ABC's "Scandal" finale closed the climactic second season with the show's biggest bombshell yet: the mysterious Rowan (Joe Morton), the B613 boss who has been threatening Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and giving Jake (Scott Foley) his orders, is also Olivia Pope's (Kerry Washington) father. Move over, Darth Vader.
"When we read it, we were just really blown away," Washington told The Huffington Post on the red carpet for the Television Academy's "Scandal" live table read on May 16. "What's funny is that the writers do that to us every week and then we pay it forward [to the audience]."
"I knew all along," Morton smugly revealed to a packed house during the cast Q&A that followed the table read.
"When Joe Morton walked in the room for the very first episode that he appeared in, I almost had a heart attack, because I grew up in a household where Joe Morton is a great American hero," Washington said. "He is the first guest star that we've had that I literally called home about." (Foley feigned indignation at this point, to which Washington responded that her family members were bigger fans of "Brother from Another Planet" than "Felicity.")
"Every week I would say to Joe, 'Oh, I really hope we have some scenes together,' and he would smile and go, 'Do we? Do you think we do?'" Washington laughed.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, creator Shonda Rhimes conceived the character as a means of giving the audience some insight into who Olivia is outside of work. "I've been toying with [Rowan being Olivia's father] a lot since the beginning of the second season. A lot of it was about revealing some of Olivia's past and about revealing who Olivia's father was in general, what that meant and who her mother was."
“There’s a lot of talk in the room about why Olivia has such man issues. She makes very, very, very bad choices,” Rhimes told EW. “Part of bringing [Rowan] on was to open up her world a little bit, but it also revealed another piece of Olivia’s past.”
But since Rowan has been playing puppet-master for half the season, that means he's responsible for orchestrating a lot of questionable -- if not downright life-threatening -- situations for his daughter. "B613 did seem to be trying to kill her, kind of," Rhimes conceded to THR. "At the very least, Rowan was trying to get Jake to have sex with her and then make a tape of it, which seems creepy on many levels, right? At the very least that's a little disturbing on many, many levels. I don't know if they were trying to kill her, that's up to interpretation."
Rhimes confirmed that there wouldn't be much of a time-jump between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3, telling THR, "I was really adamant about the fact that if we were going to end the season with the idea that Liv has been somehow outed by some unknown force and we meet her dad, we couldn't then just say we're going to jump ahead and cheat the audience of what all that meant."
The executive producer also teased that there was originally a scene towards the end of the episode that would've shown Olivia and Fitz rekindling their forbidden romance after Olivia insisted that she couldn't leave her team at Olivia Pope and Associates, "but the problem with it was that Olivia put the white hat back on and emotionally you had felt like she had found her inner core after losing it so badly. It felt like a cheat; that we were cheating her out of trying to do something good," Rhimes told TV Guide.
Still, as Rhimes pointed out to THR, "There's no forever in Shondaland," and while Fitz and Olivia might be separated for now, that might not always be the case. As Tony Goldwyn told us on the red carpet, "He loves Olivia more than he loves being president, he believes that his destiny is to be with Olivia. But he loves being president and he does feel that that's part of his destiny as well. He wants to find a way to have his cake and eat it too, and is very determined to do that. But he chose, and he chose her, and that's real."
Speaking to TV Guide, Rhimes observed that "[Mellie] took him back in the end, but that was a little bit like a boy coming home to his mama, wasn't it? It wasn't a romantic coming home. That's going to be a very interesting dynamic when we come back next season."
"Fitz has this weird relationship with Mellie, because I appreciate her, I have deep respect for her intellect and her potential, and yet I have contempt for her blind ambition," Goldwyn told HuffPost TV before the table read. "I love her and I hate her and I admire her, I have very complicated feelings about her, and yet … she's the mother of my children so I honor her as such. I feel like Fitz is determined, if he can set Mellie on a path towards the truth, then this will all get sorted out, because he feels like their relationship was corrupt from its beginning. He's committed to reality, he's willing to face that. He's committed to Olivia, he's committed to forcing Mellie to deal in reality, and ultimately I think he would want Mellie to be happy. He doesn't hate Mellie."
Bellamy Young admitted that Mellie is still holding out hope that Fitz will love her the way she loves him, telling us on the red carpet, "What we do in long relationships is assume that the other person doesn't change; we still operate from a place that when we fell in love with them, they thought and acted like this. And I think Mellie's guilty of that in so many ways, and Fitz has been transformed by this love with Olivia. So he really is a different person now and Mellie can't accept it. Mellie is still in the ring, still punching away, trying to get her love back. She doesn't quite accept that you cannot force someone to love you."
Fitz has said and done some pretty terrible things this season, and yet Mellie has continued to pine for him, so we asked Young whether there's anything Fitz could do that would change her feelings towards him. "Like life, we never know what's around the bend in these scripts, and I don't know," she admitted. "I will never say never. I know her love for him is so deep and so true, but I think Mellie's open to evolution. I hope that she finds peace in her heart one way or the other. I know that love can transform, so maybe she can love him in different ways and accept that he doesn't want to be her partner in this life. What I know for sure is that Shonda will think of something so much smarter than I would ever think of."
After half a season of lies and manipulation, the finale saw Jake reveal himself to be a hero at heart, saving Olivia's life once more before surrendering to Rowan and allowing himself to be thrown into the hole that caused Huck (Guillermo Diaz) to lose his sanity, as we saw in "Seven-Fifty-Two."
Before the episode aired, Foley admitted, "Everybody who we know who's been in B613, from Huck to Charlie [George Newbern], they all seem to want out, they all seem to be in a position where they don't like their job. And maybe Jake's in the same position -- if they want out, why wouldn't he? They seem like they loved their jobs at one point. I think Jake has, to a degree, taken matters into his own hands in regards to what both Fitz and Rowan have asked him to do, and I think we'll see the consequences for that, and that may or may not end Jake as we know him."
He wasn't lying -- and while Rhimes wouldn't reveal anything about Jake's ultimate fate at the Q&A, Foley's character seems far too compelling to be relegated to the hole forever, especially since it seemed like Olivia was finally starting to come to terms with her own feelings for him in the finale. "It's complicated -- it's a complicated relationship, for sure," Washington laughed on the red carpet.
For his part, Foley is hoping Jake will get the chance for a proper interaction with Huck, as they're both B613 rebels who care for our head Gladiator. "I think that'd be interesting, to have the two of them sit down and hash it out. Who loves Olivia more, Huck or Jake? Fitz needs to go back to his wife and calm down," he teased before the panel.
What did you think of the "Scandal" season finale? Do you want to see more of Jake? Do you think Rowan was really trying to kill Olivia? Are you still rooting for Olivia and Fitz? Weigh in below!