'Scandal' Case Study: Shonda Rhimes on the Intense Finale, What's Next in Season 2

The Newcomer

Katie Lowes' Quinn provides the gateway for viewers into the world of Olivia Pope & Associates. "She asks the questions that the audience needs the answer to; she's been thrown into the firepit of these scandals and she's the last person to know," Lowes says. "Quinn is very much being thrown into this world that she knows nothing about and left a high-profile clerkship in D.C. before working for Olivia, who is her dream role model/woman in life."

[WARNING: This story contains spoilers from the season finale of Scandal.]

Quinn isn't only a member of Pope & Associates, she's also a client.

During Thursday's season finale of Scandal, the ABC political fixer drama wrapped its freshman run with an intense hour that saw Olivia (Kerry Washington) take Quinn (Katie Lowes) on as a client, Gideon's (Brendan Hines) fate revealed, Billy (Matt Letscher) make a startling accusation against Fitz, Mellie (Bellamy Young) step up to save her husband's butt and Cyrus (Jeff Perry) perhaps make the biggest reveal of the series.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Shonda Rhimes to discuss the intense season finale and what's next for the mysterious Quinn, whether Billy is alive or dead and how long Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia could be kept apart.

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The Hollywood Reporter: First question: Seriously, who is Quinn Perkins? We've been waiting all season to find out.
Shonda Rhimes:
When we come back for Season 2, we'll be telling you who Quinn Perkins is. That's my answer. That's what I told the network as well. So, it's no different for them either.

The scene where Quinn is in shock after Gideon dies -- Olivia says that they can't call the police because they'll find out who Quinn really is. Is this the first time that Quinn realizes that Olivia knows exactly who she is?
Yes. That's the moment where Quinn realizes that Olivia knows; it's not a discussion that we see happen.

How will Season 2 explore their relationship and why Olivia wanted her to join the firm?
I have some very strong ideas about where we're going and what the stories are. This was always part of the plan. We tried to seed it in from the beginning with her asking why she hired her, and then the idea that Quinn didn't exist for a while. This idea that Quinn sprang from nowhere is going to be a big deal as we move into the next round of episodes.

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Why would David, who wouldn't break the law to nail Billy Chambers for Gideon's death, do so now to protect Quinn? Does David have romantic feelings for Olivia?
It comes down to what he's found out, what his concerns are and his feelings for Olivia and his trust for her and trust he has in her. It's interesting, I don't think that this is a romantic show. This isn't a show in which we're going to be watching a bunch of couples get together. Somebody actually tweeted me, "Can we get a love interest for Huck? He needs someone." This isn't a show in which we're going to be watching Huck fall in love. Olivia and David have amazing chemistry and I love watching them together; that's going to be something that's very enduring. Is it going to turn into something romantic? I don't know.

Could anyone find out that Cyrus was the one who took the hit out on Amanda?
You hope so, right? I hope so.

Is Billy really dead? You see him in the elevator with Charlie but then you don't see …
... exactly what happened. Exactly! That is a question.

If Olivia finds out that Billy is, perhaps, dead, could she assume it's Huck who did the deed? Could that create friction between them?
Yes. That's one of my favorite moments in the finale: Olivia telling him, "Say it. Say, 'I will not kill Billy.' " I love that because it's one of those moments where earlier in the series she said, "You let a pit bull off its leash, it mauls a baby, no one blames the dog. You let Cyrus off his leash." That's what she says to the president. That's exactly what she then does in the exact same episode to Huck: She lets Huck off his leash. Babies are getting mauled and no one's going to blame Huck in a lot of ways. It's really on Olivia that she has taken Huck's sobriety in a way. I think it's going to be interesting.

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Mellie tells the press that it was her on the sex tape when she knows otherwise and that she and Fitz will begin trying to get pregnant again in a bid to save his presidency. Why does Olivia allow Mellie to take charge of that situation? That seems so completely out of character for her.

It's not though. What's interesting is the idea that there are two choices: Fitz's choice, which is, "I'm going to resign and you and I can be together." I always love that we heard Cyrus give the nightmare scenario of what happens if Fitz resigns. Then Cyrus basically says, "Some men are meant to be great, they're not necessarily meant to be happy." There is a certain truth to that. The idea that Fitz was created for a higher purpose, that this is what his calling has been, that he can't run off and be with a girl as opposed to running the country feels very true to that. I love that Olivia gets caught up in the idea that maybe she can have him. What Stephen says to her, "You can't have him," I walk around saying that to him all the time because I love that moment.

She can't have him; it's not something that can happen. For her, it's about making a deal with Mellie. She has to go make a deal with the devil to keep the president the president. The only person as interested in keeping Fitz in office other than Olivia and Cyrus is Mellie and she's going to do whatever it takes. I love the moment when she says she's taking her husband back. In a lot of ways for me it's also that moment when you realize that Fitz never could have strayed unless Mellie had let him. She's in control of that relationship. Fitz doesn't do a single thing to fight it. It's the most damning moment for him. Mellie says, "Here's what we're going to do. Olivia's standing behind me." Instead of him saying, "Absolutely not. I'm not doing this. This is not what's happening. I'm taking a stand," he goes along with it because Mellie and Olivia are deciding what happens. Mellie and Olivia are the ones in charge.

What does that say about him as a president? Especially when he turns it around and does the same thing with the vice president.

He is a great president and he is one of the best politicians in the world. Is he great man? Is he a wonderful husband? Who he is publicly and who he is privately are two very different things. Yes, he does turn around and blackmail the vice president and cut her off at the knees. But it's because, as he said -- as he tells Olivia -- "You've taught me well." He knows what to do.

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He uses Sally's daughter's pregnancy against her. Why all the sudden does he suddenly want to play dirty? Is this more of the impact of Cyrus' speech or is this Mellie's influence?
What I like about the show is that people do what needs to be done for a greater good. Whether that greater good involves mowing down people in the process, that's not our question. We don't have people doing good just for good's sake. Fitz believes that his job is to maintain his presidency and that involves getting the vice president in line. This is the information they have that gets the vice president in line. He's willing to deliver it if it needs to be delivered.

Mellie blamed Olivia for the whole shebang, noting that Amanda Tanner wouldn't have happened had she not left the White House. How much will that weigh on Olivia's mind in Season 2? Does she really fault herself?
Possibly. It presumes an idea that might be hard for a lot of people to swallow: the president is not the person who has any of the power in this situation. The idea that Mellie could say, "You let that girl get into his pants because you left and basically weren't there to be there for him," suggests such a weakness on the part of the president or such a dismissal of his ability to take responsibility for his own actions. I don't necessarily know if it's going to weigh heavily on Olivia or not. She's actually probably one of the few people who hold the president fully accountable for his behavior.

Despite Fitz's two affairs, we're still somehow rooting for him. How long can they be kept apart?
I feel like I'm about to say something that's very Bill Clinton. But it depends on what your definition of apart is. Like, the idea of them being apart: they were apart all season but I didn't feel like they were apart. Are they going to go live in a farmhouse and hold hands? No. I wouldn't even want to watch the show if that's what was going to happen. But are they going to possibly find ways to meet up and we're going to explore the tension that exists between them? Absolutely.

During the final scene of the episode, Olivia hands the White House guard her badge. Is she out for good this time?
She hands in her hard pass and I think she believes she's out for good. Absolutely. 

What do you think happened to Billy? Do you think Olivia is done with the White House for good this time? Hit the comments! Scandal was renewed for a second season and will return midseason.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit