I had a chance to screen the first three episodes of Scandal, the new drama from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. But, it didn’t take me three episodes to realize that Scandal, starring Kerry Washington, would be one of the more intriguing new series of 2012.
It took me five minutes.
Within the first five-minutes of Scandal’s premiere, viewers are re-introduced to the great dialogue that makes Rhimes such a brilliant showrunner. A simple blind date between Harrison Wright (Columbus Short) and Quinn Rielly (Katie Lowes) turns into a job interview that’s not really a job interview at all. The short segment introduces to the kind of series you’re about to watch, where everything is not as it seems.
Similar to Lie to Me and the presidential segments of 24 (seasons one through five), Scandal is all about introducing several layers of truth. Washington stars as Olivia Pope, a lawyer who runs what appears to be a law firm but is not a law firm at all. She’s in the business of solving crises for high-level clients before those crises become drawn-out court cases. Pope is on the side of right, but that doesn’t always mean that she subscribes to the letter of the law. And, yes, the FBI is “sick” of her.
In Pope’s words, “In this moment we are the judge and we are the jury, the media and the public opinion.”
It’s a procedural series, but the underlying story arc hinges on a major secret in the White House. As the series progresses, you’ll realize just how far this scandal goes.
Rhimes does an excellent job of cramming hefty dialogue into short scenes. Pope is a tough as nails crisis manager, or as Wright would say, a “gladiator in a suit.” Viewers will have to pay close attention to the subtle changes in the dialogue as new discoveries are made, just before another obstacle arises. There’s also a deft balance of comedic moments within the series, thanks to Pope’s unique team. The group’s resident techie Huck (Guillermo Diaz, Weeds) states that everyone on the team needs “fixing” – and, that’s why Pope brought them aboard.
In one instance, the team’s resident charmer, Stephen Finch (Henry Ian Cusick, Lost) is debating whether or not he should propose to his girlfriend indiscriminate of his other sexual relations.
Pope tells him, “You love her she loves you, normal people get married.”
“You won’t date,” Stephen replies.
“I’m not normal,” Pope answers dead pan.
In the first half of the premiere, “Sweet Baby,” you’ll learn that Olivia is rarely wrong because she always follows her “gut,” or what others refer to as her “Spidey sense.” When she questions someone, you can’t help but reminded of Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman in Lie to Me. Coincidentally, Brendan Hines from Lie to Me is a regular in Scandal.
Although Pope rarely falters, she does have one major weakness. She’s had an intimate history with President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), which will play out throughout the season. It caused her to leave the White House staff, but she can never truly leave the President’s side.
In the words of Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
Washington does an amazing job of switching instantly from an iron exterior to someone who has been made vulnerable through a broken heart.
Based on the first three episodes, Scandal is shaping to be one of the more gritty dramas on network TV. Rhimes knows how to keep the intensity high and the dialogue moving at a steady clip. While there’s no on-camera violence, you do feel the gravity of some of the cases Pope takes on.
You can check out Scandal Thursdays at 10PM E/P on ABC.