A series finale is never the best representation of what a television show was actually like, and “Over a Cliff,” the frantic and mostly satisfying Scandal finale, is no different.
Scandal established early on that none of its characters were purely good or evil, and that the people with the most respectable public personas are often guilty of the dirtiest deeds. Oli Pope will go down as one of the most challenging characters in television history, and Kerry Washington has often talked about how Oli’s moral ambiguity is what made the role such an exciting challenge. Despite all of her heinous choices – she just ordered the execution of a teenager like, five minutes ago — Oli isn’t even the most morally compromised character in the show. Not by a long shot.
But in paring down its story and themes as it approached its conclusion, Shonda Rhimes and her team apparently decided that the best way to bring Scandal to a proper conclusion was to strip out its grey areas and essentially divide the characters into white hats and black hats. (Complicating matters further, the show only decided who the actual bad guys were roughly four episodes ago.) In fact, as Quinn is celebrating the neat and tidy resolution that allows Oli and the gang to detonate B613 while serving no jail time for their own crimes, she actually says aloud, “The good guys won.” It’s a weird sentiment, considering her new husband Charlie is one of Scandal’s early antagonists, and it’s indicative of how the tone of “Over a Cliff” feels peculiar in the way series finales tend to. Maybe it’s asking too much of a broadcast drama, but a Scandal finale that truly held Oli and her cronies responsible for their actions would have been super interesting to watch.
That said, by the standards of typical series finales, “Over a Cliff” is pretty darn successful, moving briskly and offering a satisfying mix of resolutions, comeuppances, surprises, and pure fan service. Rhimes, who wrote the script, makes the wise decision to mostly sideline the Oli and Fitz romance until the final moments, save for one last love scene following an impassioned speech. Actually, most of the romantic subplots are pushed into the background, which comes as a surprise given how much time Scandal spends on its twisted love stories. But the final season has had enough romantic resolutions sprinkled through it that the finale doesn’t have to do much heavy lifting. Everyone knows Olitz is end game, so why belabor the point? There’s plenty of happily-ever-after to go around, with Quinn and Charlie’s jailhouse wedding and Marcus’s apparent new role of Mellie’s First Bae.