Friday, April 18, 2014

Shonda Rhimes' Scandal and the Never-Changing Toybox

I love TV and what its capable of, that's why I so often criticise it. And unfortunately, tonight's Scandal was not a very good finale at all. I adore and respect Shonda Rhimes' who has demonstrated better than anyone that soapy does not have to equate to trashy.

But there's nothing more infuriating than a writer's room that plays with their toys all season long, banging and crashing them into each other. And then spends the finale wiping them out, putting band-aids on them, and  putting them back where you found them.

Bad cliffhangers are those that don't substantially change anything because the audience KNOWS that the new situation can't change. So when a character quits in a huff (a la the first season of The OC), we just roll our eyes because we know within two episodes of the next season things will be back to normal. A good cliffhanger is one that forever alters the show's dynamics - most often this means a major death, but it can also mean a major shift. Don Draper getting fired at the end of last year and being told, in no uncertain terms, that he'll be spending at LEAST half a year away from advertising is a good cliffhanger.

But in Scandal, I have no faith that the show will act or feel any different next year. (SPOILERS, of a vague sort) Olivia will be back to helping and fucking Fitz, Mellie will be scheming, Cyrus will be guilty but stay in the game, Fitz will be awful, etc etc.

And before someone throws out the "Its a network show, bro, they ain't going to kill off XYZ," argument, I'm not advocating for the show to completely change. But any drama worth its salt (on cable, network, or a 4th grade play) should consistently put old characters into new situations. It should not force them back into their old cages without significantly altering the cage.

All hail the status quo, destroyer of ambition.

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