Scandalhas never shied away from shocking storylines, but Season 3, Episode 8: "Everything's Coming Up Mellie" threw us a curveball we never saw coming. No, we're not talking about Olivia's mom being alive (come on, we've watched TV before… that was predictable) — we're talking, of course, about the fact that a young and far more innocent Mellie was raped by Fitz's skeezeball father, Fitz Grant II.
While we didn't expect that particular flashback revelation, it makes sense in a sick, sad way. Finally, we were shown exactly how the Mellie of the past became the Mellie we know today. The moment she decided to keep her mouth shut and use her horrific experience to manipulate Fitz's father into helping Fitz's election, she was inextricably bound to her husband's career; she went from supportive wife to woman who would do whatever it takes to make her husband president. That was Mellie making the kind of decision you don't look back from.
Using something as devastating and sensitive as rape as a plot device is always a tricky prospect. Obviously, it is a real and terrible thing that happens in the world, and storytellers shouldn't shy away from harsh truths. On the other hand, it's easy to sensationalize and trivialize real trauma if you're not careful, and many shows use it in an upsettingly throwaway manner.
We felt that Scandal handled the topic well, using Mellie's experience to paint a fuller picture of an already complicated and compelling character. However, we're aware many fans disagree, and found the plotline a cheap and offensive way to try to drum up sympathy for a character that some have found hard to like.
What do you think: did this twist go too far, or was it daring and provocative?
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Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Game of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars, and genre TV expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!