Scandal Post Mortem: Shonda Rhimes Defends Killer Twist, Weighs In on Fitz's Shocking Decision

Scandal_0207_Olitz_DWWarning: The following contains major (and majorly scandalous) spoilers from the Season 2A finale of ABC’s Scandal. Do not read until you have watched, or we’ll sic Charlie on ya.

This week on ABC’s Scandal… well, pretty much everything that could happen, did. Pope & Associates (“Bobblehead” included) scrambled to deal with their latest David Rosen problem while Olivia confronted the person responsible for the shooting. Alas, in the end nothing could keep President Grant from learning the truth about his tainted win. But what Fitz did with that information… yikes.

In this in-depth TVLine Q&A, Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes discusses Episode 13’s big (and perhaps controversial) twists, reveals Verna’s original killer and previews how soon Olivia might get her groove back. Also, on Page 2: We count down the ABC hit’s most Scandal-ous twists to date.

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TVLINE | We always talk about “Scandal-pace” in terms of the rat-a-tat dialogue, but I also think of it in terms of how you pace the plot points and reveals. Also, you do what other show runners talk about but don’t always pull off, in that you answer a question in a way that only raises other questions. Yes, we open the hatch, but only to find a Scotsman down there. We see who was behind the rifle that shot Fitz, but is it really Huck? Do you consider those to be Scandal‘s other signatures?
That is part of what we talk about in the writers room when we talk about Scandal-pace, that part of it is the pace at which we lay out the story. With Episode 13, for instance, I was like, “This is five episodes you guys. This is five separate episodes.” We’re going to pack it all into 42 minutes and call it one episode, but in reality, this is five different episodes. Act 1 unto itself — Liv figuring out it was Verna [who had Fitz shot] — is an episode. But that’s not that interesting to us. When we got the 22-episode order [for Season 2], I was like, “We’re not going to slow the show down,” because that would change what the show is.

TVLINE | Back when Verna claimed to have seen Hollis with a burner phone, had you decided she was behind the shooting? Or even sooner?
We knew Verna was behind the shooting from the very beginning of the season. Scandal_0207_vernaWhen we were trying to figure out why Quinn Perkins was Quinn Perkins and what was going on with that, we knew that Verna was behind it. That was sort of how we started the season out, and it was more about how we were going to unfold that.

TVLINE | Did you wrestle with actually showing, without a doubt, Fitz killing Verna? Because you could have left it presumed.
You know, I didn’t. In our original pitch, we said that Huck was going to kill Verna for Liv, to keep the whole thing a secret for her. But the more we talked about it and then as the story started to unfold, I was like, “Fitz has to kill Verna.” Everyone was like, “Are you crazy?” But the more we talked about it, the more it just made complete sense.

TVLINE | Even though you were making someone who’s already an adulterer now a killer?
Is there anybody on the show who’s not a “bad” person? I feel like you watch Fitz do that and in the strangest way you feel bizarrely, incredibly sorry for him. Because to me, the very act of stealing the election somehow stole whatever it was that made Fitz innocent and good and the perfect guy to be president. They took that from him and broke him in a lot of ways. So for me, it felt right.

TVLINE | So was that act about protecting his legacy, or protecting “the presents under the Christmas tree, the Easter Bunny” and all that?
I think there was a bit of vengeance in there. There was a bit of justice. Verna did kill [White House Press Secretary] Britta Kagan, she did do some real damage, and this was his only chance to take out his rage and his anger — and his upset at them stealing the election as well. But yeah, it was also him making a choice to keep the secret.

TVLINE | Ausiello and I, and I imagine others out there now, are wondering why Mellie Scandal_0207_FitzMelbasically wound up getting a free pass, while Olivia got the coldest of shoulders.
If you always knew that a monster was a monster, then you don’t expect the monster to be anything but monstrous. You don’t. Mellie, as far as he’s concerned, doesn’t truly love him. Mellie is all about ambition and about power and she’s always used him as a tool to get what she wants, which is the White House. So, Mellie was just Mellie being Mellie. But the idea that Olivia perhaps used him as a tool to get to the White House, that Olivia might have been about ambition and power, that Olivia did not actually believe in him and think that he could [get elected] on his own, is a devastating truth. Because when Olivia voted to fix that election, she basically confirmed for him all the terrible things that he ever feared about himself, that his father ever said about him. It’s a much bigger betrayal.

TVLINE | That was my first rationale, that it’s one thing to be scorned by Mellie, but to be lied to by the love of your life….
Yeah, I mean it’s not shocking to know that Cyrus did that. It’s not shocking to know that Mellie did that. It is shocking to discover that Liv did that.

TVLINE | Speaking of Cyrus: Where in the world did you get the idea for the strip scene between him and James, and what was the reaction from Jeff Perry and Dan Bucatinsky when they read it?
[Chuckles] I kept thinking, under what circumstances would Cyrus admit to [rigging the election]? And I kept trying to come up with ways in which they could have this conversation and Cyrus would feel safe. When I got to the point where he tells him to take off his clothes, which was kind of funny because Fitz was taking off his clothes earlier, it felt actually really real and true and right. As for the actors, when we handed this script out at the table reading, it was, no joke, still hot from the printer. And between that scene and the one where James is being chased by the gunman, I thought Dan Bucatinsky was going to die. He was like, “I’m naked and now I’m being murdered.” But at that moment, both Jeff Perry and David Bucatinsky were excited.

TVLINE | Jeff looked like he got freshly waxed for it.
Jeff Perry yelled he was going to go full-on Tony Soprano for that one. He goes, “I’m going to go full Gandolfini; I’m just going to just live naked.” And it just worked. They really went for it.

PROCEED TO PAGE 2 FOR SCOOP ON THE TIME JUMP, OLIVIA GETTING HER GROOVE BACK AND MORE

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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260 Comments
  1. kkgator says:

    I’m starting to think that Fitz is playing Mellie by having her think he “needs” her. Feeds into her ambition, it keeps her close and she won’t be suspicious of his motives. She doesn’t know he knows of her part in the election rigging. None of them do.
    I like it!

  2. Roslyn Rice says:

    It’s a television show! Drama and entertainment. Love Fitz and Liv characters . Flaws and all. Shonda Rhimes and your writers keep up the great work! Can’t wait to see what develops after 10 months . I’m sure Fitz and Liv will have their hot moments ;~)

  3. gina says:

    Ms. Shonda, please don’t break up Fitz and Liv. I love the chemistry between them.

  4. arial2 says:

    I, too, found Mellie getting a pass confusing, but SR’s explanation made complete sense. I didn’t expect Fitz to kill Verna, but once she began explaining it all to him, I started thinking it would be a great twist: now they’ve all gone over to the dark side, leaving Olivia and Huck as the most naive members of the conspiracies, despite their actions. I loved how, instead of killing the assasin, Huck gave Hollis a choice: sell out to Rosen and the assasin can kill you, or walk away and so will the assasin. Brilliant! Alas, poor Rosen; hopefully, Olivia and company will give him something that will salvage his career. I love how SR has given us the choice of rooting for now-sleazy Fitz or his creepy Vice President. Uhmm, could we please learn more about the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore? Not feeling too good about Scandal’s current administration…

  5. PhyllisD says:

    I am wondering how much of Fitz’ reaction to the ‘bombs’ (the election rigging, Olivia’s participation, her attempted assasination od him, the reference to his father, her assessment of his character, etc) that Verna dropped was due to his injury.

    I am wondering how much of Mellie’s shocked, cautious reaction to this Changed Fitz is due to being afraid of this change and how much more ‘work’ she will have to do with him to keep her in the position that she loves, and is a step to her Presidency.

    I am wondering who put the cell phone in Hollis’ desk? Methinks Verna had a co-conspiritor.

    I am wondering if the American Ideal upset for Verna was that Inter-racial love (Oliz).
    I am wondering if the new Uniformed Guy is a Navy buddy of Fitz and what that could mean about Fitz’s closet confrontation’ with Liv. You know the olde, ‘I don’t want you but I don’t want you with any one else’.

    I am wondering if Fitz really loved Olivia the way she loves him. After all she has forgiven him a lot, gave up a lot for him, gave him the pin and so far we only know that he gave her good sex & great verbal pronouncements of love.And with regard to political shenanigans, I know that there is so much more that goes on that we don’t really know. And the stuff we do know is bad enough, so go to it Shonda! Keep me/us entertained and so committed to ‘unreality’ that we would spar with people we don’t even know, get angry, and call judgement on a fictional realm. You go, girl!!!

  6. Ray says:

    Fantastic show! I foresee Harrison still not being out of the picture and actually running against Fitz down the road where he possibly wins the election and if he gets Olivia back, she becomes First Lady.

  7. mehere says:

    Some of these comments, the critical ones, are weird. Something else is behind this level of scrutiny for an American TV drama political thriller based in Washington, D.C., titled Scandal. Something else must be fueling the unbelievable over analysis.The scrutiny is beyond weird given the typical-to-formulaic political drama storylines and plots associated with an American political thriller

  8. Gina says:

    In an effort to support black women in film and tv I watched Scandal when it first aired and had good expectations. However, from the first episode until now all I have seen Shonda Rhimes and everyone else involved in its script do is completely degrade the characters, especially Kerry Washington’s character.

    Kerry Washington, “Olivia Pope”, is a successful, popular, sometimes feared woman who is a tortured and sad human being. Her only “pleasure” is the occasional animalistic sex she “gets” to have with her lover, the President. Their affair is not loving or kind but made to look like 2 DOGS IN HEAT. And when they are done, she gets to walk away and still be the seemingly powerful woman she is to others, when in truth, all she is is a whore! Not good enough to be loved and respected…no, she rejects that and turns to a married man who can give her 2-minute sex every now and then. Black women depicted as whores on television has been a mantra for black tv and film for decades…when will it end?! And to think that a black woman created this series! PLEASE!!

    Is this what Cecily Tyson, Whoppi Goldberg(Color Purple), Maya Angelou, and SO many other RESPECTABLE black women in film, television and the arts struggled for? Kerry Washington should DEMAND that her character undergo a radical transformation and become someone that young and old black women can respect and admire.

    …This is how you will celebrate black tv!

  9. Rose says:

    what date was the season finale, I record because I work at night,when do the new season begin,I must have miss all that, help,and thanks anyone

  10. Christene Jones says:

    The show almost lost me as a viewer, but I was having scandal withdrawals so I had to go back to watching it. All episodes I missed I watched on Hulu and On Demand. I am hooked. Sorry. The show is awesome.

  11. Christene Jones says:

    Right now you have Fitz acting like a little spoiled kid. Olivia is not perfect, neither is he. He committed adultery. Give me a break. He and Olivia belong together.

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