Scandal has been the #Olitz show since the pilot, when Olivia Pope set out to make her married ex-lover, the leader of the free world, pay for having an indiscreet mistress killed. Even way back then, their forbidden attraction was oddly endearing. Shonda Rhimes has taken that storytelling magic trick and pushed it to its logical conclusion, turning the plot from the average two-hour Dateline NBC murder mystery — young girl turns up dead after affair with powerful man — into a romance for the ages. Fitzgerald Grant went from being Gary Condit turned POTUS, to a boy standing in front of the woman who helped steal an election for him, asking her to renounce her role as the leader of sinister covert-ops program.
No one can blame Scandal for spending so much time patching up its most important relationship in time for the series finale. It’s been clear since the pilot that part of the show’s endgame involved Olivia and Fitz leaving all this craziness behind to focus on loving each other. But man, it would have been great if all that had been settled prior to the beginning of the final season. What if, instead of putting Fitz in a relationship with his FBI director — who was presumably swept out in Olivia’s house cleaning — Olivia and Fitz had decided at the end of last season to give their relationship a go? He’s finally free of the White House and the stain of their infidelity has been washed, what with Olivia currently in a political marriage with her former romantic rival. What if Olivia had to figure out how to rule the world and keep her relationship intact?
It’s a question worth asking because “Lost Girls” spends a lot of its time building a case for why Olivia and Fitz need to reunite, as if anyone still watching this show needs convincing. Not only that, the episode casts Fitz as some kind of magic amulet that can break the evil spell that began controlling Olivia’s body when she funneled all that money into B613 and Jake’s little White House hidey-hole. Eli Pope continues his hard sell to Fitz, urging him to find a way back into Olivia’s life because only her love for him will be enough to lead her out of the dark side. When Marcus gets energized by the story of a rash of missing black girls whose stories got inadequate press coverage, Eli and Fitz think they have just the right positive cause that will remind Olivia why she prefers the white hat to the black one.
But here’s the first issue with that: Olivia Pope doesn’t need to be rescued. If I had a nickel for every time she’s said she doesn’t need to be rescued since Scandal began, I’d have a good $2.15. Hell, she might have mentioned not needing to be rescued when she was literally being held for a nine-figure ransom. If an Olitz reconciliation is ahead, shouldn’t it come because Olivia decides she wants Fitz in her life? Surely that comports better to Olivia’s character rather than this notion that Fitz’s sanctimony and irresistible dad bod are the carrot that will lead her away from the corrupting power of B613.
Here’s the other thing: The promise of this latest restructuring — with Olivia off to the White House to become Command and Quinn taking over the firm with Abby and Charlie as full-time gladiators — was a return to the episodic stories Scandal used to be so good at telling. Just when the show introduces an emotional case for QPA to solve, it mucks the whole thing up by making the case not actually about the missing girls, but about luring Olivia back into the sun. The procedural scenes that would normally pop up as the firm gets to the bottom of the case are nowhere to be found. Suddenly, with no indication that anyone was even working on it, QPA’s poster child for missing black girls reappears alive and is reunited with her mother. It’s weird to tell a story about how missing black girls are given short shrift, but then spend so little time focused on how the girls will be saved.
To be fair, “Lost Girls” is juggling a lot of balls at once. In addition to the fight for Olivia’s immortal soul, the episode also finds Olivia and Mellie disagreeing over how to handle an armed insurgency in Bashran that has left President Rashad without a country to govern. Mellie wants to send in troops to quell the insurgency, but Olivia fears her decision is informed by her growing romantic attraction to Rashad himself. (You wouldn’t think Olivia would ask the first female president if she’s making a foreign policy call based on a crush, but here we are.) Cyrus Beene has a growing attraction too, to Fenton Glackland, the tech weirdo who gifted him a $100 million painting. How odd that the two newest potential romances in the show are more interesting than the one the audience is supposed to care about most? At least now that Liv and Fitz have broken the ice with some good, old-fashioned makeup sex, Scandal can move past its will-they, won’t-they dynamic.