Of Scandals, Flashes, and the Diaries of Vampires
It seems to me that the blacker berry, the tighter the noose. Hear me out: Scandal now openly advocates for Black lives and addresses racism and misogyny head-on. In short, Shonda Rhimes has gotten increasingly "Blacker" and less apologetic with this show, so naturally its paler critics are more frequently throwing it under the bus.
I'll be honest, Scandal hasn't been all that great in years. We got over the loss of Stephen because we only had him for seven episodes. We never got over the loss of Harrison.
We got tired of Olivia/Fitz and Oliva/Jake, but like with B613, the writers just kept giving us more.
But the second half of Season 5 of Scandal showed us a new Olivia Pope, one who broke up with Fitz, aborted his baby, and then - quite literally - bashed in the brains of her kidnapper with a chair. And when the race for the White House really began to heat up, we saw her snap and tell Jake she hadn't spent years working twice as hard only to get half and live a mediocre life. We saw her in her cold-blooded, ruthless glory, and I for one thought, Finally...she's become interesting again.
I'm now genuinely interested to see what ShondaLand does in Season 6, and I haven't felt that way since the end of Season 2.
Moving on to Season 7 of The Vampire Diaries.
my last series on this show, I never thought I'd talk about it again on this blog. But then something random and amazing happened. Nina Dobrev, its former leading lady, decided to leave at the end of Season 6. Candice King (formerly Accola) got pregnant and needed time off to focus on that.
And though Kat Graham did disappear for a while to work on developing her own show with the CW, these last few episodes showed her as Bonnie Bennett, front and center, with all things revolving around her.
Love interest? Check. Granted, it wasn't a love interest most fans would've chosen for her, but the vampire Lorenzo a.k.a. "Enzo" eventually changed my mind. I credit actor Michael Malarkey for this more so than the actual writing; when he chooses to he can be quite charming and romantically convincing. I bet once he realized he'd be Bonnie's beau, he figured he'd better do right by her.
Dominant storyline? Check. Bonnie's romance with Enzo took a Shakespearean turn when he began to (unwittingly) poison her on a daily basis. After realizing what he'd done, Enzo and the entire remaining gang tried moving heaven and hell to save to her, risking their own lives. Unfortunately, hell wasn't willing to move so easily, and Bonnie wound up possessed with the life-force of a vampire hunter. There were a lot of Buffy references here, including a dreamlike scenario which flashed back to Bonnie in her cheerleading uniform, slaying vampires after school. And, of course, there was the whole vampire-in-love-with-a-slayer trope.
Since saving Bonnie appears to have come at great cost, we'll have to wait to see how it pans out. Either way, Kat Graham has decided to bail after Season 8 and Julie Plec, possibly recognizing the absolute goddess she's had on her hands all this time, has decided to give Bonnie an "amazing exit." *side-eye* In other words, Bonnie will probably die...again.
Which brings us to Season 2 of The Flash.
I'll be honest; this season has disappointed me on multiple levels. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the writers of The Flash could learn a thing or two from the writers of Once Upon a Time. In other words, do not dedicate an entire season to just one villain. The winter finale should serve has both resolution to the current villain's storyline, while setting up for the next villain. I say this because these writers are no Joss Whedons nor Rick Bermans; they do not know how to balance an over-arching serialized plot alongside concurrent, independently satisfying episodic storylines. Thus, every episode is pure serialization which, if the story begins to underwhelm, leaves viewers waiting for the very end. Writers these days are abusing cliffhangers, which is both lazy and cowardly. It's a cheap strategy to keep people watching and networks renewing without actually earning their loyalty, just coercing it.
Also, make sure your villain actors can stand on their own two feet and intimidate us all on their own. I'm not digging the use of Tony Todd's legendary Candyman voice to make
Look, man...if you need a Black man to voice your villain, then it seems to me that you need to just hire a Black man to actually be your villain and have done with it.
Another issue I had was the portrayal of Iris West (kind of the whole point of this section). Look, y'all...if you don't want a Black woman on your shows as a main cast member and love interest, then don't hire one. Of all the actors on The Flash, Candice Patton's time has been the most wasted. It's (almost) Sleepy Hollow* all over again. I mean...she's your lead. You chose to hire her. You wanted a Black Iris West - ain't nobody twist your arm for that. We didn't even see it coming. So do right by her, goddamn it.
Now that Season 2 is ending, the writers not only suddenly remembered that she existed, but that she and Barry are supposed to be an endgame couple. Fans are right to feel that their newfound blossoming romance feels rushed and last-moment, most likely because their mutual attraction was remembered at the very last moment.
Remember Season 1, Episode 5, when Iris first spoke with the Flash on the roof of Jitters? As one commenter on YouTube put it, for a split second, we all thought they were going to end up having sex right then and there on the roof.
Allow me to refresh y'all's memories:
What showrunner in their right mind squanders this level of steamy momentum? This was five episodes into a brand new show - just five episodes in (same as Twisted). Do you know many writing teams would kill for their romantic leads to have this much sexual chemistry five episodes in? With all the time-traveling, metahumans, and magic (not to mention, half a century of publication history), a show like The Flash has no shortage narrative material. In other words, we didn't HAVE to wait for WestAllen to happen. We didn't need to see them fail at other relationships. Iris and Barry could've been an established couple from day one and, if anything, it would've done this show a world of good.
Also, did anyone notice that not only Iris's story but the overall story stepped up once Caitlin Snow's presence was drastically reduced? Why is this a recurring theme here? And why do writers keep waiting until the ends of seasons to remind the audience that oh and by the way, our Black girls matter?
I won't lie; TV has made some progress over the past couple of years, but as I'm always saying, it still has a loooooooong way to go.
*Speaking of this ish, Sleepy Hollow got a renewed for a fourth season. Behold the power of white privilege.