Scandal is making the world a more difficult place for squirrelly, taciturn weirdos. Were there a national advocacy group for mumbling hermits with an allergy to direct eye contact, they’d be firing off an angry press release about the negative perceptions Scandal perpetuates about their kind. Here is Huck, a trained hit man with a learned addiction to masochistic thrills, trying to prove to Olivia that people can change. Yes, maybe he’s just as creepy and murderous as his personality suggests, and maybe his kindred ex-girlfriend Becky tried to assassinate the president and pin it on him. But Rowan Pope, Huck insists, is a changed man, and he says there’s no reason to doubt the intentions of Meg, his latest oddball fling. Sadly, Meg disagreed by pumping three bullets into his chest, thereby cementing the harmful stereotype of the socially awkward hitman. Not cool, Scandal.
“Not cool, Scandal” will be a popular sentiment if next week’s episode reveals that Diego “Huck” Muñoz is, in fact, as dead as he appeared to be at the end of “A Traitor Among Us.” That won’t be my sentiment, however, as I’m of the opinion that killing off Huck is one of the smartest things Scandal could do right now. Scandal is weirdly hesitant to kill off regular characters, which is why it’s so top-heavy with a dozen main cast members, most of whom go missing for weeks on end. By killing off Huck, Scandal can stop being the unexpected holdout from the age of television storytelling in which every character is in jeopardy. (It’s no coincidence that this season of How to Get Away With Murder accelerated after burning half of Wes’s face off.)
Huck is probably still alive for several reasons. First off, it’s pretty darn hard to find a top-shelf hit man in D.C. to let Scandal tell it. People have been trying to kill Jake Ballard for about three seasons now and it can’t be done. Probably because Scandal’s hitmen have a terrible habit of aiming for any part of the body except the head. After eliminating her “bestie” Jennifer Fields in a far more definitive manner, Meg puts two slugs in Huck’s chest, then creeps up to point-blank range and shoots him in … the stomach. Second, when Meg reports back to her bosses about the work she’s done, she insists that Huck won’t remember her involvement in the execution of the only person who could provide important context around Frankie Vargas’s murder.
Even more shocking than Meg and Jennifer’s bloody reunion is the identity of Meg’s client, revealed to be none other than White House chief of staff Abby Whelan. Abby hasn’t played a very prominent role in season six, mostly because most of the action has been about who is trying to get into the White House, not who’s already there. Her involvement in the latest grand, gothic conspiracy is certainly a surprise, but it probably won’t make a lick of sense. I’m certain that if I went back to the beginning of the season and rewatched the episodes knowing exactly what I know now, this story line couldn’t withstand the least bit of logical scrutiny. Scandal is out over its skis, but to be honest, that’s often when the show is at its best.
The show hasn’t had this kind of momentum since early in season four, back when one of the plot points involved a teenage girl dry-swallowing the key to a rented locker to prevent the discovery of … a bunch of surreptitiously gathered photographs of Olivia. A day will come when the details of Scandal’s sixth season will sound just as stupid when condensed down into simple, declarative sentences. But there’s such a sense of mischief in this show’s storytelling that when it’s done right, the massive plot holes seem almost charming. The Abby reveal has that WTF quality Scandal is known for, a quality that relies on the audience having no clue what’s happening more than half the time.
But “A Traitor Among Us” doesn’t become a worthwhile investment until its last five minutes. Prior to that, it’s all Rowan Pope all the time, and it’s truly startling how quickly the show turns boring when he’s around. Olivia asks Huck to kill Rowan for shooting Frankie Vargas, though it’s unclear what killing Rowan would accomplish or why it would be any easier to do now when they’ve been trying to “take Command” for several years. Or why Olivia is so righteously angry about this murder when she was still having boozy dinners with Rowan despite his involvement in the deaths of Jerry Grant, Harrison Wright, and so many others. (Or, for that matter, whether dude’s name is Rowan or Eli and when it’s appropriate to use one versus the other.) If Rowan was going to die, it would have happened a long time ago, so the early scenes are dedicated to an assignment Huck obviously won’t complete.
Instead, Rowan convinces Huck to verify that two people are following him, now as ever, to control his every move and loom over Olivia as a threat. Rowan urges Huck to try to smoke out the mole within his own organization, and episode director Tom Verica does his best to visually represent Huck’s newly discovered layer of paranoia, but it’s hard to do a “who can you trust” montage about a workplace with four full-time employees. Huck’s campaign to unmask the mole leads to some nice character work between Guillermo Diaz and Katie Lowes as Huck and Quinn clash over his suspicion of her and their respective blind spots. Although they both have good reason not to trust anyone, their professional and personal lives require them to trust somebody sometime.
If Huck truly is dead, “A Traitor Among Us” makes for an appropriate farewell to the character. Especially if the lesson he represents — trust no one ever — turns Scandal back into a show where there are no friends, lovers, or allies, just tools the characters use to get where they’re trying to go.
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