[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday's episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk!]
The President of the United States is... a murderer! Yes, Fitzgerald Grant took a life. Even if that life was going to be cut short soon anyway, it's still murder!
Thursday's episode of Scandal — which would've served as a season finale had ABC not picked up the political fixer drama for a full season — revealed who really put the hit out on Fitz (Tony Goldwyn): It was Verna (Debra Mooney)! Shocker! She revealed the betrayal to the President on her deathbed, filling him in on the why: The Illuminati — Olivia (Kerry Washington), Cyrus (Jeff Perry), Mellie (Bellamy Young), Hollis (Gregg Henry) and Verna — had rigged the election that won him the White House. But she planned on also revealing the news to David Rosen (Joshua Malina), who would finally have the hard evidence he needed to blow this scandal wide open. Faced with the possibility of having his legacy tarnished, Fitz decided to eliminate the problem and kill Verna instead. Gasp!
But our hearts really broke when Fitz, who earlier in the episode asked Olivia to wait for him, went back on his word. This led Olivia to deduce that the POTUS had uncovered the truth. Sad face!
So what's next for Olivia & Co.? TVGuide.com caught up with executive producer Shonda Rhimes to get the dish on how Fitz will deal with the Illuminati, Scott Foley's juicy new role and (wait for it!) a new, more kickass Quinn (Katie Lowes)! Check it out:
Are the remaining members of the Illuminati now off the hook for being formally charged with election rigging?
Shonda Rhimes: David has painted himself into a corner and gotten himself into a hole that he can probably never get out of. He's probably no longer the threat that he was. For now, things are peaceful. We're coming into the next episode not suggesting that everything is fine, but when you come back 10 months later, you see where things have gotten.
How is Fitz a different president now knowing this and having murdered Verna?
Rhimes: The betrayal he experienced was really damaging, more so from Olivia than anybody else. Mainly because Olivia, the one person who believed in him, voting to rig the election, basically said, "Everything your father ever said about you is true," in psychobabble terms. For him, it's a really damaging moment. He's a different kind of president. I think, in a weird way, he might be a better president because he has just a different attitude towards everything. He's definitely doing a lot of this on his own, which I think is interesting. Who he feels like he can lean on and who he can trust comes into play when we come back in this next episode. You really see them all dealing with: Is Fitz confident now?
Fitz is staying with Mellie?! Why does she get a pass? Is it because he expects something like this from her?
Rhimes: I think there are two things. One, you know that Mellie is a monster in his mind ... so it doesn't hurt when Mellie does something like this because that's who Mellie is. He thought Liv was somebody else and something else. He thought it wasn't about him being president, that it was about her caring about him. It wasn't about ambition and the search for power. It was about their relationship. Two, I also think that in the guilt that comes from having killed Verna, [he feels that] Mellie [is] all he deserves. That's what that was about. When he says, "No matter who I am and what I've done," Mellie can't judge because she's just as bad in a lot of ways.
How is Olivia dealing with her role in this betrayal 10 months down the road?
Rhimes: What I love about Olivia Pope is that she's still Olivia Pope and she's found her ways to cope with this and deal with it. We come back 10 months later and the wounds are that much deeper — they're 10 months deeper, not 10 months healed, for all of them. But everybody is coping. Olivia is not a curl-up-in-the-corner-and-cry kind of person. She's doing what needs to be done. She actually has a scene where she talks about how she's coping. And she is, very well. That relationship is never going to go away.
What was the decision behind the 10-month jump?
Rhimes: Ten months feel like just the right amount of time for Olivia and Fitz not to be catatonic. It just felt right emotionally, and a political season could've gone by and people have gotten their act together. You come back in the middle of things and discover where people are emotionally and what's happened to them. You discover what's happened to David since you left him.
What can you tell us about the charge to the finale in the second half of the season?
Rhimes: It's an off-shoot of, and part of the consequences of, Defiance, in a way. That's how it begins, anyway. It's something that grows larger and is more twisted than you'd expect. We introduce Scott Foley's character, [Jake Weston], in the first episode back. He's got a pretty great entrance, and he turns out to be a really interesting character from the moment we meet him to the moment we leave him at the end of the episode. He's a very complex and interesting character who's going to shake things up for us a little bit.
Any truth to the rumor that he may be a love interest for Olivia?
Rhimes: That's an interesting rumor. It's possible. I don't know that Olivia is emotionally ready to have a love interest at this point.
Speaking of her love life, is Edison (Norm Lewis) gone for good?
Rhimes: I never say anybody is gone for good on this show because you never know. Will we be seeing him any time in the foreseeable future? Not for a little while.
Since you say the second half of the season is a consequence of the first half, could we see the return of Governor Reston (Tom Amandes), whom Fitz stole the presidency from?
Rhimes: I don't think the second half is a consequence in a way that you think, but it's possible that we could see Governor Reston. It's interesting because Reston is a murderer himself, so it's not like he's the most delightful guy in the world who should've been president. We like Governor Reston and he was a great foil, so it's possible we might see him.
Turning to Cyrus, he almost had his own husband (Dan Bucatinsky) killed and he had Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil) killed. When does he start paying for these sins?
Rhimes: I don't know that he does. We're not telling a moral story here where at the end, people get their just deserts. Not yet anyway and not for a very long time. A lot of the time, Cyrus is one of our protagonists. You're rooting for Cyrus. Sometimes Cyrus is our villain, but sometimes he's not, so I don't necessarily know that Cyrus pays for anything.
Will he have to be accountable to Fitz for the election rigging?
Rhimes: I think they're all paying for that, including Fitz. Part of what Thursday's episode was about was that nobody is all good and nobody is all bad. Everybody in this world is light and dark. So they're all paying for it in their own way.
Quinn made the choice to stay with the Gladiators, but will she finally get some closure?
Rhimes: When we come back, Quinn has taken a really interesting journey. Huck [Guillermo Diaz] has really taken her under his wing and is training her to do what he does right now. So you come back to a fairly different Quinn. She's a lot darker than she was and she's much more his right hand. We've had a lot of fun with these episodes watching the evolution of Quinn as she works with Huck. It's been really nice to see. She's not as naïve as she was, her innocence is gone and she's let it go.
Were you surprised that Fitz killed Verna? Are you sad about Fitz and Olivia not being together again? Hit the comments!
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Scandal airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.