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Scandal - The Lawn Chair - Review: "Was This Episode A Political Stunt?"

After its week off to provide room for the season finale of How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal resumed last night with an episode which is sure to receive some intense debate.

Titled "The Lawn Chair", the episode was written by Severiano Canales and directed by Tom Verica. It mirrored months of infamous headlines coming out of the US, in which African-Americans ended up dead at the hands of white law enforcement officers.

I'm the first to admit that I was highly skeptical going into this hour, fearing it could morph into a pure political stunt Shondaland series are known for taking an issue present in the media and re-enacting it. That club is by no means exclusive, however. Many a showrunner has taken an issue to heart and made an opinion known in one way or another, with the success varying wildly among them.

The hour hit the ground running. The shooting had occurred, Brandon Parker was dead, and Olivia Pope was thrown into the middle of the mayhem, working with the Washington Police Department to manage the crisis. It didn't take long for things to turn pear-shaped though. Clarence Parker strode out into the crime scene, and let off a shotgun blast. Fired up even more by serial rights campaigner Marcus Walker, the crowd grew significantly.

Clarence Parker took up a position on top of his son on a (title drop) lawn chair provided by Walker. Olivia made the mistake of promising something she couldn't deliver, with her attempts to bring Attorney General David Rosen to the scene falling on deaf ears.

Investigating further, Olivia interviewed the police officer who shot and killed Brandon Parker. He claimed self defense, saying Parker had threatened him with a knife after he had questioned him about the origins of a new cellphone he was seen carrying, and noting Brandon had matched recent eyewitness descriptions of a man who had committed a shoplifting offense a short time earlier. Attempting to corroborate the officer's story, Olivia and Marcus moved Brandon's body, where a knife was discovered.

Let's be honest - events took an unrealistic turn here. I doubt many police forces in the world - not just the US - would not have shot Clarence Parker having observed his brandishing of the shotgun he was holding when he heard the news. The episode lost a lot of the already limited credibility it had right then and there in my opinion. But, nevertheless, Clarence managed to convince Olivia, and thus David Rosen, that there was more to the story, with both returning to the police station with new evidence to present to the offending officer.

It turned out that that officer, Jeffrey Newton, had another offender in his patrol car. In exchange for his silence, Newton let that offender run off, but not before planting his knife on Brandon's body. Walker came clean upon that evidence being presented, but managed to recover some of the episode's credibility by voicing his opinions on respect, and how African-Americans were killing their own - something he was trying to prevent - but with African-Americans not respecting or valuing law enforcement and what they were trying to do, his job was being made infinitely more difficult.

Despite his points being valid, the damage was done. Newton had planted evidence and filed an incorrect report, therefore he was arrested. Brandon Parker was exonerated, having merely attempted to pull a receipt from his jacket pocket - not a weapon. But the threatening behavior and non-compliance was his undoing. In the end, the creative team left both parties with some responsibility for what happened - exactly what I expected to happen even before the episode began.

Case aside, this was a highly unusual hour for Scandal. The serial storylines were almost completely halted, with finding a replacement Vice President the only thing on the agenda. Not much progress was made, though Mellie's intentions are abundantly clear.

Occurring events aside, everything else was pretty normal. The acting, writing and directing did the job but weren't spectacular. I enjoyed the score more than usual though.

But the main intention of this episode was to once again add fuel and opinions to the fiery debate surrounding the treatment African-Americans receive from law enforcement. I live a long way away from the US, so I don't believe it's useful or relevant for me to share any significant opinions on whether that was achieved in this episode, or whether it was a political stunt instead. If anything is clear, it's that respect and values are important - and that they are a two way street.

Thanks as always for reading! I'm keen to hear your thoughts on this episode, so please share them in the comments below! Remember you can check out Scandal's ratings on my TV ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com/scandal.

About the Author - Jimmy Ryan
Jimmy Ryan lives in New Zealand, and works in the IT industry. He is an avid follower of drama television and has a keen interest for television ratings and statistics. Some of his favorite shows right now are Person of Interest, Scandal, House of Cards, Orphan Black, The Blacklist, The 100, How To Get Away With Murder, Elementary and Castle. You can visit his television ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com or follow him on Twitter, @SeriesMonitor.
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