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Grief, Gun Control & the Fitzgerald Grant Show, Scandal “The State of the Union” 

Photo Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC
Photo Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

This season of Scandal is attempting to deal with a kind of unimaginable pain. The loss of a child. Fitz seems to be handing things as best as he can, but Mellie has all but given up on the world and on being First Lady.

I have to say, I’ve never liked her character. And I don’t think I was supposed to. But now, this season, she might be my new favorite. The first time we see her in this episode, she’s sitting on her son’s grave, eating chips in her robe. Unfortunately, someone manages to get past security and snap a few photos. The headlines read, “Mental Mellie.”

Politically, this is a big problem. It makes it look like the First Lady is weak (an unfair assumption, of course) and it might call into question Fitz’s decision making. Now that the headlines are out, Fitz and Cyrus try to convince Mellie to get cleaned up, even just for one night — for the State of the Union Address. But Mellie is almost manic as she laughs at this idea and continues to munch on her fried chicken, of which she’s holding a full plate.

Fitz: If you don’t go, your absence, your state of mind, will be all anyone will be talking about.

Mellie: Oh, Honey, Baby. Do you actually think I give a damn what anyone thinks of me anymore? And for you to come here and pretend that this is all about me — when really, let’s face it, Baby. This is all about you. This is the Fitzgerald Grant show, starring Fitzgerald Grant. And you just want me to play my part: the costar. The dutiful wife who smiles and applauds and looks so proud of you. And doesn’t eat chicken or wear sweatpants or hang out on graves.

And she laughs harder, then takes a big bite of her chicken leg. I love this scene so much. I love seeing Mellie be someone other than the cold, rigid First Lady she’s been in the past — and I think it’s brilliant to show such a change in her character.

Now, Olivia Pope certainly does have her share of problem solving in this episode, proving her ever-present value to the White House by convincing a couple that is the “face of gun control” to attend the State of the Union. But Abby is the real hero, at least as far as the White House is concerned. Her character is stronger and more powerful than ever, and it’s clear why this is going to be “Abby’s Season.” Because just when it looks like Mellie is going to stay in her pajamas forever, Abby is the one that convinces her to show up to her husband’s SOTU Address.

Abby: Children die, Mrs. Grant. I don’t have children, so you may think it’s horrible for me to say that. Maybe it is. But it’s also a fact. That of all the millions of Americans who’ll be watching and listening to the State of the Union Address tonight there are thousands of people out there whose children have died. Just like yours. But unlike you, they didn’t get to spend three months flipping through trash and eating potato chips. They got three days to grieve. Three weeks if they were lucky. Or they would lose their jobs. And make no mistake, Mrs. Grant. You have a job. You’re the First Lady of the United States.

And thanks to Olivia Pope, the State of the Union Address is a highly successful one. It’s the first time that Olivia and Fitz speak since Olivia left for her island, and Fitz asks everyone else to give them the room. Then he asks her for her help with his speech, just like old times. She’s hesitant, but looks it over briefly and tells Fitz that he needs to be honest about his family’s grief.

Photo Credit: Ron Tom/ABC
Photo Credit: Ron Tom/ABC

That’s exactly what Fitz does. He goes completely off script and talks about the death of his own son as a part of his speech about senseless deaths and gun control. And he points to Mellie in the crowd, who is finally cleaned up and wearing a sleek red dress, holding herself together as best she can. The speech earns a standing ovation, and it seems this was the right choice for The White House.

However, I don’t think it was the right choice for his marriage. When the State of the Union is over, Mellie heads slowly back to their room, rips the pearls from her neck, and collapses in the dark. She is completely overcome with tears. Going through the charade of dressing up and being a strong first lady was tough enough without having to listen to Fitz talk about her son’s death. And I won’t be surprised if Mellie is quick to figure out Olivia’s influence here. It’s just a matter of time before Olivia comes between them again.

I’m curious to see what will happen with her character next. She’s going to be grieving for a long time, and she’s going to be angry. But how she’s going to handle it, especially now that Olivia is back, remains to be seen.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.

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