WTF plot moments are Scandal’s bread and butter.
But Thursday’s episode arguably went further than ever before. Between Quinn killing someone and maybe-joining B613, Olivia’s mom being very much not dead, and Fitz putting together who Olivia’s father is, the episode would have been a memorably action-packed hour regardless. But, of course, the biggest out-of-nowhere shocker was the fact that 15 years ago, viewers learned via flashback that when Fitz was considering a run for governor, Fitz’s father first got into a fight with his son, and then raped Mellie.
“Did that just happen!?” my shocked roommate asked while we confirmed that yes, we weren’t hallucinating during that way-too-long scene as we watched Mellie’s face go from horror, to struggle, to nothing. Watching it felt very similar to another rape scene on television: Joan on Mad Men. Like the moment at Sterling Cooper, it was the “nothing happened” aftermath that was most chilling. (Bellamy Young, all the awards for you.)
On Twitter, the instantaneous reaction seemed split, but a majority of EW comments on our recap this morning seemed in favor of the twist. I get the approval: By giving Mellie such a traumatic backstory, it helps explain her current coldness, as well as her never-ending frustration and sadness for all she’s given to Team Fitz. As of right now, it doesn’t seem like Fitz is aware of any of this, including the added bombshell that Mellie finds herself pregnant a few weeks after her rape. The scene, as I’m sure was the writers intention, helped humanize Mellie and perhaps move a couple people from the “Love to Hate” camp to just “Straight Up Love.” (Welcome!)
But some viewers, like myself, felt it was a little bit of an easy way out. Why did Mellie have to be raped to soften her? Why can’t she just be a powerful, sometimes difficult-to-get-along with woman? In addition, it was extremely disturbing to watch. One colleague mentioned to me after viewing that scene she didn’t know if she wanted to continue watching the show. While I won’t be stopping Scandal, that moment bothered me a whole heck of a lot more than, say, someone getting killed.
For an OMG shocking twist not to feel cheap, the plotline has to, at minimum, not be immediately forgotten about. (Failure in execution: multiple Glee kids saying they were molested and then never hearing about it again). Now that they’ve gone down this road, I hope it isn’t the last time we’ll hear of Mellie’s earlier struggles, although I fear it might be.
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