Writer/Creator Shonda Rhimes is stepping out of her successful “Doctor Zone” to give her spin on unconventional lawyers in SCANDAL. I’m willing to bet she has another hit on her hands.
The series follows the legendary Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington – RAY, MR. & MRS. SMITH, BOSTON LEGAL), Washington, DC’s preeminent “fixer,” and her team who work around the clock to solve complex, sometimes dire, situations before the story goes public.
We’re introduced to Olivia’s world via new recruit Quinn Rielly (Katie Lowes – SUPER 8, EASY MONEY) who’s suddenly hired by litigator Harrison Wright (Columbus Short – THE LOSERS, ARMORED, CADILLAC RECORDS, STOMP THE YARD) and is thrown into a case as soon as she walks through the door.
The pacing of the pilot is appropriately fast but not so quick that the audience gets lost. It’s quite clear that when the team takes a case, they do not stop until it is resolved for their client and they only pursue leads that are relevant. There’s a bigger picture to the case in the pilot but they don’t delve any deeper than they need to. I’ll be very interested in seeing if that pops back up in the future.
Washington is amazing as the resolute, commanding and perceptive Pope who tackles problems with a ferocity and tenacity rarely seen outside of SHARK WEEK. Her strength is undeniable so when there are brief moments of softness, they make a great impact and Washington plays those scenes perfectly.
Rounding out the team are Darby Stanchfield (NCIS, MAD MEN, JERICHO) as investigator Abby Whelan, Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond Hume on LOST, DEAD LIKE ME: LIFE AFTER DEATH) as commitment-phobic Stephen Finch, and Guillermo Diaz (NO ORDINARY FAMILY, WEEDS, COP OUT) as hacker Huck. Along with Short and Lowes, they do a great job at communicating who their characters are without overplaying it.
The other big players on the show are Olivia’s former boss President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn – GHOST, TARZAN, LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT), who still seeks her out, and his Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry – GREY’s ANATOMY, PRISON BREAK, NASH BRIDGES). They have some great scenes in the pilot and knock them out of the park so I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they’ll do in future episodes.
Generally my viewing habits don’t include these kinds of high-intensity soap opera genre hybrids but SCANDAL definitely piqued my interest. The strength of the cast from top to bottom (Joshua Malina – IN PLAIN SIGHT, THE WEST WING – also appears as David Rosen who’s job is frequently complicated by Olivia’s involvement in cases) is undeniable and the writing is strong. And really…Kerry Washington.
“Scandal” premieres on ABC Thursday, April 5th at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific.