Let’s run through everything we know about “Scandal,” Season 6.
What Is Up Right Away
Right away, what is up is that it’s still Election Night: We don’t know who wins the presidency, but given recent developments in the real-life events that now seem based on the show, we can hazard a guess. Mellie’s not Mellie unless she’s getting burned.
What Is Up With the Election
Last we saw, Mellie (Bellamy Young) was the first female Republican nominee, backed up by former assassin and NSA Director Jake Ballard (Scott Foley). In the other corner were Democrat Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira from “Desperate Housewives”) and shockingly, the former White House chief of staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry).
Rendered out of the campaigns by various machinations were professional creeper Elizabeth “Lizzy Bear” North (Portia de Rossi), former VP and presidential hopeful Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani), and their boyfriend, Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina).
Standing nearby with a drink in his hand was the outgoing president, Fitzgerald “Fitz” Thomas Grant III (Tony Goldwyn) and the object of his and everyone else’s affections, crisis manager and creator Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington).
What Is Up With the Premiere
“Survival of the Fittest” is written by Shonda Rhimes and directed by executive producer Tom Verica, aka Annalise’s charming bastard of a late husband on “How to Get Away with Murder.” It involves at least one explosion, one or more dead bodies, a hospital visit, and possibly a mysterious cabin in the woods.
What Is Up With This Cabin
Quinn (Katie Lowes) and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) go there, so clearly it will contain menace, monstrosity, brutality and/or Charlie (George Newbern), who is always around when things get weird.
What Is Up with Fitz
Goldwyn told Hollywood Reporter that Fitz will be “much happier” in this new phase of his life — while the cast compared him to other ex-presidents in their retirement years, we’re thinking Fitz will be more Clinton than Carter — and executive producer Betsy Beers described him as getting to do “anything” he wants.
Fitz has always been a charming little stinker just waiting to go buckwild, so keeping him in play will probably be the single most hilarious move the show could make.
That, or he will continue to weep, rage drunkenly, and make Olivia’s life ten times messier than she could ever accomplish on her own.
What Is Up with Season 6 Overall
The show was pushed to midseason for Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, and cut from 22 to 16 episodes, which means more intense story moving faster, which is what “Scandal” fans crave anyway. That, wine-fueled dance-offs, and shutter-click shenanigans set to the hits of Motown.
Rhimes was an early adopter of the split-season format now favored by ABC dramas and more shows every season, and has talked in the past about how much more fun it was to do “Scandal’s” original, very short season. Even for a compromise, “Notorious” was a pale shade, and has had its freshman season cut down already, so even if it’s not officially canceled we’re still very excited to see the full #TGIT lineup return all at once.
It’s also a nice sign that Washington remains the show’s main attraction – and the shortened season gives us a thrill to think about how much faster things can move this year. Season 4’s abduction/auction storyline and its long-tail aftermath represented an artistic rebirth for the series: We dare you to think about Rowan’s words — “twice as good for half as much” — echoing in Olivia’s mind as she ran for her life without weeping, as years of storyline and quietly ignored racial politics all came bubbling up in one panicky, terrified moment.
For a show that started life as a superhero drama — a black woman mysteriously gifted with all the powers of a mediocre white man — the auction story divided the show neatly in half, and storylines about Ferguson and other issues of privilege and misogyny have been top-of-mind for the show ever since.
Building on that newborn momentum, Season 5’s winter break — which involved a time jump that saw Olivia and Fitz estranged, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) as Fitz’s uncomfortably intimate “work wife” and Cyrus replacement, and Olivia and Mellie working together on various projects, such as a book and taking over the world – set things up beautifully for all this post-election drama, in a time and country that sees those questions returning to the fore with an urgency we haven’t seen since the show premiered.
So, what is up with “Scandal”? A banner year, a total change in chemistry, and an Olivia reborn, for starters. Now, if we can just get Marcus (Cornelius Smith Jr.) to seal the deal with Mellie…
“Scandal” Season 6 premieres Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.