On Thursday, Scandal made its highly anticipated return for its final season, and it did not disappoint. My initial joy was over the fact that Olivia got rid of those Shirley Temple curls from last season. I mean, how is it even possible to take a threat to your life seriously when the person making the threat looks like she’s going to make an Easter speech circa 1992? Following that revelation, I found a hero in Olivia Pope.
The final season of Scandal begins with an Olivia Pope unlike any other we’ve ever seen before. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in previous episodes where we saw Olivia flex her muscles as the HBIC. These moments were often punctuated by a wordy speech wherein she lectured someone about their moral and patriotic failure, and how she would be the one to fix everything. However, at the conclusion of said speeches, she’d likely get read for filth by someone who would remind her that she’s just a fixer who sleeps with President sometimes. Although she would be the one to save the world, she would always get a harsh reminder that she didn’t actually hold any power.
Liv’s power was only secondary via the men in her life: her father (the ruthless head of the nation’s top spy organization), her sometimes bae President Grant, and her even more sometimes bae Jake Ballard (one of said top spies). I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I am not okay with her treating poor Jake like a synthetic lace front. Jake is a Beyoncé wig, and should be treated as such, with respect and adoration, but I digress.
This season, Liv is finally Chief of Staff for President Mellie Grant, and Command of the assassins/keepers of the republic, B-613. She now holds the keys that once belonged to the two main men in her life. This is a point she makes very apparent to Mellie when she tells her, “One, you do not ignore me. Two, I am right always. Three, there is only us.” I felt a wave of inspiration wash over me watching her wield her power with unwavering confidence in herself and her choices. This Olivia Pope doesn’t need reassurance that she’s doing the right thing. This Olivia Pope knows it, and makes it known.
Judging by my Twitter feed, the audience wasn’t happy about this new Liv. Sentiments of “She’s letting the power go to her head,” and “She can’t be a goody two shoes and be Command,” abounded throughout the live tweeting session, that is until her plan came to fruition. People are not comfortable seeing a woman confidently take charge, unless she manages to do so with maternal like gentleness. A confident woman is basically a bitch to a single minded person, until they see there’s a method to the madness.
While others were lamenting that new Liv was doing too much, I felt inspired. This was exactly what I needed to see. The state of the non-fiction world right now is one in which women are systemically, and outright being put in their place. I feel the weight of that fact bearing down on me even more when trying to educate people about what life looks like from a woman’s point of view, especially a Black woman, and failing to change hearts and minds. The frustration I feel at not being able to get through to people I would otherwise respect about their lack of respect and empathy for women is sometimes so overwhelming that I lose hope. Hence, I needed to see the kind of heroine that is Olivia Pope, where her super power is her belief in herself, and she uses it to shut down every man and woman who doubts her. These are confidence goals for a girl like me.
While Olivia still wants to wear the white hat, she has to wear a black one to get the job done. She has to be morally corrupt in some ways, and morally good in others. For example when she blackmails a senator to get his vote for free college for the American people. When she threatens to have the young son of the Bashrami ambassador killed, she is doing so to free a compromised American agent who is being held hostage by their government. A hostage who her advisers admonished her to have killed. She weighs the greater good against her own moral code, which will be a challenge for her this season.
For six seasons we’ve watched Olivia Pope give monologue after monologue, power walking down crowded hallways, whilst playing the role of a mistress, of a daughter seeking approval from her father, of a boss to ungrateful employees, of a high powered fixer, and a plethora of others. All the while the audience has been trying to decide if Olivia Pope is actually a good person. Does she actually wear the white hat she proclaims to? Any loyal Scandal fan has found a permanent position on a white picket fence on the matter, but I’m content knowing that Liv’s goodness isn’t absolute, because no one’s is. We don’t like to accept that people can be both good, and bad. Or that calling someone to task doesn’t always mean they’re cancelled, it just means that person has internal work to do. When we place the burden of perfection on our heroes, fictional and non, we set them up for failure. A flawed hero, who looks like me, who believes and trusts herself before anyone else, is one that I can really get behind.