“You are a gladiator. Gladiators don’t run, they fight, they slay dragons, they wipe off the blood, they stitch up their wounds, and they live to fight another day.”
Scandal is a political/drama TV series created by Shonda Rhimes in 2012 and first aired on ABC. I started watching it the following year completely by chance, and it captured me since the very first episode.
The show is centered around Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington), a political “fixer” who knows the ins-and-outs of political life in Washington DC. Olivia is an intelligent, very ambitious woman, a communication strategist who runs a law studio in the city and together with her team she handles “scandals” which involve politics and public figures. She is brilliant at what she does and she started out working on the elections campaign of Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III (played by Tony Goldwin), the current President of the United States, with whom she has a passionate, forbidden love affair (the President is married to First Lady Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young). A love affair that, with its ups and downs (and some Shakespearean twists!) goes on for the entirety of the show, which lasted seven seasons.
Olivia Pope’s team of “Gladiators” is composed of great characters like Abby Whelan, a sophisticated woman who really gets Olivia as a person, grateful to her because she saved her from a complicated situation, and always ready to help her and support her in case of need, and Diego “Huck” Muñoz, a computer expert who is very devoted to Olivia and is often essential to solving the team’s cases.
Jake Ballard (played by Scott Foley) is one of the people who are closest to Olivia, and he develops feelings for her during the course of the show (but I won’t spoil anything else; even though the show aired its final season more than four years ago, I am very against spoilers on the web because people might discover a series later on in their life).
The acting in Scandal is great and Kerry Washington is perfect for the role of Olivia Pope; she even received a Golden Globe nomination for playing her.
The show is filled with mystery, action, romance and so much more; its strong female characters have a personality which prevails upon their beauty, who are fascinating because of their intelligent and their work. It is a show that deals with the struggle of having to find a balance between professional and personal life, but also the struggle to choose between what one wants and what is the right thing to do. It’s also about political schemes and the way politics is depicted through the mass media.
I used to watch Scandal with my mom and it was so addictive; this was before the binge-watching era so it was torture to wait a whole week to see another episode, but at the same time this provided suspense and discussion material for what we thought would happen next.
Scandal had its own iconic moments which are still popular to this day, like Olivia Pope’s classic belted coats (her white ensemble remains an evergreen) and her appreciation for popcorn and red wine, which was included in various scenes.
The show provided amazing wardrobe choices for Kerry Washington’s character. Olivia has a few recurring pieces which become her signature: Max Mara coats and Prada bags. One of her most famous looks is a Michael Kors dress worn for Inauguration Day but she also gravitates towards high-end designers like Dior and Armani, classic pieces like Ralph Lauren capes and Ferragamo shoes. I managed to score a great deal online on the Hugo Boss red wrap coat she wears in season five!
Fast-paced dialogue (and some great monologues during which the actors get to showcase all their talent, especially Joe Morton), political intrigue intertwined with soap opera elements characterize this show, which reminded my mom of “Capitol”, an American soap from 1987, also about politics and set in Washington D.C. which counted my grandmother as one of its biggest fans.
In my opinion, Scandal was one of the greatest TV shows of the 2010s and it is still one of the political dramas I tend to recommend the most!
OTHER MOVIES/SHOWS YOU MAY LIKE: for movies, I would certainly recommend The American President (1995), starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening, even though this is more of a sentimental comedy. For political intrigues, one should watch The Ides of March (2011) or All The President’s Men (1976).
There are many TV shows similar to Scandal and I would definitely recommend How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis as the main character, quite similar to Olivia Pope with whom she also interacts during a cross-over with Scandal in the latter’s 7th season.
I have been recommended The West Wing, which is also about politics but with very different dynamics; Homeland is a CIA drama praised by the critics and fans of Scandal may find it interesting to watch. House of Cards, which also aired from 2013 to 2018, deals with political intrigues even more than Scandal does.
If you like Kerry Washington as an actress, I would recommend Little Fires Everywhere, produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Washington as one of the main characters. It is a drama TV show based on a book, it has strong-willed, complex female characters and it deals with important themes like mother-daughter relationships and how a person’s identity is shaped.
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