Scandal “The Lawn Chair” Review (Season 4, Episode 14)

Scandal Season 4 Episode 3 Inside the Bubble (18)

When I was a kid, everything always seemed black or white. Right or wrong. There was no in between. There were no shades of gray. As I got older, I realized that life is very rarely black and white and very rarely is everything exactly as it seems. Before I get into the meat of this review, I need to make something very clear. I have had the privilege of working with police officers, and each one I worked with was nothing less than completely professional. They put themselves in danger every time they put on their uniform and reported for their shift, but they did it every time without complaint. I have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for what they, and all police officers, do. That being said, there’s always that one or two who make all the rest look bad, and that’s the situation that was presented in this week’s Scandal.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you’ll know that officer involved shootings of young, unarmed Black males has dominated the news. It’s a very hot-button issue, so it’s not surprising that Scandal would tackle it. But the way in which Scandal approached it was much more balanced than some of the other shows I’ve seen attempting to address this same issue. I’m not saying that Scandal didn’t come down on a particular side in the discussion. Of course they did. But the show also gave voice to the various points of view involved.

First, let’s look at Olivia. She showed up on the scene in full-on fixer mode which means she didn’t have a side. She wasn’t looking for right or wrong. She was looking for containment. The victim’s father showing up threw her off balance, and the rest of the neighborhood breaking out into an impromptu protest didn’t help the situation either. Olivia still wanted to contain the situation, but after Mr. Parker refused to put down his gun or leave his son until he found out the truth, she had to change tactics. She stopped trying to help the police and started looking for the truth. A part of me would like to believe that eventually Olivia would’ve started digging into the shooting to find out what happened, but I don’t know how confident I am that she would have done that without Mr. Parker’s intervention. Olivia has been all over the place lately, and that was even before the whole kidnapping ordeal. She has slowly been acting like less of a white hat and more like a grey hat, and that’s bothered me. This was an opportunity for her to choose to either do what was right or do what she was paid to do. She chose to do the right thing. She didn’t stop until she discovered the truth so that Mr. Parker could get some closure.

Mr. Parker was perhaps the most sympathetic out of all the players. No parent should have to outlive their child. Especially when that child is taken from you in such a sudden and violent manner. Mr. Parker did what I have no doubt every parent who has lost a child to violence wanted to do. He protected his son until the truth came out and justice could be served. I’m not saying I advocate getting a shotgun and refusing to move until the person who killed your child comes forth. But he was a grieving father who needed to understand why his son was dead. He also gave voice to the fears and resignation of many Black men in America. It’s a sad commentary on the state of things. I would be remiss if I didn’t stop and give kudos to Mr. Courtney B. Vance for a truly superb performance as Mr. Parker. It was powerful, nuanced, and completely gripping. The last scene when he broke down in Fitz’s office had me in tears. Truly outstanding work.

The police chief was put in a difficult position. On the one hand, he knew exactly how it looked when a White officer killed a Black boy. That’s why he called Olivia in the first place. I don’t think he knew about the cover-up and I don’t think he was trying to hide anything. He just knew that as soon as the news outlets got a hold of it, he wasn’t going to be able to conduct a proper investigation. He wasn’t wrong. On the other hand, Mr. Parker showing up with a gun complicated the situation further. So in addition to trying to figure out how to control the growing crowd, he was also trying to figure out how to remove the threat a man with a loaded shotgun posed to the public. He was actually kind of between a rock and hard place. If he didn’t act and someone got hurt, they were going to blame him for turning a blind eye. But if he did act, they were going to accuse him of excessive force for bringing in the riot gear and the tear gas. He was pretty much in a no win situation. He was just trying to keep the people standing there from becoming disorderly and also stop people from contaminating the crime scene. Tasks made much harder when Marcus arrived on the scene.

I understand Marcus’s frustration and outrage. An young boy was gunned down in his community for seemingly doing nothing more than walking while Black. Marcus’s anger makes sense as does his desire to make someone pay for it. However, there is a time and a place for all things, and riling people up while there is a grieving father with a shotgun and twitchy police officers all around is not the time or place. Unlike Olivia who was searching for the truth and for a way to diffuse the situation before anyone else got hurt, Marcus was on the scene with the sole purpose of making sure that emotions and tempers ran high. It’s not necessarily that he wasn’t interested in getting justice for the victim. I believe he did want the truth to come out. It’s that his methods for doing so included pushing the police harder and harder until they were forced to respond. Then when they responded the only way a police force can respond to an angry, aggressive mob, Marcus could scream louder about police brutality. Furthermore, for whatever reason, Marcus decided to turn the situation into a way of measuring his legitimacy as a member and voice of the Black community against Olivia’s legitimacy in that same community. If Marcus’s calling is to live in that neighborhood and help at-risk or otherwise under-served Black folks, then good for him. Do your thing. But just because Olivia dresses nice, lives in a nice part of town, and got a White Republican elected doesn’t make Marcus better or more validated in his Blackness than her. And since when did it become a competition anyway?

Then there was the officer who actually did the shooting. Let me be clear. The officer who shot Mr. Parker’s son was definitely a racist and a liar. He murdered Mr. Parker’s son and then committed more crimes to cover it up. He wasn’t a good guy. However, despite the officer’s flamingly racist rant, he did give voice to the fact that police officers are disrespected and verbally abused on a more consistent basis than practically anyone else on a daily basis. Do I think that gives police officers an excuse to shoot anyone? Of course not. But people tend to forget that police officers are people just like everyone else. Just like you don’t want people being hostile toward you all the time, they don’t want people being hostile toward them all the time either. Although I get the feeling that his particular officer was leaning more toward the idea that the Black folks in that neighborhood should’ve been kissing his boots because he was doing them a favor. His perception of reality was pretty skewed though.

The advertisements for this episode said it was the most powerful of the series, but I didn’t believe them. I figured they were exaggerating again, but this time, they were spot on. There were a few side storylines going on in the White House, but mostly this story took place out on the street. Even though Olivia was able to get through this situation, she’s still not ok. Jake is right that she needs to talk to someone or it’s just going to get worse. I adore Senator Susan Ross. Fitz and Mellie may have picked her to be VP because they think she’s un-electable, but she seems like a genuinely good person who really wants to help people. She also doesn’t seem to have a brain-to-mouth filter which I find pretty funny. Her reaction when Fitz told her he wanted to offer her the VP spot was priceless. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her. So what did y’all think of this week’s Scandal?