By Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Spoilers ahead! Warning: This post contains excellent writing, unparalleled wit, and spoilers from the latest episode of “Scandal”! Do not read if you are not entirely caught up on the show. Continue reading if you love my writing.
Last week’s season four premiere showed us that everything in the “Scandal”-verse has gone to hell in a handbasket. Olivia Pope is MIA, Huck is fixing iPhones in an electronics store, Abby is repping it at the White House, and Quinn is… doing whatever Quinn does. And that’s just Olivia Pope and Associates.
Over at the White House, Olympus is crashing down. The President is doing some massive hiring-and-firing, Cyrus is trying to control him and Mellie — our queen, our idol, our antiheroine — is in pajamas and UGGs, day drinking and mourning the death of her son. Mellie doesn’t appear consistently throughout the episode, but her scenes shed the most light on what has passed in between seasons. She reveals that Fitz tried to commit suicide, and when she learns that Olivia is back in town, she doesn’t mince words. “You tell me when you see her,” she tells Fitz. And when he attempts to deny that he will be seeing Olivia, she cuts him off. “Just tell me.”
Over the course of the previous three seasons, the audience has seen Mellie in many different lights, and the public perception of her has shifted. In the beginning, when everything seemed right in the world of Olivia and Fitz — star-crossed lovers — Mellie was the obstacle standing in the way of true love. She was the jealous wife, the scorned lover and the icy ambitious politician who was using her marriage to Fitz as a method for achieving her own ends.
Then, slowly — at least for me — the portrayal of Mellie changed. As the Fitz and Olivia relationship changed, becoming more selfish and needy and weird, it became clear that Mellie wasn’t some harsh dictator seeking to crush the lives of all around her. She was a woman whose husband was cheating on her on a public stage, who had to deal with the “other woman” every day. When the façade of “scorned wife” faded away, it became very clear that Mellie was — as the actor who plays her, Bellamy Young, put it — “the smartest person in the room.” She was politically minded and strong-willed, but because she was the First Lady, she was relegated to luncheons and soft issues.
Mellie Grant is as close to an antiheroine as one can get on a show that regularly features amoral characters in amoral situations. And in this season, after the death of her son Jerry, Mellie’s layers are being stripped away. The need for political grace and quick words is gone, and the time for manipulation has passed. Mellie is ruthless in her demeanor now, and all that softness — fake and real — has disappeared, buried deep underneath her iron skin. It just seems so unfair that Mellie should go through more pain; she suffered through her husband’s affair, the aftermath of being raped by her father-in-law, humiliation at the hands of Olivia Pope and overall dismissal by everyone. And through it all, she has still aimed to make Fitz the best President he could be. Without her, there would be no Presidency, no Defiance, Ohio, and no Olivia Pope.
I can’t wait to see what the writers create for Mellie this season. I want to see her in this buffed-away, ungilded state and watch what she is really capable of.