The time is coming, Gladiators – there are now just eleven episodes of Scandal left to air. Season six wrapped up on an ominous note with Olivia as "the most powerful person in the world," having taken command of B613 while remaining Chief of Staff to newly-inaugurated president Mellie Grant. And in what we've seen of season seven, it's clear that the power has gone to her head in a serious, scary way.
It's been a long time since most of the Scandal characters wore the famous white hat, but by the winter finale Olivia had got so comfortable in the darkness that even her diabolical father, Rowan (Joe Morton), is concerned about how far gone she is. And that's before the finale's cliffhanger, which hints that Olivia may have played a role in the death of a beloved character.
So, is Quinn really dead? Can Olivia be redeemed? And what's going to happen when she encounters Viola Davis's Annalise Keating in the upcoming How To Get Away With Murder crossover? To find out the answers (kind of) to these questions and more, Cosmopolitan.com took a trip to Scandal's home base in Los Angeles this week, toured the Grant White House, and spoke to the entire cast about what to expect from the final run. On the day of my visit, the season's thirteenth episode was being filmed, with another two months to go until Scandal wraps for good in mid-March. Here are 12 things I learned on set.
1. Quinn really might be dead.
For all its rug-pulls and twists and sudden deaths over the years, Scandal has never been one of those "nobody is safe" shows. The core cast (with the exception of Columbus Short's Harrison) has remained intact throughout the seven seasons, but that may be about to change in the final episodes. The midseason finale ended with Quinn (Katie Lowes) seemingly being shot off screen – and while Lowes was present on set, she didn't have any words of comfort for Quinn fans.
"I can't say anything much about why I'm here, but you know this show deals a lot with flashbacks, and with time not necessarily moving in chronological order," she hinted. "You will find out, as soon as we come back, what Quinn's fate is. All I can say is, some of the stuff you're gonna see is the hardest stuff I've ever done."
So what does Quinn's potential death mean for the OPA gang? "Huck has been trying in his own way to snap her out of that dark spot that she's in," Guillermo Díaz said. Huck's loyalty to Olivia has generally been one of Scandal's few constants, but "I think that would be a dealbreaker for Huck. I think there would be no coming back from that, if he found out that Olivia had a part in having Quinn murdered."
2. The show could end in a bloodbath.
If Joshua Malina gets his way. Asked whether the final episodes are heading towards redemption for Olivia, Malina quipped, "I think she's irredeemable. That's my take as a viewer, not as David Rosen. Good luck to you if you think, in these remaining ten episodes, you think everything she's done can be redeemed."
In lieu of redemption, he'd like to see the show end in "some sort of bloodbath." Also potentially out for blood is Cyrus (Jeff Perry), who in Mellie's administration has found himself doing "the less glamorous side of Julia Louis-Dreyfus's job," Perry says. "He's a veep, and he's marginalized, and it makes him really cranky. When he's cranky, he starts to cook up bad stuff."
3. Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating's meeting will be everything you dreamed.
"Working with Viola is a dream," Washington said of Scandal's upcoming crossover with How To Get Away With Murder. "In Shondaland there's really a sense of women's power being at the center of our storytelling. The fact that these two strong leads are going to cross into each other's lives is exciting, and historic."
While everyone on set was understandably tight-lipped about details, Perry did tease that Olivia and Annalise's interaction was both "battling" and "harmonious," so take from that what you will. There's no confirmed date for the crossover yet, but Malina is hoping for April, "for a Passover Crossover."
4. There's a shocking moment coming up for Olivia's wardrobe.
Nope, I have no idea what this means either but I am intrigued. "There's something that happens in the crossover that is unfathomable, in the world of Olivia Pope's wardrobe," Washington said. "I read it and was like 'WHAT?!?'"
5. Dabby shippers – don't get too comfortable.
I'm addressing myself here. I'd pretty much given up on the possibility of my favorite ship, David and Abby (Darby Stanchfield), ever getting back together. But now that it's happened, this being Scandal, they may not be long for this world. "I thought they'd be back together sooner," Malina told me, because he gets me. "I was wrong about that, so I was surprised by this season."
As for what happens next for them? "Unclear. I'm not fully convinced that Dabby lives yet, but I think there's reason to believe it might go that way. Since I'm turning 52 in a few days, I'm assuming this is the final romantic subplot of my career, so I'm enjoying it."
6. Mellie will continue to struggle with expectations versus reality in her presidency.
"I didn't think I'd make it to season two," Bellamy Young admitted, when asked if she ever imagined she'd be playing a POTUS. "I feel so much love for Mellie that she got to achieve her dream. I know she's fictional, but I really am moved for her! When you dream something for so long, even if it's by proxy for a fictional character, it's never what you imagined it would be."
But now that she's in the Oval, the reality is "all compromises. It's never what you dream. For Mellie, she really thought that with Olivia by her side, they could just change the world. It's been humbling, and inspiring, to see how difficult it is and to get to try."
7. Shonda originally envisaged a different ending for the series.
Young revealed that she asked Shonda whether the show is ending where she thought it would. "She was like, 'No, I thought it would end at the inauguration.'" She didn't specify whose inauguration she had in mind, Young said, which means it may not have been Mellie's. So… is there still a chance that the show could end with Olivia behind the desk?
8. Olivia probably isn't going to end up with anyone.
After a lot of nudging, Scott Foley admitted that he's still rooting for Jake as Olivia's endgame – "I'd much rather stand in the sun than freeze my ass off in Vermont!" – but was reluctant to get into the shipping conversation in part because Olivia is probably going to choose herself. "Shonda and Olivia are both very proud independent women," Perry pointed out. "She's not gonna end up with either of you [Jake or Fitz]. She's gonna be like, 'I'm just fine. I'm playing the field.'"
Darby Stanchfield took it one step further, admitting that she's hoping for "a vague and controversial" ending to the entire show, much like The Sopranos. "Something where you don't know if everybody's blown to bits, or they're gonna go on and be a happy family. This show deserves some sort of resolution that is not in a box."
9. Another thing Olivia may not end up with? Redemption.
There were a lot of questions during the set visit about whether Olivia can still be brought back from the darkness, having crossed new moral lines this season even by the standards of Scandal. "There's a lot of good churches in the area," Washington joked. "But some people would say she doesn't need saving, she's just arriving in the maximum potential of her power.
"One thing I've learned from working in Shondaland is to question our assumptions about what happy endings look like. I'm trying to be very careful with my expectations for what kind of ending I think she deserves. Olivia has been a character that has broken molds and rejected expectations, and I don't know that it's going to be about pulling her back to anything. We've just never really trafficked in that idea – nobody is truly good on our show."
10. Scandal doubled as a social media crash course for Tony Goldwyn.
Shonda famously asked the cast to live-tweet Scandal's season premiere back in 2012 – and every episode thereafter, in what would become a show-defining tradition. Prior to that, Goldwyn admitted he was "very skeptical and judgmental about social media, and generationally it was irrelevant to me. When Shonda asked us all to live-tweet our first broadcast, I had to learn how to do it, and I was afraid! I remember thinking 'what do I have to say that anybody would give a damn? Who cares about my 140-character observations on anything?'"
Spoiler: it turned out that a lot of people cared. "It kept us alive, I'm just sure of it," Perry said of Scandal's then-groundbreaking Twitter strategy which has since become commonplace. "Fellow actors from other parts of Hollywood are sometimes pissed with us, because they're like, 'you guys made that work, now I have to tweet all the time!'"
11. Don't count on a lot of happy endings.
For one thing, in the run-up to the finale, it sounds like the body count may be ratcheting up. "I think in the warped moral logic of Scandal, I'm most likely to die, because I'm the best person," Malina mused. "I mean sure, I extorted my way to my current position, but that's light compared to the other characters' rap sheets." By contrast, Perry fully accepts that Cyrus has probably deserved to die "since the third episode of the show, so I wouldn't be surprised."
But what about those few characters who might actually deserve happy endings, like Marcus? "In his episode with Fitz, we saw Marcus's struggle with being from the streets and trying to make a change," said Cornelius Smith Jr. "Now he's in the White House, he arguably has access to make changes, but he feels like he's not making any. I think a happy ending for him is something where he's bridging the gap, where he can really effect change and be in all places at once." In other words? "Marcus wants to be president, yes."
12. Olivia Pope has radically changed the TV landscape.
"When we first aired, the, most of the questions that I received centered around the fact that there had not been a black woman in the lead on a television drama in my lifetime," Washington recalled. "It had been almost 40 years. And that is certainly not the case today. You'd be hard-pressed now to find a network that doesn't have a show with a woman of color at the center.
"That's not just a testament to Olivia Pope, I think it's a testament to audiences around the world who are eager to see stories about different people and different places, and understand that our protagonists do not fit just one kind of identity or identity politics. I think the world was just ready."
Scandal's seventh season returns to ABC on January 18.
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