Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland, Fantastic Four) has a piercing look that she unleashes on the people who run afoul of her or her clients in the first season of ABC’s midseason replacement Scandal. She stars as Olivia Pope, a former White House communications official, who breaks out on her own to head Olivia Pope & Associates, a company which troubleshoots problems, until they go away.
Olivia’s crew includes Stephen Finch (Henry Ian Cusick, Lost), Harrison Wright (Columbus Short, Armored, The Losers), Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield, Jericho, Mad Men), Huck Finn (Guillermo Diaz), and their token newbie, Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes). Each of them needs fixing as Finn points out in the premiere, and each of them enters Olivia’s orbit to see what they can learn from her. Most of them believe they’ll positively be able to change the world, and think that working with Pope will make it happen.
What Pope is remains a bit confusing. The DVD proclaims that she’s the ultimate “fixer.” She’s something like a mash-up of Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi) and Lauren Reed (Virginia Williams) from Fairly Legal. She’s got a team which does much of the investigation, but she does the negotiating, the heart-to-heart, the unveiling of the truth. She’s got one weakness as you’ll discover quickly: he’s the most powerful man in the free world.
Tony Goldwyn is a jerk. He has been ever since we saw him in Ghost, right? We know what he’s like.. oops, we know how well he can play the kind of man you wouldn’t trust with any woman, who would stoop at nothing to satisfy his needs. As President Grant, Goldwyn provides the unifying tension across the course of the first season, as an intern named Amanda Tanner (Liza Well) accuses Grant of an inappropriate relationship and Pope gets dragged into the middle of it.
The rest of the show is devoted to the motley cast (see more in the feature, “Gladiators in Suits: Casting a Series”), the “ripped from the headlines” type material (”Scripting Scandal“), and the way that Pope battles herself, the facts, and the political forces around her. We find out why the crew is together, and we recognize that without Pope, there’s no hope. (Yeah, that was cheesy, but the show is sometimes!)
This show doesn’t concern itself with the why but the how. It’s not a completed process of determining motive (like CSI or Law & Order.) Instead, it’s about the story, the journey, the process. We don’t always get the complete picture (which is a lot like life) and Scandal implies that we don’t need to. Instead, we’re encouraged to “go with your gut” and recognize that we have the experience, the wisdom, and the support to make the right call moving forward.