Dear Shonda Rhimes (A.K.A. Queen of TV Broadcasting),
I want to begin this letter by saying I absolutely love your work. I was a bit late in registration and missed the Grey's Anatomy class, but I was present and on time for Scandal from episode 1, "Sweet Baby." I love the story arcs, pacing, character development and plot twists, and have seen every season in full at least 3 times, thanks to DVR. So, when I say I'm genuinely confused and curious about this current season, it's not coming from a shallow, "I'm not amused" place. As a devoted "gladiator," it doesn't make sense to me how much the direction is shifting, much less why.
Confused Face #1: How Universes Work
When I say "universes," I don't mean the cosmos. I'm referring to the entities and canon that creative people form when they put together a recurrent body of work, like that of comics, television shows, movies and even albums (that is, if you're Janelle Monae). Much like how our universe has laws (gravity, physics, chemistry, etc.), story-writers ultimately formulate each character, setting and scenario to abide by their own terms of "laws." These are things like a character's weaknesses, strengths, thinking and behavioral patterns, social interactions and the significance of certain environments. I know you're aware of this; it's why Olivia is still head-over-heels for Fitz, and why Mellie is beginning to snap, but has political aims. Taking this into account, I'm puzzled as to why this season is beginning to defy ALL the basic logic of the "universe" your team has worked so hard to build, mainly in the area of character development.
Why would Olivia consider helping her father and getting him released from prison? Why would she sway?? I get that it was a difficult choice between her independence and possibly getting "lost" in White House trappings while being married to Fitz (it's also against the show's logic that Olivia would internalize Mellie's warnings about this or even have an advice chat with her, but I relevantly digress), but she would never take the illegal route when there's a perfectly legal one right in front of her that wouldn't take much work to fix in her favor. Part of her rationale was that she "didn't want him to die," but she aimed a gun right between her father's eyes and pulled the trigger (it was unloaded, unbeknownst to her). She's helped set him up twice and tried to have Jake kill him on multiple occasions. Letting this man go makes no sense after working for God knows how long in Scandal-years to have him arrested to begin with. All of this support for Rowan has come from nowhere, much like her left-field "at least my father loved me" statement during an argument with Fitz, but we'll talk more about that later.
Yes, a character's life perspective can undergo changes, but the problem here is that it's way too precipitous. Olivia's chance at abruptly changing for the "worst" should've been last season after being kidnapped, but her first line of action was to scold Fitz for going to war in order to save her. Meaning that, even while she was completely disheveled, she still had her morality. It's odd that out-of-the blue she just doesn't care and leaps
at the first opportunity for "power" or control because she's now Fitz's First-ish Lady, as Cyrus pointed it out ("You have the Oval. This is what power looks like. He's not the President anymore, Olivia. You are)."
Another Scandal-universe inconsistency: OPA lost all of their clients when it was mere speculation and rumor that Olivia was sleeping with the president. It was so bad, she pulled out the black folder because she couldn't deal ("I didn't do this for YOU, I did this for ME" bunker monologue, anyone?). Yet, when the exact same thing happens again and confirmation comes straight the Pope-stressed mouth, they can still get clients and afford to pay a new associate like all is good? What has changed in the clients' mentality? Also, what on earth was Huck, Quinn and New-Harrison doing while Olivia was at the White House 24/7? How were their bills getting paid? Did they "handle" things we aren't aware of during this entire process?
So beyond that, we have this second half of the season coming up after the iconic breakup scene, which everyone and their mama-Popes knew was inevitable. Going off my point from earlier, why is Olivia all of a sudden ditching the "white hat" as the promos have suggested? There's no reason for it. The only thing that made her snap was the insecurity in her head. Speaking of "in her head," we can't overlook how the breakup came about. We knew it was going to happen, but I think the avenue in which it came to be was a bit unorganized. Olivia cautioned Fitz that if they weren't ready and went into a public relationship "broken," they wouldn't make it out together because the public/media would tear them to shreds. However, since that monologue, everyone in Scandal-America loved them together and embraced Olivia as their First-ish Lady. No, this didn't make sense either (see Confused Face #1), but that's what you've given to us as viewers. There were no arguments, problems or outside influences; just the issues Olivia obviously had in her own mind--issues that weren't conveyed to the audience clearly.
If we're going for a new direction of Olivia being a "bad girl" or the daughter of "Command," shouldn't there be another life-altering or threatening moment that would cause her to crack? I mean, the kidnapping was the perfect time to do that, but that was a whole season ago. Her feeling "caged" doesn't scratch that itch because once she realized why the caged bird sings, she could've simply found a cute, quick way out. Anyone who can finagle their way out of an international kidnapping with nothing but a glass of water and being a polyglot, should be able to easily moonwalk out of a too-much-too-soon smothering relationship...especially if this someone is a "professional fixer." Also with this new direction, it's apparent Rowan is going to have to make that switch from the antagonist we all love and hate to a (temporary) protagonist. How can this be done? Sure, his monologues and reverse psychology slays us as viewers, but the other characters in the universe should hate his guts and want him dead, Olivia included. So, why is Jake just nonchalantly #TeamRowan in the blink of an eye? Why is Row-Livia going to be a thing? They have no reason to help or protect him. I get why Huck didn't kill him, because that was his weird, sick way of torturing Rowan, but if we're going to assume there's a new entity similar to B6-13 that Rowan's here to "assist" with, shouldn't he have suffered more before the other characters have sympathy or mercy on him?
Confused Face #3: Becoming a Caricature of Itself
Why is it the moment Mellie "helped" Olivia by liberating Rowan (and Tom), I knew the show was going to fall into a time slip of redundancy? Folks are going to try to kill Rowan (again), some B613-type establishment is going to be the primary plot focus (again), Olivia and Fitz are going to fall out and then long for each other (again)[welp, called that one], Jake is going to end up being Liv's trying-to-get-the-bad-guys puppy dog (again), and OPA is going to go on as normal. We even have a new Harrison! The show keeps repeating past conflicts that we know the outcomes of and it's kind of embarrassing. Especially when someone who doesn't watch the show can say "Wait...didn't that already happen?" while amidst a group of gladiators discussing season 5 recaps. The repetitiveness makes the show look like it's trying to mimic itself rather than continue to evolve, as it did for the first 4 seasons. Season 5 has had some of the best monologues thus far, rhetorically, but they can't be appreciated when they're surrounded by a sea of sameness and monotony.
I have no "solutions" since I'm just confused. Maybe all my questions will have answers in this second half and I'll learn my lesson about questioning a creative genius at work. Seeing as I can't gaze into the future though, I can only trust your judgment (or hope you see this open letter).
Your Fellow Gladiator,