With a powerful victory for humans and the Affordable Care Act at the end of last week’s episode, things seemed to be looking up for everyone going into tonight’s episode, titled "Will the Real Olivia Pope Please Stand Up." But, in following suit with this current season, a “win” only lasts so long before all the other storylines come crashing into each other and we are reminded again at what a mess this show has become. Remember the days when there were only a few subplots and everything ran a little smoother? Well, all that is gone, just as the network promised for this newest season, replacing previous showrunner Barack Obama with reality star and executive producer, Donald Trump.
Under Trump and his new writing staff, all sense of story structure has been lost, and we are left with scandal after scandal, raising the stakes to such an intense level that, it seems, nothing will ever be the same for any of the characters anymore. On top of that, Trump has inserted himself into every storyline, reminding everyone that sometimes, side-characters should remain as such, and elevating them to series regulars can reveal plot holes and character weaknesses we may never have bothered to care about if they had remained solely as a guest star.
Remember D2: The Mighty Ducks? They represented the USA and beat Iceland to won the World Title. Didn’t it seem like small potatoes to go back to high school for D3 and have the main conflict be JV versus Varsity? This season feels like we’re in D2 and there will be nowhere to go from here but down. This sums up the entire problem we’re seeing this season. Storylines and conflicts that would have been main focal points of entire past seasons are now week-to-week throw away stories, constantly needing to one-up the story from the previous week. We’re loosing a sense of what is important or not, who to care about, who’s a good guy or bad guy, because with everything seen as a constant state of all-or-nothing, we’ve forgotten what the show is even really about.
Let’s try to decipher tonight’s episode and see if we can make any predictions for next week:
The main story of the episode was the vote for Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch. Because of the blow to his administration last week with his loss of “repealing and replacing ObamaCare,” Trump put added pressure on his team to make sure that Gorsuch gets confirmed.
It was a good scene for Trump, as we’ve become used to his storming around and general overcompensation, to see him in a closed meeting, calling on his team to “make this happen.” Yes, the dialogue is still bad, with Trump’s monologue coming off as a scrapped Bond villain speech, but his point came across: He will not lose this battle.
I loved the shot of Paul Ryan chuckling to himself, with an over-the-shoulder shot revealing that those “notes” he was so avidly scribbling down were actually a game of hangman, with the secret word being solved as “P A S Y.” It’s quick cutaways like this that make me think this show still knows what it’s doing, and that there is a bigger villain happening here other than the too-obvious Trump. Is this where the Russia story line comes back into play?
For those who need a reminder, this whole Supreme Court Nomination storyline is a carry over from last season (before Trump took over) when Republicans stole the nomination from Democrats in the mid-season finale. The story was never resolved, but continued to be an open wound for many Democratic characters and really helped foreshadow the direction of this season, which proved that the Republicans would lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top.
Unable to confirm Gorsuch’s nomination the normal way, Trump’s team is working behind the scenes to turn weak Democrats over to their side in order to get the 60 votes they need, I think. This plot has gotten so convoluted with all the filibusters and threats of filibusters that I no longer even know what a filibuster is. Remember last season’s Episode 13, A Standing Rock and a Hard Place, where a subplot had the Democratic senators sitting in to prove something about gun control? That story seems ages ago and so utterly unimportant now. Until another public shooting storyline pops up, then it will be all flashbacks and “remember-whens?”
So, Trump’s puppet master, Steve Bannon, who’s really this show’s/generation’s Cigarette Smoking Man, made a few phone calls, and with some illegal digging into browser and email history, the first Democrat, Joe Manchin, was turned. This episode’s main story felt like a montage sequence from a heist movie, where the team is assembled through different backroom dealings and coded talks and hand-offs. A manila folder was dropped at her feet while she was walking her dogs in the park, and now, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is also turned for the Republicans.
The biggest holdout of the Democratic marks was Sen. Joe Donnelly, who was woken in the night with a gun in his mouth. His wife, Jill, was already subdued in the kitchen due to her nightly regiment of valerian root steeped in warm milk and two slices of cinnamon sugar toast. The message from Donnelly’s attacker was clear: vote to confirm Gorsuch or information would come out proving that Donnelly pulled some strings in aiding his daughter’s receiving of her doctorate, unbeknownst to her. Donnely, weeping and pissing himself, agreed to turn his back on his constituents and peers in order to preserve his family’s name and daughter’s integrity.
Scenes like this used to be done with more precision and cinematic language, like the first season of House of Cards. Now, this home invasion scene was much choppier and in your face, a la showrunner Ryan Murphy and his all-style-no-substance material. This season seems to have taken on the overall approach of FX network, which is to boast and repeatedly convince the audience how good and popular their shows are, rather than simply provide the audience with good content. Calling yourself “prestige” doesn’t automatically make your “prestige,” no matter how much color correction you use (looking at you Noah Hawley).
The episode ended the Gorsuch confirmation story on a cliffhanger, with Democrats getting enough votes to filibuster and forcing the Republicans, in a total Deus ex Machina move, to change the rules of the game and push forward what they’re calling “the nuclear option.” The episode ended on a dramatic phone call with Trump, whispering into the phone with an unknown person. “That’s it,” Trump said, “time to go nuclear.” The song playing over the end credits was Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness.”
Total eye roll from the audience. We’re left to wonder what the point of any of this is if the writer’s can have the Republican’s simply change the rules whenever they don’t get what they want. Why even continue watching the show if there’s never going to be a chance for the good guys to get ahead? The odds are stacked against our hero’s, whoever they are, and if the rest of the season is anything like tonight’s episode, it’s going to be a long and frustrating road. It’s official, this show has Jumped the Shark.
Other storylines we’re wondering about that played second fiddle to the Gorsuch confirmation:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was practically outed as a bad guy, yet he’s still walking around the White House with total immunity and no one seems to care. When is this going to change?
The David Nunes Uber car chase from last week wasn’t mentioned, and I think this may just fade away, the writer’s room hoping we forget about this story-arc. Nunes is too weak of a character to really care about or remember, and unless there are bigger plans for him later down the road, we need this to come to an end. Please don’t drag this character and story out any longer than it has to be. We don’t need another “Carter goes to Africa,” right, E.R.?
There was a good set-piece with the explosion of the St. Petersburg subway train, and this may open up more story lines down the road. Or it may be immediately forgotten, like the terrorist attack on Parliament from two episodes ago.
The ongoing storyline of the Trump campaign working with Russia has been put on the back burner until next week, where we hope we see some more movement and answers. This controversial arc has raised a lot of questions this season, and we’re excited to see it reach the sure-to-be startling conclusion. Or maybe we’re all just in Purgatory.
Whatever happened to that guy who was kidnapping all the girls in DC? Was it real or was it miscommunication? No one on the show seems to have all the answers, and no one is working together. This is a mystery that could be solved right away if everyone on the show put their dick-measuring-rulers away and worked together.
Remember Hillary? She was a series regular what feels like years ago, and is now only showing up for about three minutes per episode. Let's hope there will be no more scenes of her roaming around the woods, as that got played out pretty quickly. It also seems like she took her costume designer with her, because the show has been especially frumpy recently, although kudos to whoever is continuing to style the first Artificial Intelligence Actor, Vice President Mike Pence. He’s still not fully believable as a human being, but his costume and makeup designers are doing a good job at making him a real-life version of the Warhead’s puckered face logo. We like the running joke on the show that he’s been constipated for years, his asshole literally so tight that he can’t take a shit.
Much like Game of Thrones, the underlying plot that courses through the veins of every season is the impending doom of a weather related incident. In GoT, everyone agrees that “Winter is Coming,” but debate runs wide about when, and what malicious force comes within. With our show, there is still debate about whether “Winter” is even coming, although all signs point to YES. In GoT, those who are outspoken about the non-existence of the White Walkers usually pay a horrific price. When is that going to happen on our show? Something bad is happening to the planet and everyone needs to work together to stop it, otherwise it will kill us all. Where is our show’s Jon Snow and Mother of Dragons? And until we find them, are we all destined to keep watching this once-great TV show limp along until it’s finally canceled?
This week’s episode gets a 2 out of 5 rating. Here’s to next week, keep calm and pucker on, bitches!