Friday, March 6, 2015

Scandal Season 4, Ep 14: The Lawn Chair. AKA #BlackLivesMatter Law and Order Criminal SVU Intent

So, on this week’s episode of Law and Order -  ripped form the headlines #BlackLIvesMatter, Olivia Benson steps into the middle of a police shooting and tries to diffuse the situation. A 17-year old young black man named Brandon has been shot and killed by a white police officer. He’s lying in a pool of his own blood, shown wearing jeans and a grey hoodie. According to the police chief, the young man matched the description of a shoplifting suspect, and when he was approached by one of his officers, he reached for a knife. 

As Olivia Benson is trying to determine what happened, and Brandon is lying in the street, his father comes over with a shot-gun and demands answers. Olivia tries to talk him down, and calm everyone. While she’s trying to talk the man into putting down his gun, Sgt. Benson is suffering some of her own anxiety and is shaking in her designer boots from her recent kidnaping experience. 

When a neighborhood activist gets involved, Olivia tries to get the father to go with her and let the police conduct their investigation. The activist, Marcus, says no way and gives father a lawn chair. The two have some words and Marcus asks why Olivia is there. She says she’s trying to diffuse the situation, and Marcus asks why she thinks that the situation needs to be diffused. Holding the chair, Clarence chooses to sit. He places the chair over the son’s body and the dad sits in vigil, waiting for the police officer that shot his son to show up and provide answers. He sits over him stating “I want him to be protected from the elements.” 

Clarence, is a bank teller trying to be a good parent and raise his son “Get him to eighteen, get him a diploma.” and not dead or in jail. Olivia talks to the investigating officer to discover that they claim Brandon, the young black man, was carrying a knife. Clarence says that Brandon never carried a knife. Marcus finds out the identity of the police officer that shot Brandon, and makes the officer’s identity public knowledge. The officer claims self-defense, and HuckleberryQuinn start to look for local cameras to find footage of what really happened. 

Olivia Benson tries to get the attorney general involved, and tells him “I was captured and lived in fear for an entire week. Those people live in fear every day.” 

Meanwhile, HuckleberryQuinn finds out that there’s a witness to the crime – another suspect that was in the back seat of the police car and saw the whole thing. So where’s the suspect? Seems like officer whitey let him go to cover his ass. Officer whitey goes off on a tirade of his own – “those people” (yes, they went there) disobeyed him. Disrespected him. “What gives “them” the right to question his authority?” He quips. 

Meanwhile, back at the crime scene, Marcus throws out that Olivia Benson’s black card isn’t getting punched, and Olivia Ben….son. Um, whoops. That’s Olivia POPE, not Benson. It’s Scandal, not Law and Order. CRAP!! 

Okay, so let me go there. This episode was ‘ripped from the headlines’. Not something that I would expect from Scandal, but I see why this show did this episode. It’s topical. It’s a show about a black woman, written by a black woman. When something in mainstream society hits close to home, you need to process it and get it out. Shonda Rhimes wrote about it. 

When social constructs are presented in popular television, it can be a way to reach the mainstream populous and highlight social conditions. It can show just what the hell is happening between the police and people of color in many communities. It’s a way to show what happens when a white officer (or anyone for that matter), has misguided impressions and racial stereotypes of others. It’s a way to show those will sit and watch Scandal but not the evening news what happened to Michael Brown, and what happened in Ferguson (and frankly, what happens in communities all across America). It’s a way to get them to pay attention. 

This episode likely made people uncomfortable. GOOD. It should. It comes at the same time that the Department of Justice released their Ferguson investigation report. The best shows on television reflect what is happening in society, and finds a way to present situations that get people talking, and hopefully, thinking. If you were anywhere near social media last night, there was a TON of talk going on! Hopefully, critical conversations about race relations occur. I get it, but I’m waiting for next week for more fast-talking Olivia Pope. 

In the end, Brandon didn’t have a knife. He had a receipt. For the item he was suspected of stealing. Oh, and there was also something about trying to find a replacement for the VP since he’s no longer able to serve, and something about Mellie still maybe trying to run for office in the future. 

Bottom line, this episode didn’t do much to address what happens to Olivia Pope when she gets home from her kidnapping ordeal (other than she’s suffering some major PTSD), strange choices in the VP arena, and no update on Lizzy and gang. 

Until next week folks…

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