When Scandal first premiered six years ago, it was clear right away we were in for a fun ride. After all, the series came from the brain of Shonda Rhimes. Then there was the show’s amazing star, Kerry Washington—the first Black female lead on network TV in almost 40 years. Washington’s Olivia Pope led a team of Washington, D.C., fixers who never met a, well, scandal they couldn’t make disappear. Oh, and a plot that involved a murder (RIP Amanda Tanner) with all roads leading to the White House, which happened to be occupied by Pope’s on-again, off-again—but very married—boyfriend and President of the United States. Still, none of us could have fathomed just how wild it would get.
It’s why, over the years, the show lost its way from time to time. The story line with Olivia’s mom was a cool twist at first, until it became too convoluted. Or that time Liv beat a man with a chair. And the entire B613 plot took on way too much weight and didn’t always make a lot of sense, even on a show where suspension of disbelief was the price of entry.
But by the final season, the show found its way back to its original DNA as (spoilers ahead) the gang worked together to take down the biggest bad of all and save themselves from a life in jail in the process. As the series came to a close, we knew not everyone would make it out alive—that David Rosen scene was rough—and that Fitz and Olivia were the romantic endgame all along. But given the twists and turns that Scandal has always been famous for, it was incredibly unclear where Rhimes would eventually leave us.
Turns out, it was a pretty satisfying place. While it took place in D.C., Scandal was never really a show about politics like, say, The West Wing. But when the series did hit on issues, it was often in the service of some wish fulfillment. That was all too clear in the series finale as the first female President Mellie Grant, a Republican, signs gun control legislation. Or when the press helps take down a corrupt faction of the U.S. government.
Best of all, though, was the ending crafted for our (sometime) heroine. As she struts down a D.C. sidewalk in her signature white trench coat, we see the Olivia Pope we first fell in love with. She has an exchange with Fitz that, if I’m being honest, would have been a satisfying ending—but Olivia is so much more than her relationship, which brings me to that final scene.
Earlier in the episode, Mellie asked Olivia what she’s going to do next. Her reply: “Whatever I want.” Then, in the show’s final moments, we get a very big hint about what that might be. The scene depicts two young girls of color (one of whom is Rhimes’ real-life daughter Harper) holding hands as they walk through the National Portrait Gallery. Eventually, the camera turns to the painting they’ve been waiting to see: Olivia Pope. The piece of art shows Olivia in a powerful stance, her hair natural and curly, with the words “We the People” clearly visible. It calls to mind the viral image of the little girl staring up in awe at Michelle Obama’s portrait in a very emotional way.
My read: It’s a flash-forward, and Olivia obviously has become POTUS herself at some point. Don’t expect an answer from Rhimes anytime soon, though. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rhimes and producers have no immediate plans to discuss how the series ended and intentionally wanted to leave the audience to determine the show’s ultimate takeaway about politics in D.C.
I’m still convinced. It’s only fitting that the woman who got two other presidents elected—one of them a woman—has finally, truly taken control of the Oval Office herself. Hail to the chief, President Pope.