'Scandal' Takes On Institutionalized Racism And Police Brutality In Ferguson-Inspired Episode

03/05/2015 10:39 pm ET | Updated Mar 06, 2015

Thursday night's "Scandal" focused on the shooting of an unarmed black teen named Brandon Parker in Washington, D.C., less than two miles from the White House. In the episode, called "The Lawn Chair," tensions run high as the boy's father positions himself in front of his son's body with a shotgun, refusing to move from the crime scene. Mere days after being held hostage and auctioned on the black market, Olivia Pope is brought on the help the police force manage the incident. She works to avoid a riot, but soon finds herself disillusioned by the people she is defending.

It doesn't take long for Liv to be swayed by the injustice, and she joins forces with the activist leading the crowd surrounding Brandon and his father Clarence. "Stand up. Fight back. No more black men under attack," she chants.

She then does some classic Olivia Pope maneuvering to convince Attorney General David Rosen to grant a subpoena for footage of the altercation. "That man standing over his son's body thinks he's going to end up in one or two places: jail or a drawer in the morgue ... I lived in complete fear" she says to Rosen, referencing her too-recent kidnapping. "Imagine living like that every single day of your life."

When they finally get the tape, the video shows Brandon reaching for something in his jacket. The police claim he had a knife, and, sure enough, a knife is found on his body. But his father is outraged. "He doesn't carry a knife," he says, over and over.

Through her usual super-human powers, Liv is able to prove the knife did not belong to Brandon -- it was evidence from an earlier arrest; Brandon was just reaching for a receipt -- and puts the offending office behind bars. "What the hell is it with you people? Yeah, you people," the (unabashedly racist) policeman who shot Brandon yells at Olivia when she confronts him at the station. "You people have no idea what loyalty is, what respect is. You're here because you were supposed to help us and you spend every second of it trying to tear me down and push your own damn agenda." It's a sobering moment where the camera finds the black officers in the room, focusing on each of their faces as the cop spews his racist agenda.

During the final moments of the episode, Nina Simone plays in the background and Liv tells Clarence the officer is behind bars. Justice is served. She then brings him to the White House and the episode closes with Clarence crying in President Fitz's arms. A final shot shows Brandon being zipped into a body bag.

"In the end, we went with showing what fulfilling the dream SHOULD mean," Shonda Rhimes tweeted at the end of the episode. "The idea of possibility. And the despair we feel now." Here's what Kerry Washington and the rest of Twitter had to say:

Suggest a correction