I am a firm believer in using your platform to say things boldly, even when they’re uncomfortable and when they make people wince by throwing the truth back in their faces. This last episode of Scandal was the most important one they’ve ever done, being audacious enough to use it’s primetime to affirm the fact that Black Lives Matter, even if they didn’t come out to say it.
It was ripped from the headlines, clearly telling the story of teenager Michael Brown Jr., shot down in Ferguson last year. Check out my recap on Vulture. That one is short and tight but I’m proud of it.
Let’s talk about it.
Brandon Parker – After lying to Jake that she’s resting, Liv gets out of the car to a police scene, dressed in all black like an omen. The police chief Connors says Brandon Parker was 17 and he seemed to match the description of some shoplifting suspect so when police stopped him and he pulls out a knife, he gets shot and killed. Chief says “Now we’ve got a dead Black kid put there by a white police officer.” The story of every day in America.
The boy has been on the streets for 30 minutes and suddenly, a shotgun goes off. It’s Brandon’s father who wants to know the cop who shot his son. The cops point the gun at him and Olivia tells Chief Connors to get his cops to stand down. She stands up and tells Clarence Parker that she wants to help and that she’ll get the Attorney General on the scene. Too bad David ain’t paying her much mind, as he walks into a meeting with Fitz and Cyrus.
That meeting is about how they’ll pick a new VP, since Andrew’s “stroke” has him unable to do his job. After Lemony leaves, Fitz suggests two people who are white and old and Cyrus reminds him that he said he’d be bold in term 2 but the “two more scoops of vanilla” ain’t it. POTUS picked 2 old white men because he doesn’t want Mellie to have competition when she runs. Cy gives major side-eye at the idea of Mellie as POTUS.
Marcus Walker – Back on the scene, a man named Marcus Walker stands behind the yellow tape and Connors is all butthurt because he’s been a pain in their ass, because trouble must look like asking for answers and accountability. He is and activist who has a civil rights-focused podcast and is a Georgetown graduate who runs a program to place high risk youth in jobs. The dude got receipts.
Marcus crosses the yellow tape and the cops advance on him but he pulls out his cellphone and tells them that he’s recording everything and they cannot shoot him. He’s also holding a lawn chair. Olivia goes by Marcus and tells him he has to leave but he refuses. He’s known Mr. Parker all his life (the man drove him home from the hospital after he was born).
Liv says she got the assistant Attorney general on the scene who will help make sure the police follow the rules on the investigation and Marcus asks her “what’s the going rate for playing both sides?” WELP.
The Lawn Chair – The chair Marcus is holding is for Mr. Parker, who takes it and places it around his son’s body so he can sit over him to protect him from the elements and to demand answers. It made me fist pump and want to cry at the same time.
He leads the crowd on a chant of “STAND UP. FIGHT BACK. NO MORE BLACK MEN UNDER ATTACK.” As this is happening, the instrumental to Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” is playing as the Capitol stands behind the angry crowd. That white building that is supposed to represent freedom flanking the scene where a Black boy was murdered by a man in blue. Ouch.
Clarence Parker was a single father who’s a white collar executive with no record, raising Brandon, a high school senior who worked part time job and was an athlete.
“We speak for Brandon Parker. And we ask when will the people we pay to protect us stop gunning us down in the streets?” – Marcus
The next morning in the press room, Abby tells the media that what happened is a local matter and not the White House’s business, even though it happened a mile away from Pennsylvania Avenue. Cyrus advices the President not to say anything on the matter, even though he wants to.
Lies and Bullshit – At the police station, Olivia interviews the cop who shot Brandon. Dude is blond too, with his fake ass Darren Wilson face. We’re gonna call him Filson henceforth. He said he ran across the boy holding a brand new cellphone so he called the station and they gave him a description of someone they suspected shoplifted. 5’10, medium build. African American. That’s basically everyone and anyone who isn’t Kevin Hart (cuz he’s like 5’2). Anywho, the cop says he stops Brandon and asks where he got the phone and he “became hostile.” Because telling you to mind your business is hostility. When it comes from a Black boy, of course it is. O__O
Filson: “I just asked the kid if I could see the box he was holding. Next thing I know, he was charging at me. He’s reaching into his coat pocket for a knife.” YES, BECAUSE BLACK BOYS WILL CHARGE AT COPS FOR NO REASON. BECAUSE THEY WALK OUT THEIR HOUSES LOOKING TO DIE EVERYDAY. FUCK YOU.
Don’t piss on me and tell me the sun is crying. UGH. The idea that a Black boy would would randomly charge at a police officer is as unlikely as Sallie Mae erasing your student loan debt randomly. NO MA’AM!
Liv asks where the knife is and the cop sitting next to Filson says it must be on the kid who is lying in the streets. He was the first one to arrive when Filson called for backup. “Jess was devastated just sitting in his car.” WHAT ABOUT CLARENCE PARKER, YOU DOUCHENUZZLE? Filson talmbout how he’d be devastated if he was Brandon’s father. SHUT YO ASS UP. DON’T NOBODY GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOUR FEELS, BRO.
Liv goes back to the scene, where people are holding “Justice for Brandon” signs. She asks the Gladiators to find security footage to confirm Jeff Newton’s story that he HAD to shoot Brandon. She walks by Marcus and he asks what the cop’s name was. “You are not auditioning to be America’s Next Great Black Activist.”
Olivia tried it so tough there for calling Marcus to the carpet in that way. But he turns around and gives her a well-deserved read. He calls her out for her Prada bag and high horse and reads her ass for elitism. “You’re about getting a White republican president elected. Twice. Excuse me if I don’t buy that you’re a real down ass chick…You want to tell everybody on the hill that you came down to the hood and saved us. No thank you, Olivia. Your Black card is not getting validated today.”
ALL THE WELPS THAT EVER WELPED IN WELPINGYORK.
I Can’t Sleep – Back at the White House, Mellie and her red dress meet Susan Ross, the senator from West Virginia. She mentions vaccinations and FLOTUS walks away while giving her the side-eye. Rosalyn Mendez, governor of New Mexico posts a video saying “I can’t sleep” because Brandon and others like him are being gunned down. She talks about how her immigrant parents were treated growing up so she feels the pain of Clarence. “I want to say to Clarence Parker and all those communities in this country where the police make you feel like you don’t matter. We all matter.” Fitz tells Cyrus that she just stole his feels and Cy wonders if she can be his VP. He whines about his promise to Mellie but his chief of staff reminds him about his more important promise to be the best president he could be.
18 Was the Goal – On the scene of the murder, Liv brings Mr. Parker a hoagie and he places it on the floor to tell her that his son never left home without telling him where he was going. He tried to protect Brandon. “I kept saying to myself. Get him to 18. Don’t let him end up dead or locked up.” But there he was, sitting over his son’s body. The mourning father wipes tears from his eyes as he tells Liv that he knows justice won’t be served, and HE will just end up dead or in prison. Whew. I was so deep in my feels already.
Liv calls Quinn, wondering if the media is covering the protests but she tells her they’re just talmbout the Vice President. Liv looks around and sees police putting on SWAT gear and press being kept behind barricades. She confronts Connors and he says he’s just trying to protect them. She ain’t having it and the chief tells her he hired her to work on the optics and questions what side she’s on. THIS is really what lets her know she’s definitely on the wrong side of the tape. She crosses the yellow tape, joins the protestors and chants with them. STAND UP. FIGHT BACK. NO MORE BLACK MEN UNDER ATTACK.
FLOTUS Wants POTUS – At the WH, Mellie rolls into the Oval Office, having heard that Mendez is being vetted for VP. She’s mad as hell that Fitz is reneging on the deal he made her to pick someone that would not be electable and competition for her when she tries to make a run to be POTUS. “I prostituted myself so you could get your mistress back.” Lawd, these two are twisted.
Tricks of Privilege – On the scene, Huck shows up to report to Liv that he found out that police already went and confiscated all the security tapes. Clearly, Newton was lying like a rug. Olivia goes to David to see if he can require them to turn over the tapes and when he rebuffs, she reminds him that the system is only there to protect folks who look like him. White privilege: must be nice.
“You talk about fairness and justice like it’s available to everybody. It’s NOT. That man standing over his son’s dead body thinks KNOWS he’s going to end up in one or two places: a jail cell or a drawer at the morgue. To hell if I can’t look him in the eye and tell him he’s wrong. I can’t FIX THIS, David. I have nothing left. No more tricks in my bag. It’s TOO MUCH.”
Because even Olivia Pope feels the burden of being a Black woman in America. With ALL her power, she is still Black and her skinfolk can’t get no justice. David tells her she’s been through enough with the kidnapping and she shouldn’t be dealing with this situation. She sits and tells him “I thought I was going to die. I lived in complete and total fear. Imagine feeling like that every single day of your life.” Man. THAT is a word, Liv, and he finally GETS what she’s trying to say and issues the subpoena.
On the scene on the crime, David is watching as Clarence Parker watches footage of his son’s last moments. Brandon is stopped by the cop. He walks past him and turns to Officer Newton. He pulls something out of his pocket and all of a sudden, the cop pulls out his gun and shoots him down. There was no charging, no imminent danger, none of it. Liv tells him that police said Brandon pulled a knife and Clarence asks where the knife is. She says they’d have to move Brandon’s body to check for it. Slowly, Clarence stands up from his chair and moves it away from his son’s body.
Marcus moves Brandon and there’s a knife under his body. Mr. Parker snaps and insists that his son does NOT carry a knife and when Liv tells him it’s time to go home, he stands up and points his shotgun. Liv tells him to lower the gun as her and Marcus walk away. Clarence puts the chair where it was, over Brandon’s body and sits down. Liv’s hands are trembling as she walks away.
VP Leak – The SWAT team is getting in position and Fitz watches the coverage as Cyrus storms in because The Times asked for a comment on Roslyn Mendez being considered for VP and they’re finding out that she has ownership in some prisons. Mellie enters and denies the leak. When Cy leaves, President Ghost admits to FLOTUS that HE did it since they had a deal. “Let’s pick a VP that won’t get in your way.” Mellie says she got one in mind already.
The Gladiators watch the security tape over and over again and see a shadow. They realize that Newton had already arrested the suspect before rolling up on Brandon. THAT person was in the cop car as Brandon was killed. It was their knife that is under the boy now.
Blue Bullshit – Olivia goes to the station and asks Newton who else knows about the other suspect and he gets all hostile. Just then, David and Federal Agents walk in with a man named Phillip Durant. The one Newton arrested and let go so he could STFU.
Fake ass Darren Wilson flips out on Liv in a rant that I had to transcribe so you could see the bullshit in black and white.
“What the hell is up with you people? You people have no idea what loyalty is. What respect is. You’re here because you’re supposed to help us… The truth is those people in Rosemead have no respect for anything or anybody. They’re like you. They just take whenever they want and they have no problem turning their backs on the people who gave it to them. People like me… everyone, including little babies are taught to look at us like the enemy. They are taught to question me. To disobey me. And STILL I risk my life for these people… all I hear about on the news are dirty cops. Cops who shoot innocent Black kids. It’s CRAP. There were 84 murders in this city last year. Were all of those cops shooting innocent Black boys? Hell no. Those were Blacks turning guns on each other. Yet I’m the animal. Brandon Parker is dead because he didn’t have respect. Because THOSE PEOPLE out there who are chanting out there who are crying over his body didn’t teach him the right values. They didn’t teach him respect… Questioning his authority was NOT his right. His blood is NOT on my hands.”
I. WANTED. TO. FIGHT. I wanted to jump through the TV screen and give him papercuts all over his face, followed by a push into a pull full of nailpolish remover. I was LIVID. Because the shit right there is what we’ve been hearing from people who justify the continued devaluation of Black lives. The Stages of what happens when there’s injustice against Black people played out in that monologue, in a checklist of excuses for why it’s ok for Black kids, men and women to be shot down.
The unmitigated gall of people to think that a child earned their death because they lacked obedience. As if they’re some house pet that only needs to bark or meow on command. As if all white children are the Von Trapp kids. GAAAHHHHHH!!! WHEW. I cannot.
VP Turn Down – Susan Ross is in the Oval Office with the First Couple, marveling at the fact that she was there. Fitz tells her he’d like to make her VP and the lady is so shocked she asks “why?” and then says she does not want the position because if something happens to HIM, SHE would have the worst job in the world (being POTUS). She shows some gusto and says being VP is actually worse because you have a title that has no real power. OOP. She mentions all the things they need to fix, from the war in West Angola to the one that’s a mile away, with cops shooting Black kids.
“That poor man whose son was shot dead in the street. My God. If anything like that ever happened to Kasey – my daughter, she’s 10 – but of course she’s white and the daughter of a senator so the police are actually gonna think twice before shooting her but that poor man… can you even imagine what he’s going through right now.”
She stops her rant and Fitz is actually takes her seriously now and she goes from being a joke to being s formidable woman.
Justice for Brandon – David speaks to the press as we see Jeff Newton being led out in handcuffs. He was arrested for altering evidence, perjury, filing a false report and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The Justice Department will open a federal investigation on the DC police force.
At the scene, Olivia walks to Mr. Parker and gives him what Brandon was reaching for in his pocket. It was the receipt for his new cellphone. A piece of paper got him killed. Liv tells him that his son’s murderer is behind bars, and Clarence puts down his gun and gets up, with his wrists together, expecting to be cuffed. “No one is going to arrest you, Mr. Parker. Let’s go.” They walk away together and when in her car, he asks her where they’re going.
Olivia walks with Mr. Parker into the Oval Office as David reminds America that another young life has been cut short. The President expresses his condolences and Clarence breaks down into his shoulders.
The FBI collects Brandon’s body from the street. As Bob Dylan’s “Any day now, I shall be released” plays, the camera focuses on Brandon’s lifeless face as the body bag is zipped up.
It felt like something was sitting on my chest. That episode was raw. It was painful. It was necessary. SO very necessary. That is the word I keep using because we NEED to see, taste, feel, even for a moment, what justice for our people might begin to look like. We NEED to be able to envision it because without it, we could fall into hopelessness. We NEED to be able to put this conversation in folks’ faces so they cannot ignore it.
It was an exercise in catharsis, because what would have made me want to wallow would be if the fictional cop walked away too. I’d be all WHY CAN’T WE EVER HAVE NICE THINGS?!?!? Real life is painful enough and the small dip into fantasy, where a white cop kills a Black boy and actually sees the inside of a cell, did something small (but significant). My only edit would have been to the chant. “STAND UP. FIGHT BACK. NO MORE BLACK LIVES UNDER ATTACK.” Because Black Girls are getting shot down every day too.
Other quick points:
* Courtney B. Vance gave a phenomenal performance as Mr. Parker. His grief was all over his face and it was in everything he did. In the end when he broke down to Fitz and the fathers shared their losses of sons, I was heartbroken. Whew.
* I appreciated how Olivia stepped into her Blackness, on a show that doesn’t define her identity by her Blackness. On this episode, she started off on the wrong side but she came into understanding how even with her power, the skin she was in came was constantly being attacked. Her “I can’t fix this” moment was frustration at the depth of the problem of racism, so overwhelming that it was not even handleable.
* Just read my Vulture recap for a better analysis. BTW, Tom Verica, one of Scandal’s main directors since season 1 (and director of this particular episode) and Annaliese Keaton’s husband on How to Get Away With Murder tweeted the link to it! EEEE!
I just want to applaud the team at Shondaland because although they never explicitly said “Black lives matter” in the episode, it was the clear message. Shonda’s tweets (@ShondaRhimes) post-show really showed how much care went into creating this episode, and I was moved tremendously.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) March 6, 2015