WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the fall finale of Scandal and the October 22nd episode of How To Get Away With Murder.
Scandal has always been a show about feminism. A show about what it means to be a strong woman. A show about how strong women make mistakes and are not infallible. This can be seen clearly in the, what is sure to be controversial, fall finale of Scandal which aired last night.
After Fitz forcefully moves Olivia into the White House as his form as quasi-punishment for getting her father – who killed Fitz’s kid and a bunch of other people — out of jail, Liv is stuck being “The First Girlfriend.” She is seen schmoozing people at parties, giving out cookie recipes, and watching Fitz rule his kingdom from the sidelines.
This is not what Liv is used to and it’s instantly clear to both Elizabeth North – who mentions how unfitting the whole thing is to Abby – and to the viewers that it is not going to last long. Liv is good at charming people. She fixes problems for a living so obviously she can “fix” her way through an otherwise dull evening.
Whether or not Olivia can make polite small talk and pick out place settings is not the point; the point is that she shouldn’t have to.
When Liv doesn’t show up to the next political holiday event it’s seen as a slight by Fitz. This leads Fitz to wonder, how could she? How could she decide that she wanted to do more in an evening than make inane conversation with cabinet members?
Olivia didn’t just up and leave town; though, even if she did, we honestly wouldn’t blame her at this point. No, she was in an empty doctor’s office. Alone. Waiting to have an abortion.
With no build up to a pregnancy, no big reveal of the realization that her period is a few days late, and no extra crankiness or morning nausea to contend with Shonda Rhimes announced Olivia’s pregnancy to the world by ending it.
We see Olivia in a gown on the exam table, her legs in stirrups and her face blank. We hear the machine start up and doctor move between Olivia’s legs. The scene is so simple that it makes it all the more eerie. Just like there was, apparently, little to no emotion for Liv about her pregnancy, we see nothing on Kerry Washington’s face that displays any emotion other than acceptance. Acceptance for what she had, for what she lost, and for what it all means. While not graphic, the scene was oddly disturbing.
The thing that Rhimes often does right, and did right in this case, is mixing taboo topics seamlessly into storylines without pretense or judgment. This can be seen in Rhimes’s other show Grey’s Anatomy where race and sexuality are dealt with in more episodes than they aren’t. The same thing can also be seen in How To Get Away With Murder when it is revealed that Bonnie was abused as a child. We see how it affects Bonnie to have that secret come out, we sympathize with her for the pain she endured, and then next disturbing thing happens.
We don’t know the whole background and, while we might be curious, we don’t need to know the details. Knowing it happened makes enough of an effect. Knowing the abortion took place and seeing it take place was enough to get us to feel. Dialogue wasn’t necessary and would’ve likely been distracting.
That is how life works. Shit happens. Maybe not to the extent of getting an abortion or getting abused as a child, but we all go through things and are forced to keep on going. Whether it’s missing the train, being late for class, spilling your coffee, or something much more somber, we have to keep living our lives and that is exactly what Olivia does.
When Olivia gets back from the doctor, Fitz is waiting to confront her. She goes on to say how she isn’t happy. How she wants out. How she isn’t a housewife girlfriend. No, she is a “big dog” and she knows it. She’s a fixer through and through and what she is fixing now is her own life. Instead of spending her Christmas comfortably in the White House with the man she loves, she packs up, goes back to her apartment, and spends Christmas alone with her popcorn and red wine.
Throughout the whole break up of #Olitz, who many fans have been rooting for since the very first episode, Olivia doesn’t mention the abortion. She doesn’t seem overly emotional or like she’s repressing something. She seems like she has already moved on. Whether that is right, wrong, or morally questionable to you as a viewer is not the point. The point is that Olivia knows who she is, what she wants, and what she has to do to get it. And get it she does in the only way she knows how.
While the break up was sad for viewers, both Olivia and Fitz seem rational about it. Liv admits that she liked Fitz unavailable while Fitz admits that he knew the housewife role wouldn’t work for Liv long term. It ends with the sentiment of at least we tried. Unlike their past break ups, this one seems like it’s going to stick. Though Olivia is likely sad about it she also realizes that she is better alone. That she can do it alone. That she can make decisions without the help of a man; and that is the most empowering thing of all.