Another Washington power player bites the dust — and interpersonal tensions run higher than ever in American politics’ most exclusive social circle. Last week, I predicted that if Jake’s bullet ended up inside anyone (I mean, besides his and James’ two faceless associates), it would be David. Today, I think it’s time to admit how terrible I am at predicting where Scandal is going with just about anything.
Because, of course, it isn’t David who ends up dead on the side of the road — it’s James. Poor, confused, alarmingly simple-minded James, the once-righteous liberal journalist who spent his entire tenure on the show grasping alternately for fame, purpose, and most of all, the love of a man trying desperately to make himself dead inside. This has always been the mystery of this couple: Aside from the power (which, come on, can’t be that intoxicating), what did James see in Cyrus? Why was he so self-destructively in love with a schlumpy-lookin’ man 25 years his senior who is too manipulative, self-serving, and full of secrets to have a normal romantic relationship with anyone?
As a result, James never entirely coalesced as a character. He was more like a loose collection of ambitions and attachments, filled out (sorry, Shonda) with a gay stereotype here and there. Last night’s episode, which was full of flashbacks tracing Cy and James’ lives together from their first meeting during Fitz’s primary campaign to their first (very) public appearance at an early state dinner, only exacerbated the poor characterization. We’re remembering James through Cyrus’ eyes, as the mourning husband hurtles through numbness and hyperactivity to a moment of total collapse in the White House press room.
And that’s just the problem: this isn’t the story of who James was or even what Cy loved about him; all that remains mysterious, and not in a fun, Scandal-y way. It’s the story of Cy coming to terms with his own sexual orientation, as facilitated by a much younger man who refuses to conduct their relationship in the shadows (or at least pouts a whole lot about having to do it). I’m rarely this disappointed with one of the show’s storylines, but now that James’ has come to an end, I realize how unsatisfying his character always was.
Speaking of unsatisfying, the rest of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was also fairly bereft of uplifting victories or rewardingly salacious moments (aside from about 30 seconds of very well-deserved hotness for Mellie, with Andrew). First and foremost, there’s Olivia’s ongoing realization that Jake is no longer her pet B-613 agent. Not only is he uninterested in looking into James’ shooting for her, he’s responsible for it — as Liv quickly figures out when Huck comes to her with evidence that Quinn was snooping through her office. “You told me you would be different,” she says to Jake when she confronts him about it, and he tells her that he is: he did the dirty work himself. (Oh, and then he sort of threatens to kill her if she says anything about what really happened.) In fact, in the episode’s final moments, we see him stay with James, apologizing and explaining that he couldn’t give him a quick death because he had to make it look like an amateur carjacking job. I think we were supposed to be touched by this scene — a kinder, gentler B-613 Command! — but to be entirely honest, all it did was creep me out.
Disturbed by Jake’s transformation, Liv for some reason turns to her father, the single least comforting human being on earth. “I need my dad,” she tells him, which is apparently the secret password for getting a man who’s been evading the truth for decades to be honest about his life at B-613. “Being the hand of God is already the worst punishment,” he says, cautioning her not to be too hard on Jake. And in response to her moral crisis about how everyone’s a bad guy, how no one “wears the white hat,” Rowan/Eli tells her, “Everyone is worth saving.” Then he tenderly places his hand on top of hers and asks, “Am I done being Dad now?” So touching.
And finally, let’s go through this week’s Gladiator-land subplots in order from most to least irritating. Which means, of course, that we have to start with Quinn and Huck. After discovering that she broke into the office, he shows up at her apartment to kill her. Instead, they end up making out. And then Quinn just tells him to go home. I don’t know, either, you guys. That really doesn’t sound like Huck to me. I think once Huck has decided to kill someone, he’s going to do it whether she suddenly looks really kissable to him or not. That’s the point of this character: he gets more pleasure out of murder and torture than literally anything else, even sex.
Then there’s Abby, who eventually coaxes out of David the confession that he’s saved his own life by covering up Jake’s killing of James and those other two people who are so little cared-about by the world at large that they end up buried in a hole in the woods. Anyway, David’s having a crisis of conscience: he doesn’t want to be a B-613 target, but he also can’t live with himself after sending an innocent man to jail for James’ murder.
Best and (unfortunately) briefest of all is Harrison, who’s starting to get quite worried about his old partner in crime/fuck buddy, Adnan. We don’t see much of them together this week, but we do see her in top bad-bitch tag-team form with one Maya Pope. Designer handbags are exchanged. A man is shot just like that. Maya says, “I don’t make bombs, I make money.” And it’s clear that while they’ve only occupied a few minutes of screen time in the last few episodes, we’re in for quite a bit more of Adnan and Maya as the season continues