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Down the Rabbit Hole: Scandal “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” Review

By on November 15, 2013
(ABC/Eric McCandless)
TONY GOLDWYN, BELLAMY YOUNG

(ABC/Eric McCandless) TONY GOLDWYN, BELLAMY YOUNG

By Chelsea Hensley

“Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” began as a very typical Scandal episode despite its main focus being on Mellie instead of Olivia.

After last week this seemed a strange move to make when we were left with Olivia trying to figure out what happened to her mother, and though Olivia’s plot wasn’t forgotten,  it took a backseat to Mellie’s.  We opened with the First Lady offering a behind-the-scenes look at the White House to repair her wounded image.  Then the episode flashed back to fifteen years ago, as Fitz considered a run for governor of California and Barry Bostwick reprised his role as Fitz’s father, Jerry.

In what basically amounted to a side-plot, brought in the rest of her staff to get answers on Remington.  Watching Olivia finally confide in her team about everything including Rowan, B613 and her mother, was one of the highlights of the episode.  For so long we’ve seen Olivia function as a cipher to her staff.  Though she’s always been privy to personal information about them, because she helped them out of some sticky situations, they’ve always been kept in the dark about her.  This episode showed her in a more vulnerable place with her staff, showing that they don’t only exist as Olivia’s followers but also her friends.  This was especially necessary due to Olivia’s staff occasionally coming off as enthusiastic minions into of people with genuine affection and respect for her.

Meanwhile Quinn delved further into the land of espionage with Charlie’s (George Newburn) help. Taking full advantage of Quinn’s wide-eyed exuberance and desperate desire to become formidable, Charlie captivated her with kisses and the promise of spy games which was all part of Rowan’s plan to trap Quinn in his clutches.

On their own, Olivia and Quinn’s respective storylines would have made up a solid episode, but their stories acted as separators to Mellie’s story.  Though Olivia and Quinn’s plots were necessary to further the season’s grand arc, they derailed the episode completely following the shocking reveal that Mellie had been raped by Jerry fifteen years ago.

(ABC/Eric McCandless) GUILLERMO DIAZ, DARBY STANCHFIELD, KATIE LOWES, KERRY WASHINGTON, COLUMBUS SHORT

(ABC/Eric McCandless)
GUILLERMO DIAZ, DARBY STANCHFIELD, KATIE LOWES, KERRY WASHINGTON, COLUMBUS SHORT

After the rape scene watching the episode became an entirely different experience.  Even while the viewer was moved to a completely different space mentally and emotionally, Scandal wasn’t, and the episode continued in the same tone as it had begun.  The show revisited Sally Langston and her philandering husband, which was very interesting last week, but was completely unimportant after learning of Mellie’s assault, and the same effect was had on the rest of the episode. The perceptions of vital twists were dulled. Quinn being tricked into killing a man who could shed light on Flight 552 and Maya being alive didn’t matter when compared to Mellie’s rape.

Though scenes outside of Mellie felt out of place, those with her were especially charged.  Despite not mentioning the assault at all in present time (excepting Mellie’s broad declaration of all she’s sacrificed for Fitz), everything became shaded by her past, particularly her relationship with Fitz. From the start we’ve known about Mellie’s unwavering loyalty even when Fitz was undeserving of it, and it went to an extreme level with Mellie’s assault.  Not only did Mellie keep the entire thing a secret, she used it to temporarily reconcile Fitz and Jerry and ensure Fitz’s willingness to run for governor.  Mellie’s transformation of her past ordeal into a means of helping Fitz highlighted the imbalance in their present-day relationship.

Though there was certainly love between Mellie and Fitz fifteen years ago, recent events have turned them into begrudging allies.  Though the two are capable of moments of great partnership, which was last night’s episode put on display, most often they’re at odds.   The disrespect Fitz consistently levels at Mellie, his affair with Olivia and his constant diminishing of her contributions to his success, have always been frustrating knowing how hard Mellie’s worked to keep Fitz in his position.  Despite Mellie’s choices, she’s always made them with the intention of helping Fitz, and she does help him.

For that reason alone Mellie and Fitz “showing up” was important because the audience knew that Mellie had endured a great trauma and remained silent and then utilized it to help Fitz.  To unleash this revelation and have Fitz remain distant and cruel would have made him look something close to monstrous, but it was too late as Fitz has already proven himself to be a terrible husband to Mellie.  A moment of decency doesn’t change the fact that Mellie’s endured plenty of things on Fitz’s behalf and still turned around to provide for him despite her own personal pain.

Though Scandal had moments emphasizing the gravity of Mellie’s assault, scenes that performed beautifully by Bellamy Young,  the episode took a turn with the reveal of Mellie and Fitz’s son possibly being Jerry’s.   Rape is always a difficult subject to be tackled by television because too often the subject isn’t given the attention that it requires and deserves and is instead whittled down to shock value.  By diminishing Mellie’s assault to a question of her son’s paternity, Scandal did just that, crossing a line into soap opera worthy melodrama that’s poised to overtake Mellie’s experience.

After spending so long getting to know Mellie, this information about her twists everything about her character into new directions that the audience never considered before.  There was the possibility of Scandal being forever changed by Fitz’ involvement in the death of Olivia’s mother.  Now it looks as though it has been more changed by the reveal of Mellie’s past, but only time will tell if Scandal is able to do justice to the subject and tell Melie’s story with the grace and attention it deserves.

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