After a three month hiatus, last night’s season premiere of “Scandal” hit the ground running. When we last saw Olivia Pope, her secret affair with Fitz had been leaked to the press and jaws dropped around the nation with the reveal that shadowy government operative Rowan was actually her long lost father.
Rowan wasted no time exercising his parental duties as he chastised his errant daughter in a brutal dress down: “You lifted up your skirt, opened your knees and gave it away to a man with too much power.”
Hanging her head like a little girl caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar, Rowan continued his verbal assault, reminded Liv of the “Black Tax”: “We have to work twice as hard to get half of what they have.” No sir, Rowan was clearly not pleased with his daughters side-piece status!
Rowan proved to be quite the master fixer himself, arranging a private jet to take Liv away from the cesspool of scandal but Liv proved to be a chip off the old block by standing her ground. Rowan warns his daughter: “The White House will destroy you.” Liv shoots back: “Funny, that’s what mom said about you.” (yes! Finally a mention of Mama Pope!)
The season premiere of “Scandal” worked on several fronts. The addition of Joe Morton as Rowan Pope answers questions that we had about Olivia’s motivations for continuing her extra-marital affair with Fitz. Rowan is cold, ruthless, and calculating-qualities that will send any daughter into the arms of powerful yet unattainable men.
In addition, the epic clashes between Liv and Daddy Pope prove that “Scandal” can succeed beyond the beyond tired “will they or won’t they?” soapiness of the Liv and Fitz storyline. By giving Liv family connections, the character now has more depth and agency, as she fights to retain her autonomy in a town her father runs with an iron fist.
Finally, Olivia and Rowan Pope are unlike any Black family we’ve seen on primetime. Powerful, rich and at the top of their respective games, Rowan and Olivia are operating on a different family dynamic usually reserved for White characters (“Dynasty”, “Dallas”). “The Age of Cosby” is over – today’s most successful TV shows live in moral ambiguity, not in sugary platitudes. “Scandal” wins by smartly avoiding the trap of Black respectability.
What did you think of last night’s season premiere? Sound off in the comments section below.
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