NY Times TV Critic on 'Scandal': 'Who Needs Jesus, Anyway?'

October 10th, 2013 4:44 PM

New York Times TV critic Mike Hale fixed his gaze on the ABC show “Scandal” in Thursday’s paper, and the pull quote was “The affairs and conspiracies never end for a miracle worker.”

But then Hale concluded by leaping off a deep end: the show’s lead character, the public-relations fixer (and presidential mistress) Olivia Pope is a version of Jesus, and in fact better than Jesus, so who needs him anyway?

Ms. Washington continues to give the same tightly wound performance she’s given from the start, one that’s weirdly limited yet undoubtedly largely responsible for the show’s fanatical following. Her reticence is understandable — it’s never easy to play Jesus, whom Olivia Pope has always most closely resembled: healer of reputations (Washington’s version of souls), demander of unquestioning faith, forever preaching, difficult to find but always there when you need her. And now with an all-powerful father.

Who needs Jesus, anyway, when you can be fixed by Olivia?

As even the crustiest folks in Washington know, fixing scandals for politicians may be “saving” someone, but often by cleverly circumnavigating, concealing, or just shamelessly dismissing sin, not healing sinners. Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for "Scandal," has been involved in scandal messaging for Bill Clinton, Marion Barry, Michael Vick, and Larry Craig.

Hale isn't the first writer to assign high religious authority to this fictional character: "Olivia Is The Pope."