phenomenal. Tony Goldwyn and Bellamy Young play a President and First Lady that is the best I've seen in either television or movies. They make a perfect duo and have great chemistry, and their acting prowess makes them sensational to watch in the many scenes where they’ve locked horns over various issues

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope is equally impressive. She has an extremely demanding role, requiring an extensive skill set, and she nails it, every single time. There's been serious chemistry in all three of her relationships this season as well, and she would be comfortably in the top five female lead actresses on television today

Columbus Short and Darby Stanchfield are just awesome to watch. The demeanour of the characters that they play is pretty challenging, but both are extremely adept at doing so, with Darby Stanchfield making a few appearances on ABC's Castle, in which she plays a character that shares very similar traits to that of Abby Whelan. I know I find talking fast while maintaining the ability to be understood a real challenge, but Columbus Short makes Harrison Wright's fast talking look effortless.

Katie Lowes and Josh Malina play Quinn Perkins and David Rosen respectively. They are both former Grey's Anatomy one-timers, and Malina in particular has plenty of acting experience, and he has done a great job with a conventional character in amongst a bunch of oddities. Quinn's transition from potential death row inmate to trainee torturer this season has been very well done, and Lowes has done an excellent job. Her baby-like face fits in perfectly here by conveying the instant innocence and likeability that’s helped the character out a lot this season.

Watching Guillermo Diaz as Huck this season has been nothing short of sensational. Huck is a one-of-a-kind character unlike anything I've seen on television before. Diaz is playing a character that next to no one could ever relate to. The demeanor, the voice, the postures, are all very unique. Huck is an addict by his own admission, and is a very damaged man, but somehow he's one of the most likeable characters I've ever seen. He isn't your typical former CIA agent at all. Diaz has taken the role by the scruff of the neck, and nails it every single time. He deserves full credit for it because it's an incredibly challenging role to play, but the way he does it makes Guillermo Diaz, without a doubt, one of the top 5 best actors or actresses on television at the moment 

I have left Jeff Perry for last because he deserves an enormous amount of credit. I believe he is the single best actor out of any actor or actress on television at the moment. The amount of energy he puts into his role as Cyrus Beene is stunning. It was high in the first season, but he's definitely stepped it up many, many notches in this season. Cyrus can be quiet and somewhat humane, or be a raging bull who yells down phones. A lot of the lines Perry has to say can stretch into paragraph length. Compounding all this, Cyrus is a gay, married man. Those scenes must be quite tricky to pull off as convincingly as Perry does. If you're wondering who my previous single best actor on television before Jeff Perry was, it was Hugh Laurie, from FOX's House M.D. Comparing the two characters, it's surprising how similar they are, and the traits they share, as well as the traits that they don't. Jeff Perry never ceases to amaze me with the skill set he possesses, and how he uses it. It's one of the main reasons I watch Scandal

So what do I think we will see in season 3? The truth is, it's really tricky to predict. I don't think anyone would have predicted 5% of the stuff that happened in season 2 so I think the same will go for season 3. So here's a very hopeful list from me of what I think will happen. Remember its pure speculation, and feel free to discuss it!

  • We will see the beginnings of a campaign for Fitz's second term, along with the dynamics between Olivia, Mellie, and Fitz surrounding Olivia's role in the campaign
  • Mellie and Fitz will repair their relationship early on but not for long
  • Rowan Pope (Olivia's father) will have a prominent role in the direction of the season
  • Quinn and Huck may get into a relationship
  • Harrison may get into a relationship
  • The Pope & Associates team will finally learn from Olivia about her relationship with Fitz
  • Someone will rescue Jake from the 'hole'
  • Hollis, Sally, Charlie, David and James aren't a great combination. Who knows what will happen to them

Amid the speculation, one thing is for certain, however. "Gladiators, In Suits" will continue to be the three words that define Scandal, and set it apart from the others. 

That’s it for now! I know I've missed out an awful lot because there was a massive amount of stuff that happened in season 2, and I've barely scratched the surface, but I've talked about quite a lot of stuff nonetheless. My apologies for the length of time it's taken for me to publish this season review but I had to do the show justice by watching the season from beginning to end. I know it was totally worth it for me, and I recommend every Scandal fan do the same

As with any review, I'm sure there's lots of discussion to be had. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below! As the writer, I always enjoy reading the feedback from readers, and it always makes the effort worthwhile. It's going to be a very long summer for me and many others for sure, so hopefully reading this helps ease the pain, though it might very well do the opposite.

Thanks so much for reading. I've thoroughly enjoyed this season of Scandal and I hope you have too


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