By Arturo R. García
Upon second viewing, the thing that stands out about “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” is how it emphasizes the loneliness that seems to be at the core of Olivia Pope’s life.
Not to say she’s alone — far from it. But after the events of this week’s episode, it’s hard to think of any relationship in her life one could call good. And wonder where Shonda Rhimes will take that theme.
Whereas the season opener hit the ground running with the aftermath of Olivia’s affair becoming public thanks to her father, Heather Mitchell’s script this week pulls back a bit and shows us more of how Rowan became “the hell and the high water” where his daughter’s life is concerned.
While Huck is seen as the fulcrum of the Popes’ family fracture, there’s an increasing clarity to the fact that Rowan’s relationship with Olivia goes beyond “dysfunctional” into abusive tendencies: When we see them at one of their old Sunday dinner scenes, he insists that he’s “trying” to mend their relationship before berating her over the cost of the food and the wine; when she tells him about Edison, his first question is, “Is he good enough for you?” but then he orchestrates an accident for Edison upon their engagement.
To be fair, Olivia herself seemingly acquiesced to Edison’s proposal for the sake of pursuing her own investigation into B613’s activities and saving Huck. And similarly, in the present-day we see her reach out to Fitz in an effort to save Jake. But it’s striking how she’s still ping-ponging between all of these men to try and square her personal and professional lives, without any women in her support network. When something happens in Fitz’s day, Olivia’s the one he wants to call. But who does Olivia call? And after her trigger-inducing confrontation with Huck (and credit to Guillermo Díaz for conveying Huck’s own horror at what he did), who can she call?
The case of the week (the resolution of Jeannine’s efforts to avoid getting Lewinski’d, which is headed off at the tracks by Fitz, no thanks to Mellie) does the B-plot well enough; heck, the choice of “Disco Inferno” for this week’s music felt most inspired than most. But it appears that, barring the potential for a showdown between Fitz’s administration and B613, the season — and Olivia’s growth as a character — will hinge on all of us finding out what happened to her mother. And what her father had to do with that.
What did you think, Racializens?