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In its final season, it no longer feels like a ‘Scandal’

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“Scandal,” one of showrunner giant Shonda Rhimes’ most popular television shows, is entering its last batch of episodes and while the series will conclude before the summer, the journey has been rather rough recently.

Returning from its winter break, the seventh season continues to be fizzling out quietly, neither making major headlines nor killing the ratings game. With viewership figures under six million now, that is a pale comparison to its series-high record of 11.96 million for the season four premiere, “Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia” which aired back on Sept. 25, 2014.

The current season’s main winter break’s storyline revolves, however, around crisis management firm director Quinn Perkins’ (played by Katie Lowes) kidnapping, further exaggerated by how she is heavily pregnant.

The first episode since the winter break, named “Robin,” was bleak, as the other core characters believe their friend and her unborn baby have died, even having a farewell memorial. Ironically, the most poignant moment was when her close friend and colleague, Abby Whelan (played by Darby Stanchfield) sits dejected with Perkins’ ashes in an urn on her lap, hysterical as she realizes just how fragile life can be.

This goes back to how “Scandal” can be both emotionally powerful while also cringe-worthy, as viewers and the media speculate that Perkins is still somehow alive somewhere and this dreary episode was just filler and crafted to add unnecessary drama.

However, the next episode, “Good People,” revealed that Perkins is still alive, having been kidnapped by Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), the disturbed former so-called “Command” of B613, a black ops organization.

The show’s declining quality in writing and direction really were displayed during a scene, where an angry Rowan throws a temper tantrum and yells down at his toy dinosaur (which he knows has a secret camera that is spying on his house). This once-powerful and sinister man has been reduced to having childish fits who’s been checkmated by his daughter.

“Tell [my daughter] that I am the darker brother, I am at the table,” Rowan almost borders on insanity as he taunts the camera-equipped toy dinosaur. “I too am America, and she had better recognize and respect! Command ain’t nothing but a title. Father is who I am!”

Speaking of whom, main character Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) is now a bitter, isolated and dark figure, having replaced her father, Rowan, as Command.

It’s clear this final season will see her redemption.

This is key as viewers have seen her lose her metaphorical “white hat” while condoning murder, among other unethical things. She also endlessly falls in and out of love with former U.S. President Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant III (Tony Goldwyn) and NSA Director Jake Ballard (Scott Foley), and other random lovers-o’-the-night, which overall has gotten tiresome. It would be intriguing to see whether she would end up with either man by the series’ end.

One way the show could rejuvenate itself is focus more on Perkins’ crisis management firm, which yielded many of the series’ best episodes. The firm, formerly headed by Olivia Pope, would handle crises that concerned real-life issues like police brutality, sexual harassment allegations in the workplace, homophobia, racism and murder.

Such episodes that revolved around the firm’s crisis management also had memorable speeches and gave the firm’s employees time to shine.

An example was “The Lawn Chair” episode, which aired on Mar. 5, 2015 to 9.57 million viewers, where Pope and her associates had to deal with an African-American teenager being gunned down by a police officer. Having had serious sociopolitical commentary, this was a time where “Scandal” fans truly rooted for the characters to help do the right thing and get justice.

That sadly does not apply as much for season seven now.

Ratings had been tumbling, especially since the season five winter finale, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which scored just 8.13 million viewers and the following episode, “It’s Hard Out Here for a General” fell to 6.96 million suddenly.

Except for one episode since then, the series never saw any future episode reach at least seven million viewers ever again, to this day.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” being a Christmas episode, garnered controversy for its plot surrounding the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) secretly getting an abortion while “Silent Night,” a Christmas musical classic about Jesus Christ’s birth, played in the background. The heavy political and religious undertones greatly affected audiences, explaining the show’s ratings plunge since then.

With a few episodes left, there are perhaps two things fans can hope for at this point: where their beloved characters will end up in the series finale, and how there will be a special crossover episode with fellow TV show neighbor, “How to Get Away with Murder,” set to air on Mar. 1. Perhaps the fusion of leading female empowering figures Pope, and defense attorney and law professor Annalise Keating, played by the powerful Viola Davis, could liven things up.

Rhimes has been dominating Thursday nights on ABC for years now—“Grey’s Anatomy at 8 p.m., “Scandal” at 9 and “How to Get Away with Murder” at 10—but that will unfortunately change once “Scandal” concludes, while “Murder” is struggling with viewership too.

While one can hope, this is one crisis Pope and Perkins’ firm may not be able to fix.

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