Scandal “Heavy is the Head” Review (Season 5, Episode 1)

Heavy is the head that wears the crown is an often misquoted line from William Shakespeare’s Henry IV. In the play, the king is having trouble sleeping because he’s preoccupied with all of the unrest and rebellion going on in his kingdom. He’s lying awake filled with regret and guilt over the choice he made to steal the throne from Richard II and then have him murdered. It’s not too far from what happened with Olivia Pope in the Scandal season premiere. She may not have physically murdered anyone, but she definitely stole the throne.

If you read any of my reviews last season, you’ll remember how disappointed I was with the season as a whole. It lacked any real focus, there was very little character growth, and the episodes were (for the most part anyway) only moderately engaging. There was entirely too much focus on things outside of Scandal’s wheelhouse (yes, I’m looking at you B613) and not enough focus on the core of the story which is Olivia Pope. That’s really a problem that started about midway through season three, but it just got completely out of control during season four. By the time the season four finale rolled around, I wasn’t even sure the show was going to have a season five. The finale didn’t leave me on the edge of my seat over the summer. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to see what happens next. That was disappointing coming from a show that, in seasons past, kept me on the edge of my seat week to week and then had me climbing the walls during summer hiatus. I said all of that to say this: Scandal had a VERY deep hole to dig itself out of with this season premiere. I won’t say that they’re completely out of the hole, but they moved quite a bit of the dirt.

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about the case of the week, but it should sound familiar to those of us old enough to clearly remember Princess Diana’s tragic death in August of 1997. I remember the media storm surrounding it and the conspiracy theories flying left and right about whether it was truly an accident or murder. The final inquest attributed the crash to a combination of the driver being intoxicated and the paparazzi chasing down the vehicle, but to this day there are still those who believe that the queen (or someone acting on the queen’s behalf) had Princess Diana killed. It’s still a mystery. That wasn’t the case in Scandal’s version though. No, in Scandal’s version, the evil queen murdered the princess leaving the prince heartbroken. However, the prince’s fairy godmother (in the form of Olivia Pope) helped the prince find out the truth about what happened to his princess. Not really a happy ending, but about as happy an ending as Scandal ever provides.

The real story focused on Fitz and Olivia finally getting a chance to be together. The fourth season finale ended with Fitz kicking Mellie to the curb and Olivia going to be with him in the White House. I wasn’t particularly happy with that outcome for a number of reasons. First, it gave a finality to the story that really shouldn’t come until the series ends. Second, and primarily, it was a completely out of character thing for Olivia to do. Olivia is most certainly a flawed character, but one aspect of her personality that I’ve always appreciated is that she’s a pragmatist. She generally wants and tries to do the right thing when it comes to helping and/or saving other people, but she doesn’t do it wearing rose-colored glasses. It’s what makes her so good at her job. She looks at the situation as it is and tries to determine the best course of action to reach the desired outcome. It’s not romance. It’s reality. So when Olivia decided to go live in the castle with her Prince Charming (to stay with the fairy tale metaphor) it was uncomfortably out of character.

This premiere brought the fairy tale crashing down. The entire series has revolved around the passionate, complicated, impossible relationship between Olivia and Fitz. It’s about these two people who, if they had met under different circumstances, would have probably had the opportunity to be truly happy together. However, that’s not what happened, and their lives aren’t fairy tales. When the Princess of Made Up Foreign Country was killed, it meant two very different things to Olivia and Fitz. To Fitz, it was a reminder that life it short, and it spurred him to move forward with what he wants in life. And the one thing he wants in life is Olivia. To Olivia, on the other hand, it was a bucket of cold water right in the face. She realized that as soon as she and Fitz stepped out together, her life was over. She was no longer going to be ‘Hey! You’re Olivia Pope!’ She would become ‘Hey! That’s the President’s girlfriend!’ Or even worse, the mistress. But basically, she realized that she would cease to be viewed as an individual defined by her own accomplishments. She would forever be bound to Fitz and defined by her relationship with him. That isn’t a reality that Olivia is willing to accept.

Olivia’s reaction to Fitz’s announcement that he served divorce papers on Mellie kind of made me laugh. I don’t believe that was supposed to be funny, but in the interest of full disclosure, I laugh inappropriately all the time. That being said, I wasn’t surprised in the least by Olivia’s reaction. Throughout the course of their relationship, Olivia has wanted to have things on her own terms. She not only expects, she demands, that Fitz bend to her will. When he doesn’t, she shuts him out until he relents and does what she wants done. The power that she holds over him isn’t due solely to the fact that Fitz loves her. Though there is certainly that. Olivia’s power is primarily derived from the fact that she doesn’t have to stay. She isn’t forced into behaving a certain way with him because she’s not reliant on her relationship with him to provide her with anything. She has her own money. She has her own career. She has her own home. She doesn’t need to stay if she doesn’t want to. However, Fitz’s announcement puts all of that in jeopardy, and Olivia immediately recognized that. Up until this point, Olivia’s been able to keep her individuality and her power in their relationship because them being publicly together was never going to happen. By removing that barrier, it puts Olivia in a position where she might not necessarily be able to call all of the shots. That’s not a position in which Olivia ever voluntarily puts herself if she can help it. Her speech to Fitz about wanting to make sure that “they’ve fixed themselves before they subject themselves to public scrutiny” was completely ridiculous. Speaking from experience, your relationship is never 100% fixed. As soon as you work out one ruffle, another one makes itself known. Relationships require regular maintenance, and romantic relationships require daily maintenance. The moment you stop working on your relationship is the moment it begins to fall apart. Olivia just wanted to maintain the status quo because it was easier and because she was scared.

As I said, this episode was mostly about undoing what season four did with Olivia and Fitz. That’s not the only thing that happened, but it was the most interesting. I’m going to feel dirty for saying this, but I actually felt kind of bad for Mellie. She was so very desperate to believe that Ftiz was just angry with her and didn’t mean any of the things he said. I don’t think it had anything to do with her loving him necessarily, but she’s just starting her political career and she knows she needs him by her side. Also, I think she was sincerely hurt to realize that Fitz hates her. I’m not entirely sure how much of that was her being concerned about herself and her honestly caring what Fitz thinks about her though. I also felt a tiny bit bad for Huck. I still think he’s kidding himself if he believes that he can have a happily ever after with his wife and son though. As sad as it is, B613 damaged Huck in ways from which he’ll never truly recover, and that’s not compatible with living a normal, apple pie life. Still not a big fan of Elizabeth North despite being thoroughly amused by the way she told Mellie off. Elizabeth lacks any real charisma, and even when she was telling Mellie off, it was more Mellie’s reaction than Elizabeth’s personality. I just don’t particularly care about her at all. I would like to see whether Cyrus decides to try to get his job back though. I might like to see him take Elizabeth down if only so she’ll go away. Based upon this premiere, I’m cautiously optimistic that the powers that be at Scandal spent the summer trying to put the wheels back on the bus. There were a few good set-ups in this episode, but it remains to be seen whether Scandal will make good use of them. Fingers crossed! So what did y’all think of the Scandal season premiere?