This is a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Ostensibly about supercharged political fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her uncanny ability to extricate senators and congressmen from sticky situations, the real story in Scandal is the double-dealing that lies behind the White House’s gleaming façade.
If The West Wing’s presidential office was a place of noble intentions, the seat of power in Scandal has its own circle of hell, replete with liars, blackmailers, assassins and cold-hearted killers.
No sooner is one crisis averted than another pops up: it starts with a commonplace White House sex scandal, then grows until corruption creeps into every corner.
There is a love story to sweeten the pill (it was created by Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes after all), and as that revolves around the President’s doomed affair with Olivia Pope, it offers moments of pure soap: arms-folded speeches made while staring at the Oval Office curtains.
The kicker is that Olivia is supposedly based on Judy Smith, press aide to George Bush Sr’s administration and exec producer of the series. If she’s advising Rhimes on storylines, what does that tell us about the real madness of life in the White House?
Because as much as Scandal wants to talk about the conflicts of idealism and political expediency, and of love and duty, it’s a bit bonkers.
Shadowy agents torture people at will, senior officials kill with bare hands, the President secretly builds a house for his lover — and a character gnaws through their own wrists to commit suicide.
It’s the mix of ludicrous political soap opera and ludicrously dark twists that makes Scandal so compelling. Silly, implausible fantasy of the highest order... probably.