erinptah: (Default)

When last we left our heroes, democracy had been subverted on almost every level, including the level where the writers don't understand how American democracy works. But a shockingly-decent human being was pulled out of left field and appointed Vice President. It sets up the prospect of a happier ending than I would have thought possible.

Will the new VPEOTUS turn out to have been an evil mastermind all along? Let's find out!

---

Episode 13 opens with a fleet of mystery drones over the US. Our election-rigging not-Russian Someones have borrowed the tactic that the "good guys" used earlier. Awkward.

Villain uses the phrase "your loved ones...as you call them." That's how you know he's a villain, he doesn't believe in foolish things like 'love'.

They have his co-villain in custody in a bunker under the White House, and obviously the prospect of torture comes up, because these people still haven't figured out that it doesn't get accurate intel. Still President Fitz says that if they torture her, "we spit on the Constitution," and they'll be no better than the villains...if they do it on WH grounds. In foreign secret prisons? That, he would've been totally fine with.

Anyway, they decide to bluff her instead, and she cracks in like a minute. Which should've been a hint that she was counter-bluffing, but nope, they go along with it. Even agree to send David Rosen -- the guy she was dating, the guy who found out who she was but had to keep sleeping with her so she wouldn't catch on, the easiest possible person for her to psych out -- to deliver the immunity agreement.

Villain: "Can we start over? You know my real name now...."

Rosen, disbelievingly: "You murdered Elizabeth North!"

Villain, wheedling: "I know...!"

(He ends up punching her in the face. I'm okay with that.)

They get her with a more complicated bluff in the end. Olivia's dad pretends to talk his way into the bunker and bust her out -- with a gun, which, you know, maybe was supposed to be a clue that this was a scheme. But given how terrible these people have been about security before, I was totally willing to believe that nobody frisked him.

(He gets her back to the museum, then stabs her with a dinosaur tooth. I, uh, would've liked her alive to testify, but if you ignore that bit it's a cool scene.)

---

The bad guys were sending Olivia's dad random packages, which turned out to be full of bricks, but calculated to make up the approximate weight of a human head. Which is apparently terrifying and intimidating, that they can afford to waste that much on postage.

So this episode opens with David Rosen bringing Abby an actual head. (The woman Dad Pope just killed. Abby calls her "ponytail bitch," which is as good a name as any.)

Third-to-last episode and we kinda have a case-of-the-week! Olivia Pope and Associates are trying to convince Fitz to do a last-minute pardon (for a black guy convicted of killing a white guy acquitted of killing a black guy). Huck and Quinn face down a bar full of heavily-armed racists and walk out untouched (and carrying a few extra guns), which is the kind of content I like to see.

David and Abby bond over their mutual angst about being manipulated. It's kinda cute. I would like them to have a happy ending, if only because they were broken up in such an awful way.

I was reeeeally worried the Shocking Twist would be that our victim-of-the-week is guilty after all, but never fear! We're 26 minutes into the episode and Olivia hates the idea: "You want me to take your racially-sensitive tinderbox of a closed case to an outgoing President with a legacy to protect because you have a feeling?"

Five minutes from the end, and some of our heroes have a shocking revelation that the Mystery Villains were working for someone! This is a twist? Y'all thought you were chatting directly with the top brass of the superconspiracy this whole time?

On the plus side, it turns out Olivia was testing Quinn -- "Running this firm will mean going up against the White House sometimes, I needed to know that you could handle it." Would've had more impact if the viewers didn't know from experience she would be wrong, but you take what you can get.

The evil mastermind is Olivia's mom! On Luna Vargas' behalf, I am delighted.

---

Mellie: "It's official, everyone in your family has wanted me dead at some point or another." She's not wrong.

Mom Pope gets a long monologue about how she's been secretly working in the name of good all along, and this just one more example of black women's work not being appreciated. On Luna Vargas' behalf, I'm worried again.

Olivia tries to bluff out her mom ("I'm totally on your side, but you need to give them something"), and overplays it horribly. So it doesn't work, and she tries strangling instead. Who on this writing team has a thing for choking?

Oh, and Quinn's pregnant. I guess at this point someone had to be.

---

IT WAS LUNA.

Dammit, show. I didn't want to be right about this. For this narrative, the really shocking twist would be someone turning out to be a genuinely decent human being.

...or at least, it was sort-of Luna. She "paid someone", presumably Mom Pope, to kill Frankie. Mom Pope passed the orders to Team Rocket, who passed them on via blackmail to half the main cast.

That still doesn't answer the question of where Team Rocket came from in the first place. Luna didn't create them, and I don't think Mom Pope did either. Their identities were almost perfectly scrubbed, they had millions to throw around and the financial infrastructure to cover their tracks, they were playing next-level blackmail chess. They had tracking chips in their necks, and were able to pull out a dozen covert drones at a moment's notice.

This only makes sense if they're agents of a serious organization -- and if they have motives other than money. I'm not even sure where Luna was supposed to have whipped up secret presidential-assassination levels of payment in the first place, but the effort these people went to, they would've needed power or ideology or both. Russian agents: makes sense! Random assassins: terrible narrative Plan B.

(It's also implied Cyrus gave her the idea, which, again...nobody's motives line up with the idea of killing Vargas before the EC vote.)

Abby to Quinn: "You wanted to have a baby? Let's have a baby." Uh...you two aren't the canon ship here...are you?

After a successful inauguration where nobody got shot, Olivia and Jake talk Luna into killing herself. Because hey, let's wrap up that loose end before any viewers start asking awkward questions. At least it got us this little gem:

Olivia: "Raise your hand if you've killed a Vice President before." [raises hand, looks meaningfully at Jake]

Jake: "Mine was Argentine."

Olivia: "That counts."

After all that, it's looking like the next season is going to have all the same people in power in Washington, just shuffled around a bit. Like, we might even have Cyrus installed as Mellie's VP after all.

I was going to say "still better than Trump," but, you know what? The last scene we get of President Mellie is her signing an executive order that Olivia puts in front of her, without reading it. (She accepts Olivia's summary, that it's setting aside a bit of cash for the military. It is, in fact, setting aside a bit of cash for Olivia.)

Sorry, America. The votes from the state of Shondaland are in, and it turns out you lost.

erinptah: (daily show)

Welcome back to Scandal, where the morals aren't real and the votes don't matter.

Our story so far: Two mysterious Someones, who were reportedly supposed to be Russian agents until the reality of 2016 forced the writers to think of something more original, arranged a murder-and-framing-spree around the President-elect. Mostly through surrogates that they've threatened and/or slept with, including about half of our main cast.

The heroes are dealing with this through a strategy of random guessing, dramatic confrontations, torturing people for inaccurate intel, forgetting to frisk people at key moments, and angsty self-reflection about that time when they rigged a presidential election.

Seven episodes left. Who will win? Not America, that's for sure.

---

Episode 10 (of the season, episode 100 of the show) is a whole Imagine Spot about what if Olivia hadn't voted to rig Fitz's election way back when.

For some reason AU Pope and Associates can't afford the swanky office. I thought she got there on her own amazing skills and reputation -- is this implying that her business was somehow propped up by Fitz's presidency? Or is it that she turned a moral corner with the election-rigging? Maybe the show wants us to see this as "she got more ruthless in doing whatever it takes to support wonderful deserving people," so down this fork-in-the-road she's not as good because she's held back by silly things like ethics.

Also, she's wearing her hair natural. Found a post that unpacks that a bit.

Fitz gets divorced, marries Olivia. Cyrus won't sit with his not-yet-husband at the ceremony, and, uh, ends up making out with Mellie for some reason? (No word, not even a mention, of who gets custody of their kids.)

We do get a couple of sweet details. Huck walks Olivia down the aisle, looking super awkward in a nice suit, while Abby is the maid of honor. Shots of various smiling friends and allies in the refreshingly multiracial audience.

Fitz gets a cheesy TV pundit spot. Also, for some reason it's a year post-wedding and they're not living together. Abby and David are namechecked as happily married.  Cyrus and Mellie...are...married and pregnant? Quinn didn't even get roped into the firm, so she's being cute and giggly on a Bachelor-type reality show.

...oh my god, the Bachelor says to not-Quinn "You really love torturing me, don't you? Is that your thing?"  (And Huck is clapping! He's rooting for her!) This is beautiful and they're so innocent and it hurts that they don't live in this universe.

Final score: Cyrus stays closeted and career-driven and miserable. Mellie is also pretty glum, but she's a better human being who cares about others. Fitz and Olivia have a lot of stress and fighting, including the revelation that she could've stolen the White House for him...but they pleasantly surprise me by both ultimately realizing that politics is soul-sucking and they're better off without it.

Totally should've gone with this reality.

---

Aaaand we're back to the merry-go-round of people yelling about who the Electoral College should vote for, based on whose kink for power they're most interested in indulging.

Mellie yelling at Olivia: "Get off your high horse! Like you never killed anybody? Like you never stole an Oval or two?" Look at all that sense and logic.

Olivia's response: "I know you. You are better than most. You are inherently good." Have you never seen your own show.

...She switches to Team Cyrus later in the episode, for reasons, and there's a lot of back-and-forth between Team Cyrus (he knows he's not worthy, but he wants to do it for Frankie!) to Team Mellie (Cyrus was a terrible husband and also she deserves it!). Until the point where Mellie meets the Someones...and one of them murders not!Veronica in front of her. Dammit, I liked Veronica!

Also, remember how the FBI director and the President are doing it? Yeah, that comes up again.

Fitz accuses her of being jealous of Olivia. She responds: "Boy, I am the director of the FBI, not some chick who got dissed at prom." Federal Director of Sass. And currently holding the mantle of Only Likeable Character Left Alive.

The EC votes! Mellie is in! Possibly in a landslide! Wonder how many of the electors were flipped via murder.

---

Episode 12 finds Dad Pope in protective presidential custody, although he's cranky because he sees more murder on the horizon.

...and we finally get one of the Someones confronting Olivia in person. Threatens her to replace Mellie's VP candidate. She goes to him and says "you should try being head of the NSA instead," as if our mysterious enemies would be totally chill with that.

FINALLY, a ploy with some strategy! Our heroes send one of their own drones into WH airspace, giving security an excuse to drag all attendant Someones into a secure bunker with phone signals blocked. Time for a secure war council.

(Or at least, I hope it's secure. Mellie's office was bugged for months and they never noticed. Have they learned a lesson from that? Time will tell! And there's a mention of Mellie's kids being in Secret Service custody -- are we taking it for granted that the Service hasn't been compromised?)

...so, okay, there was not a lot of actual council-ing in the secure council. Lots of angry yelling about various bombshell secrets that Subset X was hiding from Subset Y. (I remembered Dad Pope killing one of Fitz and Mellie's kids, but I forgot that Fitz knew. Mellie...finds out here.)

Then they split off into subgroups for a bunch of one-on-one conversations. Pairs up people who haven't interacted much all season, and I appreciate the character moments that come from exploring underused dynamics...but is this really the time?

By the end it seems like the only decision they've made is picking Mellie's replacement VP. No progress in figuring out who, exactly, is blackmailmurdering their way into the US government? Do we have a long-term safety strategy? Because that was not mentioned.

---

True fact: I am genuinely impressed by the VP reveal. I didn't see it coming at all, and yet in retrospect it's perfectly suited to the themes this season has brought up over and over -- how decent people usually aren't the ones who run for office, how they can honor the voters who chose Vargas by giving his position to someone he trusted, how political wives (and husbands in Cyrus' case) deserve more credit for all the sacrifices and compromises they've made to support their husbands.

It's Frankie Vargas' widow. She's consistently been a Good Person in all her appearances, and yet I haven't even been mentioning her in my tally of likeable characters because she's so mild and unassuming and respectable. Which I suppose was probably the point.

Scandal being Scandal, I give it 50-50 odds that it'll turn out she was the evil mastermind behind the Someones this whole time.

But if she isn't...possibly the American people will end up kinda-sorta winning? Or at least not totally losing?

Nicely done, show.

erinptah: Cat in a backpack (happy)

Our story so far:

PEOTUS was shot and assassinated on election night. Olivia Pope is on the case! So far she has accused three (3) people of ordering the killing, and been explicitly proved wrong about two (2). Meanwhile, the Electoral College is left to decide between the horrible, self-serving, politically-soulless VPEOTUS or the horrible, self-serving, politically-soulless runner-up ticket.

Onward!

---

Episode 6 gives us campaign-era flashbacks of Olivia's dad reconnecting with an old girlfriend, who turns out to be a lure under the control of...someone.

Different flashback: Olivia asking her dad for advice on how to handle Mellie. Hey, remember when Olivia's dad orchestrated the murder of Mellie's son? (The grief put her for months into a near-suicidal depression.) I'm sure his advice will be great.

Olivia: "She's from California. Why don't they like her?" Dad: "I can't answer that." Ooh, ooh, pick me! Because Californians hate Republican policies, and she's a Republican!

They keep talking about "calling San Benito County" as if the voting within states is calculated the same as national voting, as if you're guaranteed a certain number of points (and no more) once you win a county. Even if Mellie got every vote in San Benito (pop. 58,000), that doesn't mean she couldn't fall behind once all the ballots are counted in San Mateo (765,000), or Contra Costa (11.13 million), or, I don't know, Los Angeles (10.2 million).

Dad Pope was behind the Vargas shooting! Although not on his own initiative, it was pushed by the Someones, who had the girlfriend hostage. And then they went to far in taunting Dad Pope about his compromising attachment to her, so he shot her in front of them. Good grief.

---

Episode 7 finds Olivia telling Huck to kill her father. For the second time. He helpfully reminds her that the first time didn't end well.

Huck confronts Dad on a subway platform, openly aiming a gun at him, and there's a lot of yelling, which echoes beautifully. For some reason there are zero other people on the platform, and nobody is concerned about metro security cameras capturing this shouted confession of killing Vargas.

Accusations of a mole in Olivia's company lead to Huck and Quinn aiming guns at each other's faces. What a team.

Investigation by Huck leads to him threatening his current girlfriend with a syringe of something nasty, all while going "this is hard for me, but you're making me do this!" Just in case you were starting to feel sympathetic toward him.

Olivia is back for the third time to accusing her dad of Vargas' murder, but she's passionately insisting that it was all his idea, based on the admittedly reasonable evidence that he murdered the girlfriend who was being used to manipulate him. Huck counters by passionately insisting that Dad Pope has changed because he was in love and now he's in pain and...listen, buddy, both him and you are still 100% willing to be violent-to-murderous the minute you feel threatened. You haven't changed, and people, especially women, should stay away from you.

(I would say "random civilian women," but this girlfriend turns out to have been planted to shoot a witness, which she gets away with because none of these geniuses thought to frisk her, and, wow, we are never going to get any case-of-the-week episodes this season, are we.)

---

The Someones got to Abby. That explains why she was pushing for Cyrus to get the death penalty ASAP, huh.

In flashback she asks Cyrus "how did you know Frankie was the one, how did you know he could go all the way?" We've seen this in The West Wing -- Josh asking Leo how he knew Bartlett was his guy, because Josh had found Santos and was starting to think Santos could be his guy. But Abby isn't thinking she's found a candidate -- she's thinking she could be the candidate.

Anyway, the Someones offered her $3 million with no paper trail and no explanation beyond "we like you and want to support your eventual candidacy." And she took it! What's next, Abby, sending the money to a the next Nigerian prince in your email?

---

So Huck's evil girlfriend shot the witness, and then shot him, but in a weird way that seemed designed to miss all vital organs. I figured she was deliberately not-killing him for some reason. (He was flat on the floor, she had lots of spare bullets, it's not like she could miss the heart and lungs.)

Then she sticks him in the trunk of a car and pushes it into a lake. Apparently she's just incompetent.

We get a nice hallucination-sequence where Huck is back in Pope HQ, with the mental images of his team members talking him through how to escape. And he does it! Not only did she not kill him, she didn't even shoot him hard enough for the blood loss to slow him down!

...setting aside that part of my disbelief, I do actually like the bit.

Hey, was anyone worried that there hadn't been enough graphic on-screen torture this season? Well, don't sweat it. Quinn's got you covered.

Olivia gets a pep-up talk about how she's a "miracle worker," from another of these people who hasn't seen the show. And sure enough, they find Huck -- by tracking the phone of the dead witness, which murder-girlfriend wasn't smart enough to chuck in a dumpster on her way to the body disposal! That's not you working a miracle, that's your opponent being a complete moron.

Gonna wrap up this post here, purely because my head hurts from hitting this desk so hard.

erinptah: (Default)

Just gonna jump right into the liveblogging on this one.

Season 2 episode 2 starts with a flashback to when Mellie accepted the Republican nomination, making it even harder to ignore how unrealistic it is that the Republican party would vote for a woman to get their nomination.

Olivia yells at Fitz for sending "scrubs" to investigate a crime scene. The actual FBI Director steps out and informs her that, no, he sent her to investigate the crime scene. (This director is a black woman with giant hair. I want to like her.)

Cyrus invites Mellie to join him as VP-elect. This is all so terribly incestuous. There's no discussion of what policy would be, because of course there isn't -- I'm not sure if Scandal buys into the fallacy that the two parties are Basically The Same, or if this is just a symptom of it not caring about government except as a dramatic backdrop for sexy power struggles.

Olivia has dinner with the FBI director with the hair. It starts as piercing commentary on the way they get treated, as competent black women in positions of power...and turns into Olivia asking if the director has a thing with Fitz. Turns out no, but not because it's a terrible idea for the head of the FBI to bang the President, it's just because she was worried about disrespecting Olivia.

At the same time as this is happening, Olivia's people are stealing evidence from the FBI, and the White House is having a "confession" tortured out of a suspect who's supposed to be under the FBI's purview.

(The evidence is a hard drive, which, when recovered, has "over 5,000 hours" on it. By my back-of-the-napkin calculations, that would fill 17.6 terabytes. On a laptop drive. As of 2017, if you're willing to shell out several thousand dollars, the most Amazon can get you is 4.)

...I got real worried because Olivia's next thing is to snap at the WH that forced confessions are worthless as intelligence. Which is absolutely true -- but the show has never seemed to realize that before, and also, it's 23 minutes into the episode. (Thankfully, the next one seems to be backing her up.)

Flashback to Mellie's romance with a campaign staffer, and, oh hey, it turns out Abby knows Olivia broke up her and David! (I don't remember if we knew this already, or if this is the dramatic reveal.) Flash-forward to Mellie confronting Olivia over orchestrating her breakup with the staffer. "Why are you doing this? What is wrong with you?!" Good question!

---

Episode 3 retcons the video data to "300 hours of [tip-giving videographer]'s footage, 2200 hours of the security feed." That would need less than 2 TB on the hard drive, which is more believable.

Portia di Rossi's character is back! And she's amazing. Partly because I can't help seeing her as Veronica, all charmingly ridiculous, meant to be judged by comedy standards rather than real-world ones.

This episode uses flashbacks to unveil that, yep, Cyrus isn't the murderer. I was definitely expecting that to be dragged out for longer. (There's a secret video of Frankie yelling at him for being a terrible person who should be in jail, and, look, he's not wrong, but for other reasons.)

Most obvious suspect is the hitman Cyrus was secretly having an affair with, because that's the kind of show this is. Flash-forward to the present, Cyrus secretly meets with the (armed!) ex-boyfriend at night in a park, because that's totally the kind of thing PEOTUS can do. Secret Service, what Secret Service?

Vengeful hitman ex throws a wrench in the works by "admitting" to killing Frankie on Cyrus's orders. This'll be fun.

Olivia: "With Cyrus in jail, the Electoral College will have no choice but to vote for you." Orrr they could vote for the runner-up in the Democratic primary. Without knowing anything specific about these people's policies, that seems like the most moral and honest choice re: the will of the voters.

---

Wow, almost nothing to say about episode 4. It's all Cyrus's Adventures in Jail. The narrative woobifies him hard, to the point where in spite of everything I actually feel bad for him by the third act. (Fourth act, he gets a guard murdered. So much for that.)

---

And episode 5 focuses on the drama around Jake Ballard -- Olivia's ex, former agent of Olivia's dad, now Mellie's VP candidate, in a politically-orchestrated marriage with a not!Kennedy who's now going into an alcohol-fueled emotional tailspin as she slowly realizes (a) Jake doesn't like her very much and (b) he's a terrible person.

(To illustrate: he seriously considers strangling her in order to keep the angsty tailspin from damaging his career.)

Newly revealed in flashback: Jake blew up the cabin that held the laptop that held the video that came from the photographer that called in the tip that swallowed the spider to catch the fly. Don't ask me why.

Olivia wrangles Mellie to have a heart-to-heart with the not!Kennedy wife, as part of the Women Whose Husbands Like Olivia Pope Better Club. This wrangles the wife back into urging Democrats to fall in line behind Jake's ticket, based on him being a Good and Honorable Person who married someone from Massachusetts. What policies does he support that they should appreciate? Ha. Aha. Ahaha.

Then she spends the rest of the episode trying to get proof that Jake did the murdering, which of course means he didn't do that, although she lets him drive her alone without her phone to an isolated location before she figures it out.

And, whoof, that's about all the Olivia Pope always-rightness I can take in one sitting. (Still working on commissions, but I'll have to switch to some other background TV for the rest.)

erinptah: (daily show)

The latest season is on Netflix now, so it's time for me to work through more of this incredibly watchable show about terrible people.

For those who need a brief refresher:

Do you like The West Wing? Do you like Leverage? Would you like a series that's cross between those two shows? How about a series that thinks it's a cross between those two shows, but missed the memo that a big part of the appeal was the main characters being likeable, competent, and out to do good things? Well, Scandal is that last one.

Our heroine is Olivia Pope, a freelance fixer of political problems with a reputation for being supercompetent, brilliant, and heroic. Before canon started, she had already helped rig the US Presidential election to put her (Republican) (also married) boyfriend into office. The first few episodes follow a mini-arc where she is asked to defend the reputation of a woman who also had an affair with said President. Olivia yells at this woman for being a lying liar. Olivia is proved wrong.

This sets the stage for a pattern where, halfway through any given case-of-the-week, whoever Olivia is defending will turn out to be evil, and whoever she just shot down will be revealed as the true victim. She is aided by a motley crew of employees and allies, some of whom are already terrible people when the show starts, others of whom compromise their morals over the course of the series. They've covered everything from war crimes to murder to perjury to torture.

An illuminating example: One of the employees (Abby) idolizes Olivia for rescuing her from an abusive husband -- now if only it stopped there. Later, Abby and a much-nicer love interest (David, also a legal ally of Olivia's) come perilously close to uncovering Olivia's Presidential-election-rigging. To get them off the trail...Olivia plants information that triggers Abby's abuse-trauma, manipulating her into a panicky and tearful breakup. Neither Abby nor David finds out Olivia orchestrated this! Both of them continue to idolize and adore her! The writers still seem to think we should too!

At the end of season 5, there were maybe 2 characters that were likeable human beings. Senator-turned-VP Susan Ross, who pleasantly surprised me by flat-out quitting her job rather than sell her soul, and governor-turned-Dem-candidate Francisco Vargas, whose soul is still up for grabs.

Liveblogged the first episode. Might end up doing the same for the whole season, depending on how commentable it is.

Onward!

 


 

Season 6 opens on the night of a presidential election, and it all comes down to...California. That's right, folks, in the Scandal universe, California is a swing state.

Also, Olivia is chastising her staff to vote if they haven't already. I mean, hey, just because they're reporting totals on the west coast, that doesn't mean the polls can't still be open! Our competent political-genius heroine in action, folks.

Frankie won. So now Olivia is berating her candidate (Mellie, also her boyfriend's ex) to call and concede, which seems like the smart and reasonable move. Knowing this show, that means we will eventually learn it totally the wrong move.

(I like Mellie and Olivia being friends. For all that they're awful, their fighting with each other was pretty evenly matched -- not one abusing the other, they both gave as good as they got. And it all stemmed from their rivalry over Fitz, who is painfully not worth it.)

Dammit, they shot Frankie. He might escape becoming awful by dying.

Obnoxious agent: "Ma'am, I'm sure you have some security clearance..." Abby: "No. I don't have some security clearance. I have all of it."

Hits all the beats and all the right emotions of a badass smackdown scene. Logically, undercut by the fact that Abby didn't show any security clearance. If you're going to waltz into a hyper-secure operation (the hospital) and start barking orders, have your badge in hand! (Also, her entire order was literally "don't let anyone in here," which I'm pretty sure they were already doing.)

...yep, they killed Frankie.

Olivia yells at her father (ex-leader of the government's Evil Secret Black Ops Division): was he behind the killing? Well, we're 22 minutes in and she's yelling at him, so I bet not.

Mellie just wants to go on vacation and leave this all behind. Now that would be the smart and reasonable move. (She never really wanted the job in the first place. She wants power in the abstract, but has no interest in doing anything in particular with it. Five minutes later she'll forget all her reasonable plans and decide she wants it again.)

Now Olivia's convinced it was Cyrus (part of the Fitz conspiracy, now VP candidate for Vargas) who had the candidate murdered so he'd be promoted to the top of the winning ticket. But we're only 27 minutes in, so she's probably wrong. After all, the Electoral College hasn't voted yet, so Cyrus would be taking a pretty steep gamble on them not abandoning the Vargas-Cyrus ticket even with half of it gone.

Olivia storms into the hospital. The same hyper-secure hospital that nobody was supposed to be let in. And finds Cyrus in mute, trembling shock. Who could've seen that coming?

Fitz: "I wanted you to be right. You're always right." Dude...have you never seen this show?

He ultimately supports the EC supporting Cyrus, which is the right choice as far as the will of the people is concerned, although both he and Mellie are impressively awful choices who should not be trusted with this country.

Vargas' widow is still in the hospital after a sleepless night, still covered in blood from standing next to the shooting, but for some reason her hair and makeup is still flawless. D- for realism, makeup department.

...So the last five minutes unveil a tip from a mystery person that it was Cyrus (no details on how the tipper came to this conclusion). Well, now that this twist has been un-twisted and re-twisted again, I'm sure the issue is settled, and will be quite shocked if the rest of the season isn't completely straightforward.

erinptah: (Default)

In episode 18, the marriage of the Director of the NSA is a significant social event. I just had to look it up to even find out that the IRL NSA head is a guy named Michael S. Rogers...but sure, if he got (re)married today that could be the Wedding of the Decade. At least it makes more sense than the politics.

Boring episode. No Susan, no Mellie, no AU Matt Santos, no not!Veronica...none of the characters who are nice and/or fun to watch. Just a lot of Jake Ballard as Tragic Hero With Manpain, with a side of Olivia's evil dad being evil.

For anyone who's forgotten why that isn't credible, a couple of episodes later he tells one of the Democratic candidates "I arranged that life-shattering car accident you were in a while back, and I'll do something even worse if I'm not your VP pick." And a couple episodes after that, he murders his father-in-law for the money.

For once, Scandal softballs it with respect to reality: when AU Trump gets secretly filmed saying he doesn't believe his racist lines and is just pandering to the base, it's shocking and embarrassing. Real Trump says that deliberately, in public, all the time, with no problems yet.

Susan yelling at David Rosen "shut up!" gives me life. (His latest problem: making a shady deal to get her an endorsement in Florida that didn't win her the state anyway.)

"I'm in love with you. I think you're amazing." "I know that! I know I'm amazing! I'm winning and cute and funny and smarter than you. I'm incredible!" SUSAN. Please never change.

"I've cried. Multiple times. Tears. From my eyes." Veronicaaaaa.

...okay, all of these last few episodes were underwhelming, because it's like I blinked and they were over. More of the usual configurations of characters yelling at each other. And Cyrus made himself the VP pick for AU Matt Santos, mirroring the way Leo became VP for Matt Santos Original Flavor. (Aren't the showrunners afraid they'll jinx him? Fingers crossed nobody has a heart attack.)

On the plus side: Susan and AU Matt Santos got through the whole season with their humanity and their souls intact! I was genuinely expecting at least one of them to fold by now. Maybe the writers are going soft in their old age.
erinptah: (Default)

It's episode 13, and we are careening full-tilt into the jockeying backstabbing stake-planting stage of the Scandal primary season. With a darkly hilarious backdrop of Abby handling the strict protocol for Fitz's string of presidential one-night stands.

I'm happy to see that AU Matt Santos is a Democrat (so his policy ideas aren't wildly unrealistic) and oblivious to Cyrus's murderdeath conspiring on his behalf (so he's still one of the show's few Decent People). Wonder if he or VP Susan "Ethics" Doyle will hang on to the light side longer.

Over at Olivia's firm, New Duckling still believes the "gladiator in a suit" line, and pushes them to investigate a client who looks suspiciously like a murderer. Normally Liv would leap on an opportunity to start yelling at the client for lying, but in this case the guy is actually guilty -- you can tell by the way Liv insists on not going after him.

...Ah, yes, I remember seeing some Tumblr photosets of Hollis Doyle becoming the show's Trump surrogate. Not that they get West-Wing-style prediction credit, because they were writing the season while the IRL primary had already started.

Fitz: "You do not yell at me in this office!" Susan: "Well, where do I yell at you?" Ohhh snap.

Liv: "I think [Mellie would] make a great president. Is that crazy?" Abby: "Yes. Yes, it is." Mmmyep.

...seriously, someone remind me, was Mellie ever shown having political acumen in previous seasons? When she first told Fitz she wanted to be President, I vividly remember thinking she had zero qualifications and clearly didn't even care about the job, just wanted it for the sake of wanting it. Now she's rattling off economic statistics and nuanced understanding of highway policy, which is nice candidate-wise, but seems to have come out of nowhere character-wise.

(Also, let's be real: this woman had a very visible, very public extended breakdown after her son died, which was just a few years ago in-universe. As a human being, I absolutely do not begrudge her that breakdown. As a candidate, it would make her unelectable.)

"She's a Muppet! Not even one of the main ones! They would only let her play tambourine in their little Muppet band!" Oh, not!Veronica, you are adorable.

Every Fitz-and-Olivia-yelling-at-each-other scene is just tiring at this point. Episode 16's brings the bonus awfulness that someone died as a result of their machinations against each other. Liv tried to drag the guy into the race to discredit Fitz's favorite candidate, and after Fitz found out, the guy conveniently died.

These people. I swear. Run, Susan, get out of here while you still can! I feel like there's a chance AU Matt Santos will be able to take it and push back, if/when he finds out that people have been murdering on his behalf, but sweet adorable Susan will either snap and have a breakdown, or snap and go grimdark.

"McCain used his history as a POW--" "McCain lost!" But this universe hasn't had a black president, which means he didn't lose to Obama. Where does this fit in to the world's political history? (I'm guessing they don't care, I'm just wondering.)

"You have five million dollars?" "I've been a Republican my whole life." Heh.

Aaaand episode 17, after several episodes of Olivia having regular flashbacks to that arc when she got kidnapped, ends with her having a trauma-induced flipout and beating a guy to death with a chair. Welp. That sure was a thing.
erinptah: (Default)

When you need a distraction from real-life people being horrible, there's always Scandal.

Jumping back in with episode 8, which focuses heavily on international drama with a fake Middle Eastern country that I admit I was not tracking very closely. Except to think "hm, it's halfway through the episode and Olivia is yelling at the foreign guy who wants asylum, that probably means he'll be revealed as an innocent hero by the end." (Called it. Bonus: three-quarters of the way in, his blood is literally on her hands.)

Vice President Decent Person does something mildly devious! She's so cute. I hope this is a growth arc where she'll learn to hold her own amidst other people's machinations. I mean, that's a figure of speech -- I don't actually hope for things in this show -- it's just something that would be cool.

Episode 9 brings us Mellie filibustering the budget, which is...actually kind of epic? It's in defense of Planned Parenthood's funding. In the political fairyland of Scandal, this is one of the things Republicans will passionately stand up for.

And when she starts to fall apart, it's compounded by Vice President Decent Person sashaying into the room and taking over the floor for a lengthy bathroom-break-providing question. Oh gosh, she really is coming into her own.

How do I get a show that's 100% VP Decency being awesome, with no ten-minute interludes of Fitz and Olivia screaming at each other over the latest angst in their terrible relationship?

Episode 10 has Olivia and company scrambling to track down yet another guy who turns out to be innocent. This one dies while they're looking! And the killer, the real villain-of-the-week, turns out to be a tag-team of Olivia's sometime-boyfriend and Olivia's evil dad! You would think, one of these seasons, she would stop trying to have a friendly relationship with her evil dad and clue in to the fact that he's never going to stop being evil.

(A couple episodes later Huck calls her out on it. Too bad it won't take.)

Tentatively here for Mellie and Olivia teaming up. Their relationship has been horrible, but their respective relationships with Fitz have been even more horrible, so they may as well bond over that.

100% here for VP Decency flat-out refusing a presidential run. And sad to see her get steered into it, because she's too good for this place. Although Portia de Rossi calling her "that muppet" was so delightfully Veronica.

I've pointed out evil-mirrorverse parallels with The West Wing before, and now we've got a biggie. Cyrus pulls a Josh, stepping away from the outgoing administration to work on molding a charismatic Hispanic candidate with a passion for education into the winner of the next election. Except that where Josh does it with campaign stops and policy planning and shaking lots of hands in New Hampshire, Cyrus does it by...hiring a gunman to attack a museum his candidate is visiting, and genuinely shoot people in the process, in order to stage a media-spotlight-grabbing hero moment. As you do.
erinptah: (daily show)

Spent this afternoon taking a long nap so I didn't have to think about the news, but at least I got to spend the morning thinking about fictional terrible news that doubles as entertaining.

Scandal continues ripping from 20-year-old headlines by getting the President impeached for having an affair. Meanwhile, there's a new duckling at Olivia's firm, who brings valuable knowledge like the definition of "dogwhistle politics." (Apparently Quinn had never heard the term. Seriously?)

(Poor new duckling, he has no idea what he's getting into. Is he going to turn out to have unrevealed horrible depths in his past, or is he just a decent person with no idea he's admiring a woman who fixed an election to get her boyfriend into the Presidency?)

"You want me to help you out of this mess? This mess you created?" If only you knew, Auxiliary Decent-Seeming Intellectual Black Guy. Seriously, trashing Olivia's character was her plan, to protect Fitz (somehow), and now she and her people are panicking over how to save it.

"I am not some scorned woman bitching about my ex." Good grief, Mellie, that is your whole schtick. I really wonder to what degree these characters believe their own bluster.

Episode 5, and already the new duckling is helping cover up the fact that one time Olivia got kidnapped and Fitz started an actual war to rescue her. (Is that even what happened? The details of the terrible illegal things these characters have done for each other are all kinda starting to blur together.)

Episode 6, and Vice President Ethical wants to quit! Good on you, madam. Get out while you still can.

...her going "look at me, I'm not perfect!" while gesturing to the fact that she's holding a wine cooler is the most adorable thing. You precious innocent, you deserve so much better than this universe.

Episode 7 detours into a case-of-the-week involving a serial rapist, and a delightful scene of Olivia Loudly Accusing A Rape Victim Of Being A Manipulative Liar.

Y'know, I marathoned some Law & Order: SVU a while back, and for all the disturbing content, there's something really soothing about the way the detectives dealt with their clients. Calm voices, reassuring deconstructions of rape-culture myths, support, belief. Olivia Pope is like the anti-Olivia Benson.
erinptah: (daily show)

So I'm having a nice quiet Saturday, catching up on sleep and looking up reference pictures of yurts (it's gonna be a Leif & Thorn thing in a few months), when Netflix tells me it has a new season available.

Welcome back to Scandal, where the morals are made up and the facts don't matter.

First episode opens with an in-universe TV show whose aesthetic is 100% a Colbert Report takeoff, except that the host is supposed to be an actual conservative. I say "supposed to be" because her big rant here is against...excessive military budgets and unnecessary army bases. Those sure are things Republicans object to, yep!

Dammit, I liked Princess Emily, and she's dead 10 minutes in. (After which they try to hit every possible Princess Di conspiracy theory. We're apparently doing two-decades-too-late headline-ripping.)

(The dorky new Vice President is still alive, and she's one of the few people who made it out of last season without becoming a terrible human being. We'll see how long that lasts.)

Shows like this do a lot of fudging with technology -- they can't make the protagonists competent enough to outpace what would actually happen (either because it's not possible, or because the writers haven't figured out how to do it), so they slow down the tech instead. It's really blatant here. A high-profile death in a public place that gets swarmed by a dozen photographers -- there is no way you keep that off the Internet. That was liveblogged! There would've been thousands of retweets before Olivia even got to the scene.

Liv snaps about having "a terribly misguided belief that someone in this office might be interested in doing the right thing." Truer words.

...Didn't we do the "story uncovering the Fitz/Olivia affair breaks" arc in some earlier season? As of episode 2, I could swear I remember some of these shouty scenes playing out already.

Although this time we get Vice President Only Ethical Person being flabbergasted at the very idea that Olivia would do such a thing, which is cute. (She's so innocent! She still thinks the other characters are good people!)

(I had vague hopes for the Chief of Staff, then this episode happened. Thing is, she's played by Portia de Rossi, so I'm gonna react as if she's an AU version of Veronica Palmer and like her anyway.)

And I think I've said this before too -- it's ridiculous how often the case-of-the-week turns out to be Olivia's team getting hired by a bad guy, and she ends up working against her clients. In a show like Leverage, that's a shocking twist because the writers only rarely deploy it. In Scandal, it's just another Tuesday.

Episode 3: "The plan was [Liv] standing by the one thing, following the only rule that matters to her, what is that? Do. Not. Lie!" Ahahahaha. This whole show is a clusterf@#k of lies. Ninety percent of these characters' problems are a result of failing to properly coordinate their lies with each other.

And sure enough, after yo-yoing back and forth all episode about which story is going to come out on top, we settle on...a slightly-updated pack of lies! Good job, show.
erinptah: (daily show)
In The West Wing, a woman comes to the White House trying to get a posthumous pardon for her grandfather. He was accused of being a Soviet spy; she's convinced he was innocent. One of our heroes looks into the matter, and learns, through classified information, that the grandfather really was a spy.

Our hero goes back to the woman and explains he just couldn't get access to make the case happen (but she can try again in a few months). The woman feels hopeful, has good news to take back to her ailing father, and both of them get to keep their rosy image of their (grand)father.

In Scandal, a woman comes to the White House trying to get a posthumous pardon for her son. He was accused of being a terrorist; she's convinced he was innocent. One of our heroes looks into the matter, and learns, through classified information, that the son was really a high-level US operative who was killed while on a deep-cover mission.

Our hero goes back to the woman and explains that her son was a terrorist. The woman kills herself.

(I'll watch both of these Americas on TV, but there's only one I'd want to live in.)
erinptah: (sailor moon)
I caved. The fourth season of Scandal is on Netflix, and I'm marathoning it. The show is a lot more watchable -- a lot less hair-tearingly frustrating -- once you go in expecting everyone to be an irrational, murderous, election-fixing, torture-happy, generally terrible person.

All the main characters, at least. I've gone and gotten attached to a couple new members of the beta cast -- the not!Obama community organizer in DC, the sweet newbie politician who insists on reading an entire 1200-page bill before voting on it. Are they going to end up terrible by season 5? No, don't tell me, leave me to my...not hope, exactly, but peaceful ignorance.

(Plus, season 4 brings us Portia de Rossi, who it turns out is a joy to watch no matter what kind of role she's playing. I've gone and added a bunch more of her TV filmography to my to-watch list.)

---

I've watched a bunch of apocalyptic shows lately, too. Jericho, where half a dozen US cities get nuked, and a small town tries to keep itself together through the aftermath. There's a lot of great stuff about people creatively repurposing what they have -- the first episode has panicky DIY tracheation, and later there's a sequence where they're all trying to work out the logistics of getting as much of the town as possible into bomb shelters before a storm with radioactive fallout blows through.

And Survivors, where the Plague kills 99% of the population. Watching the frantic medical response while the crisis was happening was probably the most interesting part of this one.

Both shows have this issue where they can't just focus on the complicated struggle of survival, and the human moments that come out of it. No, they have to add extra drama. This guy has a nuke in his basement. That ragtag group of everyperson refugees we're rooting for has been infiltrated by a psychopathic murderer/rapist. The big-pharma company that accidentally unleashed the Plague is looking for one of our heroes...and instead of just telling her "hey, we think you have antibodies we can use to make a vaccine, want to help us out?", they have to drug and kidnap her. Because realistic efforts to tackle overwhelming medical problems aren't interesting on their own, the doctors also have to be Evil.

Both got canceled on cliffhanger endings, too. Sigh.

---

Much more heartwarming, and canceled at a nicer stopping point: Sons of Tucson. The sons of an arrested white-collar criminal decide to hire a guy to pretend to be their father so they won't get shunted into foster care. The kids are well-written, not cloyingly sweet or miniature adults, and it helps that they're played by actual child actors of the age the characters are supposed to be. Their dad-for-hire is one of those schlubs who starts out as a slacker opportunist, but not evil or dangerous, just entertainingly self-serving.

And then they bond! Our protagonist grows and matures into a passable non-fake guardian figure! They tackle social situations and issues with the house together, end up caring about each other, and turn into a bizarre-yet-functional family of choice! Good times.

---

Also sweet and funny: Scrubs. Did not disappoint. Sharp comedy, lovable characters, sometimes hilariously OTT and other times openly emotional about the stress of working in a hospital -- it moves between those two really well, really smoothly and naturally. (I've heard IRL professionals say it's more realistic about the emotional stuff than a lot of serious medical dramas, and I believe it. People cope with traumatic work long-term by having a sense of humor about morbid things, not by being soap-opera solemn all the time.)

I mean, there's some weirdness. The occasional sexist and/or transphobic joke. Seriously contrived "accidental pregnancy with someone I don't like" arc in the later seasons. Instead of getting canceled early and on a cliffhanger, this one had an extra season tacked on after the planned finale, and it's exactly as weak as you'd expect.

And, look...early on there's this arc where J.D., Turk, and Carla (hero, hero's BFF, BFF's wife) are all rooming together in one apartment, right? They're considering having J.D. move out, so he decides to spend a couple of weeks away. And it turns out Turk and Carla miss the regular time they'd been spending with him, and are more awkward with each other in his absence. So the lesson everyone learns from this is..."J.D. needs to move out for good, and Turk and Carla need to go into couples therapy." Why?? You had a perfectly good partly-platonic triad dynamic going on, here! Why throw that away to contort yourselves into a cookie-cutter template for what Adult Romances and Adult Living Arrangements are "supposed to" look like?

There's only one J.D./Turk/Carla fic on the entire AO3. I cannot understand. There should be thousands of words about them being wonderful and adorable together.
erinptah: Cat in a backpack (happy)

Various things I've Netflixed or streamed over the past...oh, year or so.

___

Fringe. Got all the way through to the end! Continued to mostly like it. I love that we got case-of-the-week episodes in the alt!verse, humanizing the characters and giving us a sense of what their normal life is like. The whole mytharc was really well-thought-out in the early seasons.

Needed more Astrid-centric episodes, and the later seasons should've developed Olivia's powers rather than forgetting about them. The last season was kind of a mess (the ending, in particular, expected you to just not notice that one of the characters ended up in entirely the wrong universe). I'm glad it was short, so the storyline was contained. And when they did do callbacks to earlier continuity (the various fringe events, everything about the opening), it was great.

___

Continuum. Early episodes were so promising. A cop from the corporate-fascist-controlled future gets accidentally flung back to our present, where she meets the teenage version of the genius who developed her tech, and they team up to track down time-traveling terrorists. Our heroine starts out thinking her corporate fascist overlords are great, so while you sympathize with her whole "keep the terrorists from blowing anything up" mission, you're waiting to see her start to rethink her whole worldview.

Well-done time travel is my catnip, and there's a lot of it here. The twist at the end of the first season seems to foreshadow a whole lot more of it.

And then the show stops engaging with the worldview dilemmas, and then a couple of characters jump into an alternate timestream, ripping up everything they had been building up about the rules of time travel. They try to pull a whole "which is the Good Double and which is the Evil Double" dilemma...on two copies of a character who have identical experiences except for the past week.

Fringe managed to keep my investment through a pan-multiverse retcon. Continuum, not so much. It's been renewed for one more season, and maybe it'll get great reviews, but for now it's off my to-watch list.

___

Warehouse 13. Early episodes were not promising. This one was on the verge of losing me early on, but I asked FFA for advice (particularly "I hear the characters named Myka and HG Wells are super gay together, when does that start?"), and ended up skipping forward to watch all of s2 and s3.

Some of it was good. The Escher Room was fantastic. The team dynamics got more tolerable. Claudia was neat. A lot of it, though, fell oddly flat, and I can't put my finger on why Fringe grabbed me and this didn't.

I do have enough backstory now to read HG/Myka fic when it gets recced, so that's something.

___

Leverage. Funny, smart, and if you have any kind of competence kink, this will blow you out of the water. Seriously, this has spoiled me for all lesser shows with heists, cons, schemes, and/or secret plans, because the setups have so much forethought and detail. If there are plot holes, they're not on the "but, but, code does not work that way" level -- not obvious enough to throw me out of the story.

I'm into the canon ships, and the fandom's favorite OT3. The romance arcs work; they don't bog down the substance of the story.

And it's such a feel-good show. The villains are IRL no-goodniks, usually corporate operatives screwing people over to make money. Our heroes have their missteps and their uncertain moments, but they always win; the pleasure is in seeing how they win, not being afraid for their safety. And they're always fundamentally the good guys. You never have to worry about them approaching the Evil Line for the sake of drama. Unlike in, say....

___

Scandal. Another one that started off looking amazing. The premise is Leverage meets West Wing: a group of freelance do-gooder lawyers hanging out in Washington DC. Everyone talks a mile a minute. The lead is an incredible, hyper-competent black woman who holds the admiration and loyalty of everyone on her team. Bad guys hate her. Good guys whose philosophies clash with hers will still grudgingly admit that she's amazing.

And over the course of a few seasons, the show slowly destroys the likability of every single character. It's kind of impressive how thorough it is. (There are team members who literally torture each other!)

Not going to watch the current season, and not even going to start How To Get Away With Murder, because from what I can tell it has exactly the same problem.

___

Black Butler. I don't understand why nobody made me watch this show ten years ago. Or at any time during the span when I was squarely in the target audience, and actively flailing about Hellsing.

As with Leverage, every character is hyper-competent, in a way that is incredibly satisfying to watch. And they cut trim figures in nice suits while doing it. And there's a supernaturally-reinforced master/servant contract, heaped with loyalty and obedience. Ciel in the English dub even sounds like Integra.

I'm going to look up the manga in the local library system. I liked the series so much I would consider outright buying it -- but it's 20 volumes and counting, and I don't have $200 to drop on reading material these days. (I haven't even bought the Madoka manga, or the Kodansha Sailor Moon release.)

___

Also, some things I tried but ended up dropping after a few episodes: White Collar, The 100, The 4400, Eureka, Life Unexpected, Farscape, Bob's Burgers, Parks & Recreation. (If any of these is your fave, feel free to try to sell me on it again using any spoilers you want, and/or by saying "start at episode n, that's when it gets good.")

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