Olivia has been back in Washington, D.C., for only two days since being rescued from kidnappers, and instead of resting, seeking therapy or catching up on the How to Get Away With Murder season finale, she immediately gets back to work.
She arrives at a crime scene where a white officer has just shot and killed a black teen, 17-year-old Brandon Parker, and she has been hired by the D.C. Police Department to handle the optics. Upon Olivia’s arrival, the teen’s father, Clarence Parker, played by Courtney B. Vance, shows up, wielding a shotgun and demanding to see the cop who killed his son.
Olivia convinces the police not to shoot Clarence, but before she can get a grip on the scene, neighborhood activist Marcus Walker, played by Cornelius Smith Jr., arrives to provide his longtime neighbor Clarence with a lawn chair in which to sit while he waits for justice to be served.
Olivia wants to defuse the situation, and Marcus questions her motivations: “Who hired you?” “Why are you here?” Unlike Olivia, Marcus has come to righteously stoke the fire. He leads the crowd in a chant, “Stand up! Fight back! No more black men under attack!” Meanwhile, Scandal's DJ strikes again with Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me.” Tears.
The cop who killed Brandon says that he fit the very broad description of a suspect who had just stolen an item from a store, and that when the officer approached him and asked to see the cellphone box he was holding, Brandon reached for a knife. The officer feared for his life, so he shot and killed him. Where have we heard this before?
Olivia and Marcus then have another run-in. This time he pulls her card—her black card, that is. Olivia tells Marcus that they both want the same outcome in this situation, but Marcus doesn’t agree. “You’re about getting a white Republican president elected. Twice. Excuse me if I don’t buy that you’re a real down-assed chick. … Your black card isn’t getting validated today.”
Ooo, can the first scene of the next episode please be of Marcus and Olivia’s first date? Like a Nina and Darius from Love Jones first date … pleeeease? Olivia desperately needs a new love interest, and I like the way this dude stood up to her, especially since almost no one else in her circle will.
As Olivia talks with Clarence, we learn that Brandon was Clarence’s only son, whom he had been raising alone since his wife died. Clarence had done all he could to prevent Brandon from being seen as a thug by the police, even going so far as to have put a University of Maryland sticker on his car to make him appear to be a college student in the event that he was stopped by the police … but it had all been for naught as his son lay dead in the street.
When Olivia calls out the police chief for asking the media not to cover the protest, the police chief asks, “Whose side are you on here?” The whole time I had been watching Olivia straddle the picket line, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’s “Who U Wit?” kept playing in my head. Olivia replies, “Not yours.” And she joins the protesters. More tears.
Meanwhile, Huck and Quinn recover surveillance footage and discover that the officer had taken another suspect’s knife and planted it on Brandon’s dead body to corroborate his story. When Olivia confronts the officer, he devolves into a rage-filled rant about how he puts his life on the line every day for people who are taught from an early age not to respect him or his badge. I appreciated the inclusion of the white officer’s perspective. I appreciated it more when his peers carted his behind off to jail.
At the end of the day, we discover that Brandon Parker hadn’t been reaching for a knife; he had been reaching for his cellphone receipt. Olivia takes Clarence to meet Fitz, who consoles him as he finally breaks down and weeps over the death of his son, and Scandal’s DJ strikes gold for a second time in this episode by closing us out with “I Shall Be Released” by Nina Simone.
Team Scandal is doing the Lord’s work! A special shout goes out to the writer of this episode, Zahir McGhee. This episode exemplifies why we need diversity in front of and behind the camera to tell our stories. Of course, in real life the father would have been killed, the officer would be free and the protesters would be teargassed, but as Shonda Rhimes tweeted:
After all of the tears and the yelling at the screen à la “You better preach!” I’m spent.
Akilah Green is a recovering Washington, D.C., lawyer-lobbyist-politico turned TV and film writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She currently works for Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, Chelsea. She has also worked as a staff writer for Kevin Hart’s production company, HartBeat Productions, and as a consultant for Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. In addition, she co-wrote and is producing Scratch, an indie horror-comedy feature film, and is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow Green’s adventures in La La Land on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.