I chose to analyze an episode of the popular Shonda Rhimes series, Scandal. Scandal is a political drama/thriller series set in Washington, D.C. in which Olivia Pope and her team of “gladiators” work to solve serious problems for the government, politicians (including multiple presidents) and the elite, uber wealthy. In this particular episode, Olivia asks her gladiator and professional murderer, Huck, to kill her own father, Ely, (and Huck’s former commander) because she knows that he assassinated president-elect Frankie Vargas. However, Huck knows that Ely only killed Vargas because a group of people told him he had to or they would immediately have Olivia murdered. Huck tells Olivia this because he is convinced there is a “mole” among Olivia’s team, poised to kill her at any time. Olivia doesn’t believe him until Huck presents footage of an exchange among Ely and the group threatening to kill Olivia. Olivia then calls off the operation to kill her father. In a shocking turn of events, the mole among Olivia and her gladiators ends up being Meg, the seemingly innocent young woman who Huck had been seeing. In the final seconds of the episode, Meg murders Huck and reports to the woman threatening to murder Olivia and Abbey, ex-gladiator and current White House Chief of Staff that she has taken care of Huck.
In classic Shonda Rhimes fashion, Scandal places great emphasis on the role and power of female characters. As per usual, Olivia Pope is depicted as being very powerful because she commands a highly trained group of individuals to do whatever she says—in this case, murdering her father. Olivia’s character is also notable because not only is she a woman, but she is also African-American. Rhimes uses Olivia’s character strategically to defy the stereotype of white men having wielding a great deal of power and influence in Washington. In this particular episode, Meg’s character also demonstrates female dominance. She manages to lure Huck, a cold-blooded killer, into falling in love with her by presenting herself as being naïve and generally interested in him. This is a very notable moment because, throughout the whole series, Huck is presented as being cold, introverted, and not apt to fall in love. This is the second time throughout the whole series Huck seems to have genuinely fallen for a woman and it ultimately leads to his death. Immediately following Huck’s murder, Rhimes deliberately cuts to a scene of the three women who had been plotting to kill Huck, and gives the audience the impression that they also intend to kill Olivia. This scene is very powerful because it illustrates women outsmarting Huck, who had been portrayed as a lethal killer.
In addition to the role of women in this episode, Rhimes also utilizes violence to invoke fear and suspense. The violence in this episode is particularly ironic because in the first instance, Huck is threatening Meg. Huck believes Meg may be the “mole” trying to kill Olivia, so he pins her to the wall and threatens to inject her with a tranquilizer. Meg is hysterical and convinces Huck she is innocent so he releases her. The final instance of violence we see is Meg holding a gun to Huck in a hotel room and then murdering him. Once again, Rhimes’s use of violence is incredibly well-placed because, in an attempt to protect Olivia, Huck ends up getting himself killed by his own love interest.
As a whole, this was one of the most thrilling because of Huck’s murder, since he had been such a major character throughout the entire series. As a long time viewer of the show, I found myself shocked and ready to watch the next episode to figure out why, exactly, Huck was murdered. Additionally, Rhimes demonstrates her pro-woman in power view in the characters of Olivia and Meg. For viewers of other Rhimes shows, such as a Grey’s Anatomy, seeing a powerful female lead is nothing new; though, it does draw female viewers to the shows.
Meg seconds before murdering Huck