Olivia Pope has all the power. But can she handle it?
The seventh and final season will focus on that "exploration of power," Washington told reporters during a set visit. But will she fully cross over to the dark side? Here's what you can expect from Scandal's final hurrah.
Guest stars: Jay Hernandez (Nashville), Shaun Toub (Homeland) and Hank Schrader himself, Dean Norris, will all recur this season. Details on all their characters are being kept under wraps, but Norris' alter ego will make his debut at Mellie's first state dinner. We can confirm at least one of them has a name, so we don't have to relive last season's Mystery Woman nightmare.
Balance of power: Is Liv gonna be donning a black hat now? In Season 7, Liv will attempt to reconcile her newly acquired power with her old white hat-wearing self. "I do believe in that saying, that fame doesn't change you; it reveals who you are," Washington says.
After having killed two vice presidents, you can argue that Liv is already on the dark side, or at least that there isn't a line she wouldn't cross. But Washington says Liv is trying to learn from the errors of her predecessors' ways. "She is going ... into this position having been able to watch a lot of people make a lot of mistakes. So hopefully she takes all of that wisdom with her and doesn't walk down those same paths."
A new B613: In the same vein, though Liv is following in Papa Pope's (Joe Morton) footsteps, she's going to try "to do a lot of things differently" when it comes to leading the clandestine organization. "I think what's most important [to her] is the republic," Washington says. "She's trying to be in this position of power and have it be a place of service where she is doing what's best to defend and protect and uphold this democratic republic."
Liv will attempt to deploy some alternative methods in the season premiere on a case that ensnares both the White House and QPA. In her father's eyes, though, Liv can't keep this up.
"He keeps telling her, 'You can't have it all.' That's what the teaser is, 'You can't have it all.' That's what his worry is. When you have that much power you lose a sense of morality," Morton says. "She keeps saying it's different. We'll find out. B613 is basically an organization of assassins, amongst other things. To be chief of staff at the White House and to be head of B613 — it's never been like that before. When I was head of B613, it was just that. Even though the pay grade was above the president, there were checks and balances and now there's none."
A Mellivia White House: After finally achieving her lifelong dream, Mellie, still in the afterglow of her groundbreaking win as the first female president, wants to be best president she can be. She'll be leaning on both Cyrus — of whom she's so "appreciative" because of his politicking abilities, Young says — and Liv for support and guidance. But with Mellie still in the dark about Liv's B613 gig — let alone the fact that Cyrus was behind the whole Vargas assassination plot — there'll be a lot of compromises she will have to make.
"I think not a moment goes by that she isn't so grateful that she got there with Olivia. She feels formidable — them as a team, like there's nothing they can't do," Young says. "She just has no idea that this is just Olivia's day job, that Olivia's living this whole other life, and that Olivia got into either of those positions. There's so much kerosene they're both sitting on and they're just one match flick away from absolute explosion. It's interesting to watch [us] really do the dance of 'Sure, I'll give you that one.' 'Oh, I got to give that one up.' The chief of staff is always running things, but it's very next level with Olivia."
Still, Mellie believes that Liv truly, sincerely has her back, especially when it affects the greater good of the country — for now at least. "I think Mellie thinks she's in a complicated partnership with an amazing woman and of course compromise is hard won," Young says. "So I think she enjoys the conflict because she knows they'll get to an answer that is better than either one of them could've come up with alone, but poor, sweet Mellie has absolutely no idea the wolf sitting across from her in that regard."
Olitz vs. Olake: Olivia and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) shared a very public smooch on the White House lawn as he departed for Vermont in the Season 6 finale. When Season 7 opens, he's still in the Green Mountain State, where he's opened his presidential library with Marcus (Cornelius Smith Jr.). "I can tell you that it won't be all fly-fishing and jam-making for Fitz and Marcus," Goldwyn teases. "They will be sucked somehow back into the vortex of the Scandal universe."
Jake (Scott Foley), meanwhile, is in much closer proximity to Liv in D.C. and still believes they're MFEO. (Good luck with that.) "I don't think Jake ever thinks it's done," Foley says. Whatever the nature of their relationship is, however, is complicated by the fact that Liv is now his boss.
"For Jake, it's a delicate balance," he says. "[It] can lead to some interesting situations down the line, relationship wise — both on the professional and personal front. I think Jake is doing his best to be very cautious with how both he and she proceed at this point. This is new territory. This is new ground. It's going to be very dangerous."
As for Liv, she's most definitely not looking for anything serious at the moment while she's running the world. "I don't know if she sees men as a weakness, but anything that jeopardizes her ability to show up for the republic is potentially a problem," Washington says. "The relationships are not the most important thing right now unless that relationship serves and enhances her ability to wield her power in a way that she needs to."
The new QPA: OPA is now QPA with Quinn (Katie Lowes) in charge, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) back in the fold, and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) and Charlie (George Newbern, now a series regular) rounding out the crew. The firm is still struggling to find its new voice and direction, not to mention clients, sans Olivia Pope. But Quinn is stepping up to the challenge.
"I think Quinn is super amazing at the job. She's the fastest freakin' talker too," Diaz says. "It feels really good sort of being bossed around by Quinn and she's on top of stuff. She's getting the job [done], she's getting the clients."
Beyond the premiere, there'll be more storylines that blend the White House and QPA worlds together, which will allow Abby to utilize her political know-how from her days as Fitz's chief of staff. "The writers are taking advantage of that being the history of Abby and that's being called upon," Stanchfield says. "I think all the gladiators are getting creative in how we're drumming up business."
Baby and wedding bells: Quinn will give birth to her and Charlie's first child (Lowes' pregnancy was written into the show), but a wedding might be more up in the air. Or at least the pomp and circumstance of wedding festivities. Charlie has become a bridezilla, while Quinn is hemming and hawing over setting a date.
"I know Charlie is obsessed with the details of the actual event," Newbern says. "He's like a dog on a bone. He's like that voice in the corner in the room. He has an idea of what a normal life is or what he thinks a normal life is, so I think he's obsessed on at least checking that box and getting that done. And then he'll probably go back to slitting somebody's throat if he has to. I think it's maybe a life goal, like, 'I wanna see if I can get that done.'"
Scandal premieres Thursday at 9/8c on ABC.
Additional reporting by Megan Vick