After seven seasons, Scandal will come to an end. On April 19, we will see Olivia Pope and her ragtag group of Gladiators take their final bow after going through their own personal journeys of drama, corruption, sexy times, betrayal, and the occasional moments of joy. The series finale will tell us whether or not these wildly flawed characters will get redemption or if they will be punished for their scandalous behavior that had us clutching our pearls for seven seasons. During a press conference ahead of Scandal‘s swan song, show creator Shonda Rhimes talked about the show’s legacy and the evolution of Olivia Pope. But when it came to the series finale, Rhimes kept tight-lipped so that we would be able to experience all the surprises and shocks from Olivia and the gang on Thursday night — but she was nice enough to throw us a bone once in a while.
Scandal gave the television landscape a different look at the political landscape — but let’s face it — the politics took a backseat to the juicy drama between the characters. The Shondaland series always took inspiration from real-life politics but Rhimes said that the show has been “telling a story this entire season and heading towards an end” and that “the finale is really just about finishing telling the story.”
“I have no way of describing the finale,” said Rhimes, who makes it clear that this will be a different finale compared to a typical season finale of the Shondaland show. “A season finale is geared to leave you — launching you into another season of something and leave some questions open,” she adds. “And the series finale is the end of a story.”
For fans hoping for a Scandal spin-off in the near future, don’t hold your breath. Thursday’s show is definitely the end of an era. “Scandal is done,” said Rhimes when asked if we could expect another show from Pope and company.
The show has made the character Olivia Pope a TV icon. Kerry Washington slays the role giving Olivia complex layers of strength, power, vulnerability, and insecurity. For the finale, Rhimes said “we’re watching the evolution of somebody who has sort of been to hell and back.”
“She started out as the character that we knew who has very much believed this power and how important this particular kind of power was and how molding it and being a part of it was,” continues Rhimes. “We watched her like everybody else become absolutely corrupted by it and make all of the same mistakes that everybody else makes to get what she wants from it — and then we watched her sort of hopefully fight her way back from it.”
For the end of Olivia’s journey, Rhimes said there wasn’t a struggle in where they wanted her to go. “Once I knew what story we were telling this season, I always knew exactly how we were going to end it,” said Rhimes, still keeping a veil of secrecy on the finale. “We were doing our table reading for the final episode where I realized that it was – it works, like the story that we wanted to tell and the ending that we wanted to get to was actually going to work, which might’ve been the first time I actually cried about the fact that we were finishing, because it meant that we were actually doing it correctly.”
Rhimes says that she is “Team Olivia,” but she has an equal affection for writing the other characters — many of whom from past seasons will be coming back to make a surprise appearance in the finale (she wouldn’t tell us who). But as for the core cast, Rhimes enjoys creating these nuanced characters that live and grow in the Shonda-verse.
“It’s always so much fun to write for Cyrus Beene because you have Jeff Perry to write for and you know that anything you write is going to be delivered and glib and be so interesting,” she says. She also calls writing for Joe Morton “heaven on earth.” She admits that writing for Bellamy Young as Mellie has been surprising and exciting. Like Olivia, she has seen an evolution. Rhimes says that seeing Mellie go from a woman to a bitter wife to President of the United States of America “has been a dream.”
It’s no secret that all the characters aren’t angels. Each and every one of them have done more than one shady thing in their lifetime — like many people in real life. That said, Rhimes touches on whether or not karma will affect this political motley crew citing a line from Olivia in the penultimate episode: “Standing up and being somebody who puts everything out in the open is important.” Even so, redemption isn’t exactly at the top of Rhimes’ list when it comes to wrapping these stories.
“Whether or not everybody pays for what they’ve done, I don’t necessarily know [if] that’s what the finale is about, as much as it’s about seeing what happens once that choice has been made,” she said.
The series has broken barriers in more ways than one, but where it has thrived is the effortless inclusion of narratives involving people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and women — specifically women of color. Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope marks the first Black female lead in a network drama in almost 40 years. The character has become an icon, changing the landscape of television.
“I feel like she’s been a very three-dimensional independent woman who was, at a time when female characters really weren’t anti-heroes, an antihero,” said Rhimes. “And now it feels very normal and obvious that female characters can be anti-heroes. It feels normal and obvious that women of color can lead the shows. So hopefully that is something that this show has done.”
With the diverse and inclusive cast of characters, Rhimes hopes that the show has “made a dent” and influenced the portrayal of nuanced characters from marginalized communities on narrative television. “We’ve created a world in which we’ve stopped seeing these characters on televisions and it’s a magical anomaly that they’re there,” she points out. “Getting to be a three-dimensional character on television isn’t something that only happens to white people.”
Scandal has broken ground, shattered glass ceilings, defied stereotypes, and has given TGIT disciples some of the most intriguing television that has left a mark on popular culture. As the drama closes its final chapter, Rhimes says she is in denial that the show is ending. She and the cast have had many goodbye dinners and spent hours together up to the last night of shooting. And of course, they will all be together on Thursday night as the finale airs.
“We’ve become very close as a group of people,” she said. “So I’m not necessarily sure that it’s going to feel the same as saying goodbye to some other show or another story. It doesn’t quite feel real that it’s going to be over. And I think yes – I think we’re all in denial about that.”