The Devil Came In in Scandal’s Winter Finale “A Door Marked Exit”
By Chelsea Hensley
Scandal is a show populated with despicable characters rolling around in a morally grey world, willing to do whatever it takes for their respective causes regardless of whether or not those causes can be called good ones.
The villains are characters just slightly more terrible than our heroes, or people who just happen to cross them in their own attempts at being decent.
After last week, Scandal looked primed to throw itself into its trademark ridiculous and electrifying storytelling, but the winter finale was more subdued than last week, more focused on the aftermath of all “OMG” moments than the “OMG” moments themselves. When Cyrus met Sally to help her deal with Daniel’s murder, she told him, “The devil came in,” but Scandal is loaded with devils in various shades, and “A Door Marked Exit” had a couple of them realizing it.
The episode opened strong with a furiously righteous Sally Langston in a heated argument with Daniel. Though the scene inched very close to hilarity with Sally’s ranting and raving about snakes in the garden and calling Daniel her “original sin,” Kate Burton committed to Sally’s tirade, delivering it with an abundance of intensity and dedication. Accompanied by Jack Coleman’s more restrained performance, the scene was kept from going too far into the land of the ridiculous. Relaying the stabbing through quick, choppy, and sometimes blurred shots did a great job of showcasing what was truly a crime of passion. Reeling from the sin she committed in murdering her husband, Sally was as she’d never been before: quiet, submissive and ready to give up on her presidential ambitions and confess. Despite her bible-thumping, Sally’s always been persistent in her own righteousness until she snapped and murdered Daniel, pushed to the brink by Cyrus and Mellie’s schemes.
Meanwhile Cyrus, proudly despicable, suffered a crisis of his own as he realized how his monstrosity contributed to the deterioration of his and James’ marriage. Stuck recalling Sally’s words (“The devil came in.”), Cyrus spiraled into an emotional wreck. He’s always been a devil and unafraid of resorting to murder, resorting to having Amanda Tanner killed back in season one, but with James now painfully aware of just who he married, Cyrus realized he was the devil, that he initiated the destruction of his marriage and triggered Sally’s homicidal rage. After years of not having to pay the consequences for it, Cyrus is now paying with something he holds most dear: James. Though he agreed to stay with Cyrus he did so under the condition that he become White House Press Secretary, but loving Cyrus isn’t part of the deal.
Last week I said Quinn almost got interesting with her turn to the dark side, and thankfully Scandal didn’t deviate from this course. Despite being tortured by Huck, Quinn returned to OPA looking for an apology from Huck that he refused to give. OPA (and Olivia) is the biggest, most overarching example of grey hues. The team is capable of a lot of good but also of a lot of evil. Huck’s a vital part of the group, but he’s addicted to torturing and killing people, and he turned that fixation on one of their own, and with the exception of Olivia, no one seemed to have a problem with it.
Connecting with Quinn’s story has been a chore so perhaps it’s the turn Huck’s character took, from tormented but well-meaning to unrepentant and out of control that makes sympathizing with Quinn so easy. Despite the dark turn her tenure at OPA has taken, it’s still the only place she’s set down any semblance of roots since being forced to abandon her life as Lindsay Dwyer so her return made sense. I love Quinn as a potential foil to OPA, but why can’t she be at OPA but Huck can be?
Rowan’s slipped seamlessly into Scandal‘s cast of grey characters, and unlike a lot of them, Rowan has no qualms about what he’s done. He doesn’t sugar coat it, but he takes no joy in it. He doesn’t try to make amends or apologize, but he views his actions as necessary ones. Even when faced with the horror of loved ones, Rowan remains unmoved. Unlike his daughter whose tried before to correct her mistakes, including trying to wrangle Maya and have her arrested.
The reason Rowan ordered the plane shot down was because Maya lied to him about a bomb being on board, forcing Rowan to make a judgment call, and he decided to kill the three hundred passengers on the plane rather than risk the thousands of lives in London. Unlike others, Rowan doesn’t latch on to moments of perceived decency to absolve himself of other sins. If Rowan hid Maya away to protect Olivia, then he must love his daughter, but he refused to take the bait she offered which could have been perfect way to rebuild their relationship on a more positive foundation. While Olivia’s always looking for the reason to explain away a transgression, Rowan’s content with accepting it as it is.
Maya’s apparently the bad guy, but just because she’s the bad guy doesn’t make anyone else the good guy. The closest Scandal‘s ever come to a “good” character was David Rosen who had his morality whittled away last season and is now just as ingrained in the land of greyscale as everyone else (but he may have found a new cause, and possibly an actual storyline after being benched this season, with the recording of Sally’s phone call to Cyrus). Maya’s a terrorist who sold secrets to whoever was willing to pay but never actually killed anyone. The blood on her hands belongs to the three hundred people killed on the plane, but Maya didn’t command the plane to be shot down. Rowan did. She didn’t shoot the plane down. Fitz did. So how bad is Maya really? Surely we’ll find out in February if she’s better or worse than the people we consider to be our heroes.
The thing about anti-heroes is that they require steady doses of hypocrisy. Jake despised B613 but took on the role of the Command, and Huck pulled out Quinn’s teeth for betraying Olivia, forgetting the time he nearly strangled her in a parking garage. Despite their inability to acknowledge their own failings, the characters still have to be if not likable then at least interesting. There has to be something gripping about them, that compels people to keep watching, but Scandal maintains its characters’ places. Despite the twists and turns of the narrative, the song pretty much remains the same, not making any apologies for anyone. In fact, everyone seems to fall further and further into the black holes of their own making, becoming their own devils and unable to escape.
We’ll have to wait until February 27 to see what new depths everyone reaches when Scandal returns. Leave your thoughts in the comments.