House of Cards / Scandal VS. Helix / The Walking Dead

I am EXHAUSTED, in large part thanks to the BET Network, Shonda Rhimes and her merry band of preternatural writers, who seem to believe that the cliffhanger shouldn’t be reserved for the end of the show, but for every commercial break until the end of the episode.  They dare you to look away, and I took them up on that dare.  I lost.  My children were fed this weekend, I just don’t remember how it happened – but I suspect it took place between commercial breaks (#leftoversrock). BET aired a monster marathon this past weekend, to help fans catch up before the new season starts.  I am both thankful, and trying to figure out how to get up for work on Monday morning.

The exhaustion I feel is not physical, but psychological.  It’s so clear to me that #Scandal writers are determined to not give way to one good clear moment for the audience to catch its collective breath before they throw another twist or turn our way.  They give you moments that you know have to be significant (such as Olivia repeatedly playing back the morning her mother disappeared, while rocking herself in an upright fetal position) but they refuse to let you in, until it’s time for you to figure it out.  Paraphrasing Papa Pope in his speech to ( President) Fitz, “You are on a need to know, and this goes way above your pay grade” dear viewers.

As I watched the madness that is Huck, I found myself wondering if he was playing Quinn in the hopes of drawing out the people who were blackmailing her – understanding that she was probably under surveillance.  Maybe he knew she’d been set up and couldn’t tell her that he was on her side, there to protect her.  I held on to that hope until the second he pulled the first tooth and told her that he was going to make sure she felt pain.  Papa Pope is a hero?  Mama Maya is a terrorist?  He loves and is protecting his daughter, her cherished mother would slit her throat and not look back?  I am in a tailspin.  Cyrus set his own husband up to be used and James is now learning how to play the game?  Innocence lost.  Veep Sally has killed her husband and is only reprimanded for making the first phone call to the wrong person?  Crazy on Steroids! Where do you go with that?  How can any of these people be saved, pulled back from the legend?  I am driven to distraction waiting for the season premier to see if the writers will give us a clue.

Between Scandal and House of Cards, I don’t know that the difference in carnage is all that disparate from Helix and The Walking Dead (evisceration, endless violence, without ever being able to fill hunger or meet needs).  If there is one lesson both of the above political dramas teaches us, is that we don’t need the monsters of Helix and The Walking Dead to make us  afraid.  Dehumanization doesn’t have to take place at the hands of the scariest (and most soulless) monsters science fiction has to offer, it can sometimes take place at hands of people who appear, on the surface, at least, to be just like the rest of us. The Vectors of Helix, the Walkers of The Walking Dead are easy for us to identify.  We know them when we see them.  We cannot tell who the monsters are when watching House of Cards or Scandal and if we lived in those worlds, we wouldn’t know how to defend ourselves.  On the positive side, our political dramas do us a favor by allowing us to go into denial about the state of the political world crafted by gifted writers.  We can pretend that the world could never be that corrupt.  The monsters of Scandal and House of Cards are small “m” and not capital “M”.  We are safe without worrying who is crawling in the vent, or making inhuman noises behind us, maybe.

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