There’s a thing in television called “jumping the shark,” referring to a gimmick a series concocts to spike viewers’ interest, but ends up setting off a decline in quality instead. It’s the “too far” moment. Well, last night Scandal walked up to that shark, looked it in the eye, gave it the finger, and then walked around it, boldly proclaiming—taunting, actually—that it just does not give a flying fig about idioms and gimmicks and daring to go “too far.”
That shark has a name. And its name is “#whogotshot.” (It’s 2014, people. Metaphorical sharks have hashtags in their names.)
For the past week, ABC has been touting an “OMG” moment that would happen at the end of last night’s episode. “Please,” thought viewers of Scandal. “There’s nothing you can throw at us that we haven’t seen already.” ABC, however, knew we were calling its bluff, showing in every promo every absolutely insane plot twist and shocking moment it has thrown at us thus far—the assassination attempt, the affair getting leaked, Sally’s murderous moment—and promised that this would be the “ultimate OMG moment.” It would, the promo teased, “rock us to the core and change the course of Scandal history.”
Did that moment live up to the hype? Eh. Kinda. If you’ve clicked on this headline and read this far, you’re obviously not a fool and are aware that you’re going to see a spoiler, so here it is: Jake, under an unidentified person’s orders, ambushes David and James on a dark street corner, shooting and killing one of them. Who was it? We don’t know. And we only sort of care. Sure, they’re both sweet, nice guys played by talented actors who give performances that make it easy to root for the characters they play. But they’re also kind of tertiary. Actually they’re very tertiary.
Let’s be honest, people, three minutes after we find out which one of them was killed next week, we’re going to be completely over it. (After all, Scandal plows through plots with the abandon of drunken buffalo.)
But that’s the beauty of Scandal. It can do something like have one important character murder one of two fan-favorite characters in cold blood and it only just lives up to its billing as the “ultimate OMG” moment.
The shark isn’t the moment. It’s the fanfare that surrounded the moment, the fact that Scandal is so self-aware about the fact that we are all living for its whiplash-inducing twists and turns, and that it’s given us so many of them, that it has to turn its next one into an event complete with its own marketing campaign. Scandal has gotten so crazy that one plot point gets its own marketing campaign. That’s insanity! It’s also, however, the best. The absolute best.
Because here’s the thing. Somewhere along the line these past few years, in this “golden of age of the television drama,” we’ve forgotten that good TV can be fun. It can be silly, even. Whether it’s Breaking Bad or Mad Men or The Walking Dead or True Detective or what have you, we’ve convinced ourselves that top-notch television must be serious, and, in turn, be taken seriously. Boy do we take these TV shows so seriously. It’s exhausting how seriously we take these TV shows.
Sometimes, though, watching a TV show should be fun, and that episode of Scandal was. It was really freaking fun. It was bananas, yes, and not just because of #whogotshot. The whole hour was full of crazy. It was crazier than Anne Heche wandering around a desert telling us she’s God taking us to heaven on her spaceship. Well, if that spaceship has Scandal, Anne, then beam us up.
I mean, should we go back through all the wild things that happened last night before we even got to those last 30 seconds? There was that opening, for one, with former Vice President Sally Langston going full cuckoo, launching into an extended, raving pig metaphor. (“Yum yum, crispy piggy, yum yum.” Also, give Kate Burton an Emmy, please.) David Rosen told Olivia Pope and the Gladiators about Sally murdering her husband and Cyrus and Mellie’s involvement. So many hits were put on so many different people that by the time Sally had a sniper pointed at her forehead during a televised presidential debate, I almost forgot who ordered it.
And wasn’t it crazy when Kevin Spacey walked in and pushed that poor journalist girl in front of the train? Oh, sorry. Wrong show.
There was, however, some epic Olivia Pope-ness, and even more epic Kerry Washington acting-ness. She cackled like a crazy person when she found out that Cyrus was a murderer. That heavy breathing mixed with over-articulate enunciation thing that she does was in full force. There were brilliant—brilliant—lines for her to sink her teeth into, like when she told Jake that, “Yes, something is wrong. Everything is wrong. But I don’t want to talk about it. I want to eat too many fries, drink way too much wine, and have a relaxing night with my fake boyfriend.” I mean, gurl. Preach.
And then there was that “ultimate OMG moment.”
Don’t be mistaken but that little bit before about it being a slight letdown. That moment was shocking. I gasped. Didn’t you gasp? You totally gasped. If I’m judging by the reaction on Twitter (since we’re giving a plot point a hashtag these days, I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it’s fair to judge general consensus from a select group of tweets), we were shocked.
That’s where you have to give Scandal credit. After everything it’s already thrown at us over the years, it still manages to conjure shocking moments, even if they’re not the “ultimate” twists that incessant promotions promise it. Not only that, it’s managed to do that, to go full-throttle on the craziness, on the twists and turns, on the almost camp-levels of soapiness, and still not get written off as ridiculous or tasteless or just plain bad. Scandal is almost operatic in its lunacy. It knows there’s a line that it can’t cross before becoming too silly, but never crosses it because it just flicks a middle finger, walks up to the line, and kicks it a little bit further away. Scandal brings unapologetic storytelling to new levels of grandeur, being so aggressive with lowbrow twists and turns and sudsy soapiness that it actually is deceptively highbrow. Scandal, really, is highbrow silliness. It’s its own genre, really.
And in this genre, no one jumps sharks. No, that would be too silly.