MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: This story contains many details of Thursday’s season finale episode of ABC’s Scandal.

TONY GOLDWYN, SCOTT FOLEY, KERRY WASHINGTONABC’s D.C. drama, created by Shonda Rhimes, has grabbed big ratings over three seasons with a potent mix of wild plot twists and savvy use of social media. In another signature Shonda shocker, Washington fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) tonight watched POTUS Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) become a virtual certainty to lose his re-election bid when a bomb intended for him goes off at the funeral of a U.S. senator who’d been assassinated by Olivia’s terrorist mom Maya Lewis (Khandi Alexander) in order to get Grant at the funeral, only POTUS isn’t there. But his chief presidential-race rival — and VPOTUS —  Sally Langston (Kate Burton) was there, and survived, and becomes simultaneous ministering angel and Irony Lady at the scene of the blast. President Grant’s day gets considerably worse when he suggests to Olivia that they run away together, marry, move to Vermont and have babies, causing Olivia to have pangs of conscience and spill the beans that Grant’s dad had raped his wife, First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), years ago.

For reasons that bear no resemblance to Washington reality, Grant decides to give a concession speech before election day. Olivia can’t be there for the big moment, she Scandal Season 3 key artexplains on the phone, because “My mother blew up the church that’s costing you the presidency.” Sounds reasonable. Olivia instead visits Dad, Rowan “Eli” Pope (Joe Morton) — former chief of elite CIA program B613 — who’s miraculously recovering at a hospital from last week’s stabbing. There, Olivia runs into Mom, who tells her she bombed the cathedral and attempted to assassinate the President of the United States for Olivia’s sake —  topping any guilt any of our mothers ever laid on us. Mom says she did it to free Olivia from “Fitz,” who will use her and toss her aside when he’s done with her. As Grant is giving his concession speech, his son begins to sneeze blood out of his nose and collapses and dies of a nasty bacterial virus the government had been keeping locked up in some secret place, only a vial went missing. POTUS Grant learns Olivia’s terrorist mom was at work here too, so he asks Rowan to whack Olivia’s mom — or maybe we just dreamt that part.

“Do you have any leads on Mom?” Olivia asks Dad — best line ever.

And then, things get really hairy.

Rhimes already was the reigning queen of yowzah season finales, having executed a deadly plane crash, a heart-stopping bus crash on her older ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy — among that show’s many gut punchers. And Rhimes already had successfully assassinated a White House Press Secretary on Scandal before tonight’s season finaleBut whereas earlier this century TV critics chastised, say, NBC’s drama series ER for losing its grasp on plausibility with all the exploding helicopters, tanks, bombs, hostage situations,  etc. — in 2014, critics and viewers alike can’t get enough of Rhimesian made-for-TV mayhem.

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One week earlier, when last we met up with the “gladiators” at Olivia Pope & Associates and their larger circle of friends, Olivia’s literally terrifying mom Maya had killed a U.S. Senator as part of a larger, nefarious plot to get POTUS Fitz at the funeral, so as to do him a bit of no good with a bomb.  Mom’s maneuver was discovered in time, however, by Fitz’s COS Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry). Beene doesn’t like to see a perfectly good bomb go to waste, and so detains his POTUS, while letting VPOTUS  Sally and others head to the funeral.

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Scandal tore up the track in its third season, jumping  by 3 million viewers (to 11.5 million) — and by 43% in Adults 18-49 compared to the same point last season — to stand as TV’s fastest growing returning show in the demo. That demographic also represents most of the heaviest users of social-media users, who are fervently sought by marketers.

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Additionally, soapy Scandal just won its first Peabody Award — though as part of a record 46 programs to win Peabodys from the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism. In bestowing the prestigious honor on the series, the org said: Loosely based on the exploits of a real Washington, D.C. ‘fixer,’ turbocharged by Kerry Washington’s star turn, Scandal is part West Wing and part Dynasty, an exaggerated, outrageous, fun-house reflection of the real-life political shenanigans we’ve come to loathe and jeer.”

Jimmy Kimmel Live! is sure to profit from tonight’s  hyperventilating season wrapper. JKL, which has been in repeats this week, is an original tonight so Kimmel can interview Scandal creator Rhimes from the set of the show, in what’s being billed as a Jimmy Kimmel Live: Behind The Scandalabra  special. As Kimmel dukes it out with NBC’s Jimmy Fallon in late night, Kimmel’s show has pulled in many of its best numbers on its branded Scandal Thursdays, each week featuring someone from Rhimes hit. Tonight’s episode will also feature a Scandal blooper reel and the full anthology of Kimmel’s Spanish-language spinoff, Escandalo.

Tease for tonight’s season finale: