At its very best, Scandal was like a staged drama where everyone played to the rafters. Over seven seasons, the show gave us over-the-top, power-hungry monsters (okay, not all of them were monsters) who knew exactly what to say and when to say it, who felt boldly and loudly, who strode across life and took what they believed was theirs. But more than anything else, it gave us terrific monologues. When a Scandal monologue really worked, it made you want to stand up and cheer. In honor of the Scandal series finale, which airs on Thursday night, let’s take a look back at the show’s 23 most inspiring, memorable, and shocking monologues.
The OPA Monologues
“I’m a gladiator in a suit, ’cause that’s what you are when you work for Olivia.”
—Harrison (Season 1, Episode 1)
Our very first monologue in our very first dialogue scene of the pilot. Shonda Rhimes immediately let you know that these characters would be articulate, quick, witty, and prone to soliloquy. This scene instantly establishes the mystique of Olivia Pope: She doesn’t do job interviews, but she has your résumé; she pays shit, but you’ll learn more than you thought possible. We, much like Quinn, are instantly enamored and we’re ready to see what a “gladiator in a suit” really means. That’s one successful opening monologue.
“I would gladly follow you over a cliff.”
—Abby (Season 1, Episode 4)
The line that’s so iconic, it’s the title of the series finale! Everyone at OPA is all-in because Olivia has saved each of them in small and big ways, and here, we see the beginning of Scandal’s monologue strategy: Two characters yell at each other until one decides to yell way louder, announcing that she is about drop a major speech on us all.
“You are all I have. You are everything. Because I didn’t save you in that Metro station. You saved me.”
—Olivia (Season 2, Episode 19)
Given how far off the deep end Huck has gone, it’s a little hard to remember how affecting this episode once was. But learning about Huck’s family and the deeper meaning of “Seven Fifty-Two” packed a huge wallop at the time. Unlike many of the other speeches on this list, this Olivia monologue works because of how quiet and gentle it is. It’s a glimpse at how she was once broken too, an intimate moment in a truly brutal episode about secret ops.
“Family? What family? I see three strangers standing on the side of the road, fingers crossed, hoping their co-worker didn’t murder someone.”
—Quinn (Season 5, Episode 14)
Oh, what a left turn in the journey of OPA mystique! This is a real chef’s kiss of Scandal being Scandal, both good and bad, with Olivia and Quinn monologuing at each other while Marcus is forced to watch. To make it even better, the scene lands the perfect punch line when Huck arrives with a body at the end. You basically fill up all the tiles on your Scandal bingo card here — and it’s thrilling to watch.
The Anti-Fitz Monologues
“One day about, oh, three or four years from now, you’ll step into your bathroom, take out that revolver your father gave you when you were elected governor, you’ll put it in your mouth, and you’ll blow the back of your skull off.”
—Cyrus (Season 1, Episode 4)
Another great Scandal monologue trope: playing a hypothetical situation out to its completely twisted conclusion. The Amanda Tanner scandal of the season one proved that Fitz just, well, he couldn’t handle anything by himself. Obviously, that was frustrating for everyone around him, so it’s immediately satisfying to watch Cyrus tell him off in a big speech. He completely tears Fitz apart without even getting in his face. Plus, Jeff Perry delivers this whole monologue lounging on a sofa, which instantly makes it iconic.
“I am celebrating because Olivia Pope still walks this earth! She’s still alive. And as long as she’s still alive, she’s your flaw. Your Achilles heel. Which makes her my weapon.”
—Mellie (Season 3, Episode 3)
A big drunk monologue like this could really go off the rails fast. Scandal gives its actors so much rich imagery and cutting wordplay that you’d expect a speech like this one to go too big (after all, sometimes they did), but what’s remarkable is how controlled Bellamy Young is throughout, even though Mellie is drunk. She breaks out the accent a little, she brings out a biblical reference, she makes big hand gestures, but it’s still ultimately contained. It makes sense that Fitz just sits there with her, listening, and Mellie is the one who leaves.
“You are a boy. I’m a man.”
—Rowan (Season 3, Episode 10)
No one delivers a monologue better than Papa Pope. The Scandal writers give Joe Morton the most dramatic lines and he always delivers them with panache, as if every word that leaves his lips is the most important thing he’s ever said. Bonus points for flawlessly working in the song lyrics in a way they surely teaching in acting school now. Eli reads Fitz right and left with such precision and style that it’s a wonder Fitz didn’t just explode in that room.
The Love (and Breakup) Monologues
“I can’t breathe without you. I can’t sleep without you. I wait for you. I watch for you. I exist for you.”
—Fitz (Season 2, Episode 8)
Here, Fitz addresses Olivia’s “Sally Hemings/Thomas Jefferson” comment with a passionate speech about how they are in it together, that they both possess each other. It’s the kind of big, sweeping statement that works best for Olitz because everything they do always feels so life or death. It also continues a long, important, dialogue between the two characters about how power and power dynamics shape their love for each other. Also, we get a classic Olivia lip quiver.
“I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love. Don’t you want that too?”
—Olivia (Season 2, Episode 13)
Wait, did this suddenly become Sex and the City? Here’s another great example of Olitz treating their love affair like an epic, earth-shattering event for the ages. It’s doubly perfect that Olivia delivers this rousing speech to the guy she’s dumping. Pull no punches, you know.
“This past year I have learned only one thing: that I cannot exist without you. That I cannot breathe without you. That the man I am without you is I’m nothing.”
—Fitz (Season 2, Episode 19)
Nobody can resist the emotional power of the love theme! Thank you, the Album Leaf. What’s so remarkable about this scene is that you barely see Fitz’s face in focus at all, even though it’s his monologue. It’s just Olivia and then the profile of both of them, further illustrating his point that he doesn’t really exist without her.
“Guess what? You just got dumped by the vice-president of the United States of America and she has work to do.”
—Susan Ross (Season 5, Episode 20)
David Rosen treated Susan like garbage and it sucked. But here’s the thing about Scandal: A woman like Susan is so frickin’ powerful that she can give him the kiss-off monologue of her dreams! Who hasn’t wanted to tell the man who broke her heart how much more powerful and important she is than him?
The Power Monologues
“I would have been a great president. But guess what? I’m fairly short. And not so pretty. And I really like having sex with men. So instead of being president of this land that I love, I get to be the guy behind the president of the United States.”
—Cyrus (Season 2, Episode 13)
It’s a real testament to Jeff Perry’s acting ability that Cyrus could be revealed as the big villain at the end of season one and still tug on our heart strings like this. Cyrus is literally and figuratively stripped down in front of his husband James, revealing that he broke the law because Fitz was all he had. This monologue would be extra inspiring since Cyrus would later defy the odds to become vice-president – except for, you know, all the bad stuff he did along the way.
“Today, everyone is afraid. Everyone should be afraid. The president should be very afraid. And if I were you, Olivia, I would be terrified. I would pick up whatever chips you have left and run as far away as possible from that burning building known as the White House. Run, Olivia. Run.”
—Rowan (Season 3, Episode 11)
This one really reveals the depths and skill of Joe Morton when it comes to delivering a monologue. Read it, then watch it and focus on which words he hits staccato, which he chooses to linger on, and when he drops his voice for maximum dramatic effect. This is a good, old-fashioned “Rowan intimidates everyone by telling it like it is” speech.
“The Cyrus Beene I know doesn’t hide in his half-empty closet and wet his pants like a little bitch baby.”
—Olivia (Season 4, Episode 9)
Even if it rubs you the wrong way, there’s no doubting that the “bitch baby” speech is a huge part of the Scandal mythology. The whole “yell at someone when they’re down to get them back and fighting” is also a classic Scandal trope that has to be celebrated. Sometimes, you just have to yell really loudly to get your point across.
“The men outside these walls? They want to take it away from us. Because they are terrified. Because they are outraged. Because they have come to the realization that all those centuries of misogyny and privilege and status quo are finally over. That is why you never listen to a man over me!”
—Olivia (Season 7, Episode 1)
What more could you want from Scandal than Olivia announcing that she’s in charge now? Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine it would happen with this killer monologue set to “It Takes Two.” Every major issue that has driven Olivia for seven seasons is gone — all of the sexism and power dynamics that held her back — and she’s left with pure, total power. Except, obviously, it comes at a huge cost. But this monologue is still set to “It Takes Two” so…
The Creepy Monologues
“Time for the slaughter, piggy piggy. Time for the slaughter, you filthy cloven beast! I see the signs of the devil branded into your flesh.”
—Sally Langston (Season 3, Episode 13)
Lovers of liberty, does this qualify as a monologue? Or is it more an experience? Either way, it’s a Sally classic.
“Oh, you think you have a father? I am so sorry, but you don’t have a father. You have Command. You were raised by Command. Command doesn’t have a family. Command has soldiers.”
—Tom Larsen (Season 4, Episode 7)
Yes, Scandal really did give a monologue to that one Secret Service agent. Honestly, it’s one of the treats of a long-running prime-time soap: Even a background character can suddenly become a psychotic killer! This monologue is so cold and sterile, so emotionless, it fits so well with what we’d seen from Tom’s role as a Secret Service agent. And it’s so creepy! Tom spent the first seasons watching and listening, so it is incredible to hear exactly what a fly on the wall makes of all the Olitz drama.
The Racism and Sexism Monologues
“You’ve called me a criminal, a whore, an idiot, and a liar, so this is pretty much the last time we’ll be speaking. So, one, who I am or am not screwing, what I am or am not doing, is no longer any of your damn business.”
—Olivia (Season 2, Episode 11)
The best way to show you have something handled? List all the ways in which you are control. Nobody knows that better than Olivia Pope.
“Brandon Parker is dead because he didn’t have respect, because those people out there who are chanting and crying over his body, they didn’t teach him the right values. They didn’t teach him respect. He didn’t respect me.”
—Officer Newton (Season 4, Episode 14)
It’s a herculean task to put yourself in the mind of a monster, in the mind of a person who has no empathy, and write something from their perspective. Scandal nailed that with “The Lawn Chair.” It’s one of the show’s most brilliant, topical, and painful episodes to watch, and this monologue is so devastating and cruel. It leaves you feeling sick, exactly as it should.
“I stand at the most powerful podium in the world, but a story about me ain’t a story unless they can report on the fact that I am the girlfriend of DC fixer Leo Bergen.”
–Abby (Season 4, Episode 16)
Abby’s our girl, so who the eff even cares about Leo? But Scandal knows how the world works: Of course people would be interested in Abby’s love life and not her career. Yet another case of some classic Shonda Rhimes commentary, made even more striking by the fact that Leo is just casually working out while Abby is in a stunning robe. She’s always on!
“Black lives do matter because young black people are under attack. Immigrants too. The fact that Doyle insists on saying ‘all lives matter’ when talking about this movement really pisses me off. It’s like walking up into someone else’s funeral and screaming, ‘Why are you not crying for my daddy? He’s dead too.’ Well, yes he is. And that is sad. But that is not the topic of the conversation.”
—Edison Davis (Season 5, Episode 20)
In some of the most powerful Scandal monologues, a character basically jumps out of the screen and says everything that we’re all feeling. “Trump Card” marked the end of Hollis Doyle’s presidential run, and it was clearly intended as a message to his real-life Republican counterpart. Though our election didn’t go the same way, Edison’s speech was a rallying cry to move forward, not backward.
“Black women out here trying to save everybody and what do we get? Swagger-jacked by white girls wearing cornrows and bamboo earrings. Ain’t that a bitch? But we still try. Try to help all y’all, even when we get nothing. Is that admirable or ridiculous? I don’t know.”
—Maya (Season 6, Episode 15)
The best Scandal monologues will make you wanna snap, so it’s fitting that Maya is nearly snapping (in handcuffs!) at the end of this masterpiece. It’s yet another big speech that feels like the show is speaking directly through a character, and it’s delivered stunningly by Khandi Alexander.
The Absolute Best Monologue
“Twice as good as them to get half what they have!”
—Rowan (Season 3, Episode 1)
What is there to say about this perfect monologue? It distills the thesis of Scandal into a single line. Everything before it feels like buildup. Everything afterward feels like a response. It’s so specific to Olivia’s character and yet so universal all at once. It’s perfect television.