Whatever happened to “the formidable Olivia Pope”? DC’s savviest fixer has spent the majority of the last few Scandal episodes in varying stages of cry-face. The show has always moved at a breakneck pace, but, up until recently, she was handling its pressures with grace and confidence. She was in motion too, always staying one step ahead of the “scandal of the week” and doing what had to be done before anyone else even got their bearings. But season three is happening to Olivia. Nowadays, we can’t make it through an episode without at least one scene where Kerry Washington, all teary eyes and trembling lips, stands and takes yet another booming, subtle-as-a-ton-of-bricks monologue from one of the men in her life.
In early days, Fitz was painted as Olivia’s only weakness. Their dangerous pull towards each other was the one arena where Olivia’s usual pragmatism failed to make an appearance. The cycle is this: 1) Fitz demands her presence or her devotion or her body, but usually all three, 2) Olivia announces that he doesn’t own her, 3) she gives in anyway, 4) they have a censor-testing love scene, 5) Fitz does something underhanded, and 6) repeat, on and on, forever. There are only so many times a viewer can watch this circle of toxic dependency go down without yelling, “Just get out of there, you idiot!” at the TV.
And now it seems like Fitz is just one of Olivia’s pressure points. Or maybe it’s their affair that’s worn Olivia down. But with the integration of Olivia’s parents and their complex backstories, one of fictional DC’s most powerful women looks more and more like the little, lost girl. Even her own employees are handling her with kid gloves at this point. Meanwhile, Mellie Grant has withstood enough trauma to make Olivia recede completely into her bouclé car coat and is still standing tall.
It’s time for Olivia to resolve her existential crisis and get back to saving the world. Either that, or get out of dodge and move out to Vermont herself.