To say that Scandal fans are very vocal about the ABC political fixer drama would be an understatement. But those devoted Gladiators took things to a whole new level after Thursday's shocking episode, in which Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) brutally killed James Novak (Dan Bucatinsky) in order to protect the Republic.
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Viewers were distraught that Jake had seemingly crossed a line by killing a character — and two other women — that they had come to care about. Even worse, this meant that fans' beloved Jake, who had become a love interest for Scandal's fearless leader Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), had gone to the dark side! Oh no!
But let's get something straight: Jake has been, and likely always will be, on the dark side. There was never an expectation that Jake was coming on the show as the hero. In fact, we pretty quickly found out the opposite when it was uncovered that he had planted video cameras throughout Olivia's apartment because he was spying on her for the President (Tony Goldwyn). Sure, some fans will argue that's when he fell in love with Olivia, but is love enough to make one a hero? We think not. There is no going back and suddenly becoming the knight in shining armor (with a white hat!) when you start a relationship off on that note.
And that was only when we thought Jake was in Naval Intelligence! Little did we know, he was full-fledged member of B613, that shady Black Ops division of the government that basically answers to no one. Anyone who gets hired there is the best of the best at what they do: Torturing and killing people. If you want to look at it another way, Huck (Guillermo Diaz) was a former B613 member, and no one views him as a hero.
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This is the very same company that Jake jumped at the chance to head up, fully knowing he'd have to go to great lengths to protect the Republic — like killing James and two other innocents. Again, fans will argue that Jake selflessly did the job himself, instead of pulling some damaged B613 recruit out of a hole to do the deed like Rowan (Joe Morton), the malevolent former head of B613, would've done. But that doesn't negate the fact that he's a cold-blooded killer. Sorry to say it so bluntly, but Jake was not full of sunshine and rainbows before he first came into our lives.
However, that doesn't make him a bad character. In fact, watching the progression of his relationship with Olivia and seeing how the moral implications of being part of B613 has weighed on him has been an enjoyable ride that's added a new depth to a show where most characters' backstories have been kept hidden for several seasons. And rooting for villains on Scandal is nothing new. Cyrus (Jeff Perry) is a total monster, having previously put a hit out on his own husband and ordered the assassination of Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil), and yet we cried alongside him when he did eventually lose his husband.
No matter which side you fall when it comes to Jake Ballard, his portrayer is not surprised by the intense reaction to Thursday's episode. "The fans are so loyal, so devoted and so passionate that I expect nothing but strong, line-toeing feelings on both sides of every story line," Foley tells TVGuide.com. "And specifically with regards to Jake's killing of James, not to mention the other two victims, I think that there was an adequate and understandable uproar from fans voicing their immediate dislike for what he'd done."
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"The Jake haters now have something to point at and say 'See, I knew it. I told you so.'" Foley continues. "And in the other direction there are those pragmatists who look at the situation and see a just outcome based on James' threat to the republic and Jake's job. It's what [executive producer] Shonda Rhimes and all of the writers on Scandal do so brilliantly."
How do you feel about Jake? Hit the comments, Gladiators!
Scandal airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.