TV Series Review
Olivia Pope is in the secrets business.
No, she's not a CIA agent, paid to keep them. Nor is she a gossip blogger, paid to spill them. This former White House communications director is now head of a crisis management firm that caters to our capital's richest, most powerful citizens.
All her clients have secrets—closets stuffed with 'em, sometimes. And when one tumbles out, it's Olivia's job to manage and spin it, turning a potential PR time bomb into, at worst, an inconvenience, and at best, an asset. If she has to break a few rules, blackmail a few informants or birth a few secrets herself, so be it. After all, no one ever said the secrets business was easy … or pretty.
ABC's Scandal is part serialized mystery, part episodic drama. While most installments feature a self-contained crisis to manage (the discovery of a notorious madam's black book, a politician's son accused of rape, etc.), Olivia and her crack team of lawyers and investigators are also embroiled in a massive and longer-lasting scandal that could rock the free world.
The show has its share of all the problematic content you'd expect in this sort of drama. A handful of mild profanities in each episode. A harrowing kidnapping or grotesque corpse. Conversations about sleazy sexual situations. We've seen instances of violence, torture and murder. And Pope's longstanding affair with the president himself—one that led to the two shacking up together in the White House for a while—can make this show quite problematic.
It also tends to pull events straight from the headlines and then add some spin. (A spin that twirls ever leftward in the hands of series creator Shonda Rhimes.)
But perhaps Scandal's bigger issue is more esoteric. Olivia, we're told, is a principled, conscientious woman who cares as much about righting wrongs as filling her business coffers—sometimes helping folks who seem unable to afford her admittedly pricey services. But it's a tricky line she walks here. While her heart often (though not necessarily always) is in the right place, she and her team just as often make muddy ethical decisions, seem to thrive on conflicts of interest, and work hand in hand with some deeply compromised—and compromising—characters.
So while Olivia's team likes to think they're the ones wearing the white hats, it's a very black business they've gotten into.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope; Henry Ian Cusick as Stephen Finch; Columbus Short as Harrison Wright; Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan; Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins; Jeff Perry as Cyrus Beene; Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant; Bellamy Young as Mellie Grant; Guillermo Díaz as Huck Finn; Portia de Rossi as Elizabeth North; Cornelius Smith Jr. as Marcus Walker