Scandal finale recap: 'Tick, Tock'/'Transfer of Power'
After a whole season, we finally figure out who technically killed Frankie Vargas
Maya, Maya, Maya.
This whole finale is about mothers, in a sense. Maya trying to protect her daughter. Quinn — well, let’s not ruin that for you quite yet. And of course, there’s Luna. Luna trying to protect her children from the spotlight and the dangers of being presidential children. Luna, trying to use the death of her husband to push a nation forward. Luna, trying to, in a sense, be the mother of America. But let’s start with Maya. That’s the best place to start.
They thought she was gone, but then again, is trouble ever gone in this town? Rowan has sent Jake out into the field to take out Maya, but of course she isn’t there. She’s Maya Lewis. But they do discover that she has the plans for Mellie’s inauguration parade route, so it appears that Mellie is already being targeted. Mellie takes it like a champ, announcing that everyone in Olivia’s family has wanted her dead at one point or another. OH, MELLIE.
Olivia tells Mellie that maybe they should have her swearing-in behind closed doors since we’ve already nixed one PEOTUS this election. Quinn jumps on the case as the new head of OPA, and the team can’t help but notice that she’s working on making the office home. It’s wonderful seeing Quinn get her due. She’s been keeping this team together for more than a minute.
Busy with some sexy time, Maya is in a hotel room with a Secret Service agent, but Jake shows up and is able to nab Maya. It’s almost too easy. She tries to get a guard to help her, but the guard stays quiet, leading us to an amazing Maya line: “So much for Black Girl Magic.” This woman is too much. She says that this is still Rowan, and he’s putting Olivia in jeopardy by locking her up. Who knows what the truth is anymore.
Regardless, Maya in chains deserves her own spin-off. Locked in chains, she gives what could become an iconic speech (it’s a night for incredible Shonda speeches) about being a black woman and how it’s entirely thankless. Guys, it’s the kind of stuff Emmy nominations are made of.
Olivia leaves her mother’s side and goes to OPA to give Quinn intel on the case because she believes her mom has hired someone to kill Mellie, no matter what Maya says. In her cell, Maya is in peak crazy form, but with those speeches, it’s hard to tell who is crazy these days. She launches into a story about their time as a family. Maya pulls herself up on the table and starts screaming, “Don’t you remember?!” It’s a lot. Rowan joins her in her cell, and these acting powerhouses go head to head. These two accuse each other of putting Olivia in jeopardy, and it’s the worst mommy and daddy fight of all time because it’s not just a marriage at stake. It’s also… you know, America. But they find common ground, even after Rowan’s talk about his past love. They find that common ground over Olivia and that vacation they spent together so long ago.
That leads us back to OPA, where Quinn is bringing Abby in for some questioning. She got information on the bank accounts that might be used to pay off Mellie’s would-be assassin. Quinn isn’t there for Abby’s apologies… just her papers. But Abby confesses that she just wants to help, and Quinn invites her back in because this crew, y’all. Off a cliff together, full speed. Elsewhere, Olivia goes to visit Rowan, who is having some special bonding time with his dino skeleton. He says he just needs some time with her because he couldn’t let them take her, and it’s hard to tell if he means the skeleton or Maya. It’s a metaphor! A double entendre! All Maya is at this point is just a skeleton of the woman he used to love. It’s deep.
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Elsewhere, Mellie brings Fitz to the White House balcony to ask what he’d do. It seems selfish — the whole strife about having her inauguration behind closed doors, but Mellie has earned this. She can’t decide what to do because this is what she’s dreamed about her whole life. She asks Fitz what to do, and he says to keep it behind closed doors… not because he’s had his moment, but because he knows what it’s like to be shot. But he says the final decision is hers; it is her day.
At OPA, the best part of this complicated finale is everyone calling Quinn out for changing the decor of the office, but in that strange discussion, it leads them to the realization that everyone is the same as they’ve always been. Quinn is still Quinn, and Maya is still Maya. What does that mean? Well, it means that Maya isn’t bank-rolling the assassination. She is the assassin. Olivia heads to Maya’s cell and flips out, screaming that she is here to advocate for Maya and help her out. What is Maya’s response? “Girl, bye.” Maya realizes that Olivia is going to do her in, and Olivia gives her 30 seconds to reveal how she planned to murder Mellie. At the end of the 30 seconds, Olivia launches into action and chokes Maya out, saying she’s nothing like her father because she will kill her. It takes Jake pulling Olivia off her mother because Olivia is fire now. Olivia will beat you with a chair. Olivia takes NO prisoners.
Right off the potential killing of her mother, Olivia retreats to the White House for a quick chat with Mellie. She apologizes to Mellie for letting her down, but Mellie won’t be bothered with it. This is a moment for her, a moment for women, and even a moment for Olivia. Mellie won’t give up, and she even convinces Olivia not to either. Could you have even imagined this three seasons ago? Mellie and Olivia… just two strong women getting it all done. Olivia suggests that they release Maya and track her. End her when they need to end her. Fitz isn’t interested in that though, because it’s Mellie’s life on the line.
But Olivia sets Maya free and tells her that she’ll have a tracking chip in her, and if she crosses her again, Olivia will hunt her mother down and kill her. It’s a pretty yikes moment, but it also feels full circle. It’s what happens when you let crazy wear the White Hat. It’s just bonkers enough to work. We live in Olivia’s world where Quinn runs OPA, so we have to just go with it.
Speaking of going with it, Quinn tells Abby that she’s pregnant. Yep, our girl is pregnant, and she turns to her one-time confidant because in this crazy world, you just have to rely on who you have, even if they are partially responsible for treason. Quinn isn’t sure what to do because people like her, people like Charlie… those aren’t the best parents. I mean, just look at Rowan and Maya.
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Hey, look at that! What a transition… Rowan goes to visit Olivia, who reveals she’s let Maya loose. Rowan freaks out and tries to convince Fitz to do something about it. He wants B613 reinstated, and he wants Fitz to run it. Fitz has to keep Olivia in check because she’s apparently just as crazy as her father. And Olivia meets up with Mellie to let her know that she’s got her back. It’s all out of whack, kids. And that’s why we have a whole other hour of this finale.
Later in the night, Olivia gets naked in Fitz’s bed and says they won’t spend their last night of his presidency fighting, even if she did let her assassin mother go into the wilderness to kill Mellie. Never one to turn down inappropriate sex, Fitz leans into it and hops right into the sack. Meanwhile, the hope that Maya won’t be a total trash mom and attempt to kill Mellie is out the window. After Maya passes off cash to a random dude, the government spies in this little diner take him down and burst into the bathroom to discover Maya has dug out her tracking chip. I don’t know why anyone is shocked about this considering it happens every single time.
But even with Maya on the loose, we’ve reached Inauguration Day. Mellie and Luna, awaiting their swearing-in, decide their children will not be on the platform because haven’t enough people died over the past six years? Everyone takes their places, and of course, Maya makes her appearance. She takes down one of the guards and steals his guard. She pivots between Mellie and Olivia, but she tells Olivia that she’s not going to kill Mellie… she has another target. She tells Olivia to move, but as Olivia ducks, nothing happens. Mellie is sworn in, and up in the stands, Rowan stand over Maya’s body. She’s been shot, and the target has been neutralized.
And so Inauguration Day continues. Mellie is about to hop into her parade when Olivia shows up announcing that her mother was going to take out the person who said that Mellie should die, but instead, her father shot her. Mellie has no time for it though because she’s alive, and she has Inauguration fun to get to. That’s not a great strategy; the moment you get comfortable being alive, you can end up dead on this show.
Dealing with crises of her own, Quinn calls Abby in to take over OPA. Quinn wants to bail and go be boring and vanilla again. She wants to raise this kid and be on the PTA… not resolve Washington nonsense. Abby isn’t sure what to do, but Quinn wants her to make her decision quickly because it’s all becoming to be too much for her. Speaking of things becoming too much, Fitz finally lets Olivia know that he’s going to be Command, and Olivia couldn’t be more disgusted. She was going to ask Fitz to stay, but not like this — not running the program that ruined her and her father’s lives.
As the transfer of power begins, Fitz explains that he has to leave and finally say goodbye to Olivia. He “has a foundation to run” (sure, okay, Command), and she has to change the world. So this is it for Olitz. He boards the helicopter, as outgoing presidents are meant to do, and he departs. But Olivia steps outside and screams, “Mr. President!” She runs into his arms and gives him some incredible kisses right in plain sight of all the journalists with cameras at the ready to capture the whole thing. He whispers, “The cameras,” and she simply says, “I don’t care.” It’s the end of an era, guys. It’s saying goodbye to Scandal as we know it, because President Fitzgerald Grant tells Olivia, “The honor has been all mine,” as he enters that final helicopter that will take him away from the White House for the last time. Olivia watches as he departs, and part of me can’t help but feel that this could easily be the series finale if the Shondaland powers that be wanted it to serve as one.
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But it’s not the series finale, nor is it the season finale’s final moment. We still have another half hour with Olivia’s team trying to figure out who the bad guy is who wants Mellie dead. OPA taps into all the footage of Frankie’s inauguration to get it all figured out. After a few flashes, the alleged truth is terrifying. It seems to imply that Luna Vargas is the culprit behind all of this nonsense. It’s just crazy enough, and on brand enough for Scandal, to make sense. And the worst part about it all is that even when Luna admits to it, Olivia’s hands are tied. Anything they do to take Luna down will ultimately ruin Mellie’s presidency. That’s how Scandal gets real — women aren’t afforded the same mistakes men make. If Mellie has one misstep… her own or otherwise, her entire presidency will be engulfed by it. And it confirms that maybe, in a strange world, Maya wasn’t so bad.
Olivia goes to visit her mother in the hospital and is welcomed with the phrase, “The TV is broken. Healthcare in this country.” Maya is perfect, guys. Olivia reveals to her mom that she understands how Luna is ruining everything, and Maya asks why she cares about everyone else so much. But then Olivia says how hard she’s worked for it, and Maya sees that it’s about Olivia, so she tells her that between being half Rowan and half Maya, no one should be able to take her down.
Inside OPA, as the team prepares for the inaugural ball, Abby tells Quinn to hire her. She won’t take over for Quinn, but she will help her. And if she wants to have this baby, they’ll do it together because… well, over a cliff. So Quinn tells Charlie that they’re going to have a baby. Charlie is ecstatic, and for a moment, it appears that things might be coming together, even if Luna is the newest bonkers politician in D.C.
And then there’s Mellie, who has put on her best red, diamond-encrusted jacket/dress combo. She’s poured herself a drink and is waiting for her inaugural ball, but she needs a date, so she goes and picks up Cyrus because if anyone gets how she feels, it’s Cyrus. And then there’s Jake, who shows up to be Olivia’s date. They come together, this duo of vice-president killers, and tell Luna that she’s going to kill herself. She insists that she’s not going to do that and that she never wanted Frankie to die, but Olivia catches her in the lie. She calls Luna out for keeping her kids off the stage, and eventually Luna admits that she didn’t want to be caught in the role of First Lady. Luna wanted to further the country and be better than Frankie could ever be. She insists that she’s not a monster, but here we are. Apparently this whole crazy season is the fruit of one Luna Vargas, and one has to wonder, how much money does this crazy-ass woman have?
Luna has two options: kill herself and have a hero’s death or have Jake kill her and let the truth come out. So Luna takes the pills, and now we have a, what, third vice presidential death? Olivia goes to Mellie’s office and tricks her into fully funding B613 again. Olivia will run the operation herself, and Rowan and Fitz are out. She tells Rowan that she loves him, but if he crosses her again, she’ll kill him. And God knows she will because she’s now offed two vice presidents. She kisses his head and says, “I’ll see you Sunday.”
Olivia meets Cyrus at the Lincoln Memorial to explain the truth about Luna Vargas — and then she eclipses him, saying she knows that this is the finale he wanted (no pun intended). She tells him that she knows he wanted Luna Vargas to fall so that he could rise to VP. And then she finishes by telling Cyrus to stay in town so that she can nominate him. In one episode, Scandal has taken so many twists and turns that it’s somehow gone further from its origin while also seeming to tap into its roots more than ever before.
So that’s where we’re left. Scandal will return for one more season, but it almost seems like the White Hat is irreparably stained. Olivia has taken a dark turn she was practically destined to take, and in the times we live in… well, Washington looks darker than it’s ever looked. What are your thoughts on the finale, and how will Shonda wrap up… no, handle, this final season? We have at least a summer to figure it out.