Last May, when ABC announced this season would be Scandal‘s last, Shonda Rhimes promised to go “all out” with “white hats on, gladiators running full speed over the cliff.”
Here’s how it went.
The final episode, fittingly called “Over the Cliff,” starts with special prosecutor Lonnie Mencken wanting to make sure if he gets Olivia Pope the Senate hearing she seeks as part of her image rehab, POTUS Mellie Grant will make gun control a priority.
Lonnie previously had agreed to work with Creepy Veep Cyrus to impeach Mellie because he lost his son during a mass-shooting at a mall and holds President Grant’s “love of guns” against her.
“Yes, I can promise you gun control will move to the top of the agenda,” Olivia stage-whispers.
Lonnie pulls out a gun; Olivia naturally asks what he’s doing.
“I’m getting you your Senate hearing,” Lonnie explains as he puts the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger.
That’s about as topical as it gets in the series finale. While everything in Actual Washington D.C. seems random and erratic, in Scandal‘s comforting view a bunch of effective an competent, if a little kill-crazy, people quietly run everything behind the scenes.
In other highlights, Mellie’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery is with her because its unveiling has been postponed. She throws back a few stiff drinks, believing she’s going to be impeached and then the powerful Dems in the Senate will throw her out. That’s how we know it’s fiction.
The hearing is a doozy, highlighted by Olivia telling the senators, “I know he killed because I ordered him to do it” – in marked contrast to all the “I do not recalls” of recent actual Senate hearings.
After it’s over, Olivia’s Gladiators are advised to spend 24 hours getting their lives in order. So Olivia arranges for Quinn to marry baby-daddy Charlie in prison; he’s in the hoosegow after being framed by Veep.
Attorney General David Rosen is in an underground garage where he’s accosted by White House Chief of Staff Jake Ballard. Ballard, who at least seems to be taking more meetings with important players than John Kelly these days – if only to plot nefariously, or threaten murder – points his gun at Rosen’s head. Rosen is no Jeff Sessions recusing himself from this and that. Instead, he boldly tells the chief of staff, “I am not your bitch…I am the Attorney General of the United States! I am the bitch of the United States!” This guy is more like Jim Comey, only shorter, and without the prim demeanor. Anyway, no gunfire results.
Back at the Naval Observatory Veep Cyrus calls home, he is none too happy to realize Ballard hasn’t offed the AG. Rosen, however, feels good about the parking lot exchange. So good that, when Cryus phones in the dead of night and says he wants to confess, Rosen heads to Cyrus’ digs, signs the paper and accepts a drink while, across Shondaland, millions of people yell at their screens, “DON’T take that drink!!”
RIP Attorney General David Rosen.
Olivia is understandably upset with this development, because it looks like this means the end of all her do-good plans. Mellie is going to be impeached, they’re all going to jail, and that creep Cyrus is going to “get the Oval.”
“You’re grieving; you’re not thinking clearly,” former POTUS Fitz says. This kicks off the world’s most credulity stretching Washington seduction scene, in which Olivia keeps arguing with him to choose Option A or B, A or B, A or B – A being “more talking” and B being “sex.” Fitz sets a record for the least seduceable Washington politician of the modern era, but finally gets her drift and picks “Take your clothes off!”
In a final Senate testimony scene that suggests there’s a rational explanation for everything you see in Washington, instead of the whirling pit of confusion that is Donald Trump World, a mystery guest, aka Olivia’s dad Rowan, testifies that “a black man has been running the country for the past 30 years” via his B316 agency, while the complacent white men in the Senate only think they have.
Dad saves the day. Olivia and pals aren’t going to jail, all their damning testimony will be redacted, and the good guys win. Olivia cows Cyrus into signing a letter of resignation, but only after he gives a lengthy soliloquy about his drinking which, sadly, lacks the punch of whatever it was he gave to Rosen.
White House Chief of Staff Ballard, however, is heading to prison. And, in a farewell speech straight out of Hollywood, he bemoans that he is going to a maximum security prison in Illinois saying, “I spent my whole life trying to get the hell out of the Corn Belt and now it’s come full circle.”
Meanwhile, Mellie wants Olivia to stay to help her run the country. But Olivia has decided it’s time for her to leave after fixing everyone’s problems. Finally free, she celebrates by doing the runway model walk all over D.C. in a fabulous white trench coat.
Series ends with adorable little African American girls in the National Portrait Gallery gazing, impressed, at one of the paintings. It turns out to be Olivia Pope. Asked about that on Jimmy Kimmel’s show after the airing, Rhimes declined to specify whether it meant Future Olivia Pope became First Lady, or President of the United States, saying the script leaves it uncertain for viewers, but crystal-clear to her.