While one clear premise continues to elude me, I refer again to Egri who states that there must be something beyond a list of rules, a list of parts such as scene, atmosphere, dialogue and climax, in order to help the student understand the relationship between complication, tension, conflict and mood. He says that that the fundamental make-up of a human being must be answered before anything further can be discussed. “There must be something to generate tension, something to create complication, without any conscious attempt on the playwright’s part to do so. There must be a force which (sic) will unify all parts, a force out of which they will grow as naturally as limbs grow from the body. We think we know what that force is: human character, in all its infinite ramifications and dialectical contradictions.” (Egri, 1946, p. xvi)
The core of Scandal is that the President of the United States can’t get a divorce in order to marry the woman he loves. The President cannot, in fact, even let it be known that he is in a dead marriage. This is not the image that the American people buy into; it is not their dream of a happy nuclear family with 2.2 kids, mortgage and a dog.
If Fitz is allowed to divorce Mellie and marry Olivia, there would be no show. Therefore, fundamentally, Scandal follows the “will they get together” trope. It just does it in a more complex, interesting world than that of your neighborhood bar a la Cheers.
So, while we have the underlying tension of will they/won’t they, we also have the requisite family formation with which viewers resonate i.e. Olivia’s team is our family, while DC, and in particular the White House, is the place in which they do their work. And, remember according to Tony Bicat, it’s not enough that one gets on with their job, a successful show must have the protagonist at odds with their workplace -- Luther, Prime Suspect and House of Lies being excellent examples -- the results of which is a constant shift in alliances. Added to this, we have the ping pong where those who were once Olivia’s friend are no longer, and those who were not her friend, i.e. the DA, now is.
Recapping what we now know:
Cyrus is protecting the thing he wants most, a president eligible for re-election, without a Monica Lewinski-style scandal that will ruin his chances, and, more importantly Cyrus’ own position of power.
Why does the President declare war on Olivia? Could it be simply to get her attention? Or does he believe Mellie when she says to end it would be catastrophic? Or does Fitz relish the power of his position?
We now know why the team is so loyal to Olivia, and there were a couple of nuggets tucked in to that quick intercutting of exposition and action. The first is that the CIA is still interested in Huck, the second is that Quinn has a secret identity.
As for Olivia, she’s the gladiator in the white hat who will go to battle, even if it is (to borrow a Scottish term) cutting off her nose to spite her face.