The Moldavian Massacre Conundrum

Olivia Pope: STILL slaying.

Olivia Pope: STILL slaying.

A few weeks ago, I listed several prime-time or streaming TV shows in my “Steal This” series.

But one of my favorites — ABC’s Scandal — was not on the list.

I’ve long been a fan of the work of Shonda Rhimes. I think she’s hit on a great formula that mixes emotional narrative and tight, well-woven plot in a very heady cocktail, and clearly, with the success of Grey’s Anatomy and now Scandal, it’s been a recipe for success.

But I’m beginning to think Scandal has become a victim of what I’m now calling the Moldavian Massacre Conundrum.

Everyone loves a plot twist, and Scandal certainly gave us a lot of them.

But if you have a steady diet of OMFG moments, wig snatches and twists designed to make us clutch our pearls and gasp, the question then becomes: What’s next?

And often, it must be bigger, badder and uglier than the week before.

The Moldavian Massacre, of course, was the capper to an over-the-top season of Dynasty. And it begs an excellent question: If you have shot everyone in the damn room, or set everyone on fire, where on EARTH do you go from there?

Scandal had become addicted to the OMFG moments (or at least the ABC promo department had).

And indeed, where can it go next? Some people think Scandal’s season 4 ender was a bit of a letdown, but I think it was an inevitable reset for a new direction.

I don’t know if it could sustain the pace it had been at before. Who is the “white hat?” Every major character has blood on their hands of some kind: Olivia, Fitz, Mellie and Cyrus, for sure. Huck has killed more people than most armies.

I get that this is not a story where people hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” but who the hell do you root for in this scenario? Even the most anti of antiheroes (or heroines) must have some basic rooting value for the audience to give a flip.

Olivia’s parents, played by fantastic actors, are both responsible for hundreds of deaths. It’s hard to have them sit at the dinner table after that, you know?

Fitz ordered an invasion of a country for Olivia (now, talk about a narrative stretch).

I was a longtime Grey’s Anatomy fan, but that show experienced some of the same issues. It became a huge tragedy porn-fest. The guy that shot up half the hospital — that was fun. What made me stop watching was the plane crash. To have to watch that happen, and the aftermath, was just too much for me.

Yes, it’s fiction, but if I wanted to watch incessant ugliness, loss and death, I can watch the news for that.

And after I’d briefly stuck my toe in the water this year, another big tragedy played out with the death of a major character. I get that Rhimes is, by her own admission, ‘dark and twisty.’ But some of this seems repetitive.

It’s a problem that daytime faces, too. Some shows have had this issue, and General Hospital is certainly near the top of the list.

And now, Chuck “Chuckles the Clown” Pratt is blowing shit up and sending in the clowns — and doppelgangers — at The Young and the Restless.

Not everyone craves the type of intimate, slow-build storytelling that I love. I get that.

But there has to be some pacing and balance for any show, and a skilled writer who can weave story well and unmask someone at JUST the right time.

Because otherwise, if you set everyone on fire, what comes next? What has the narrative power to come next? And can you feed an audience’s bloodlust?

 

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