Welcome to Shondaland, the world of strong female characters, complicated love stories, and absolutely horrible parents. It’s a world in which being the leading lady means a few things are certain: You will have an epic love, you will be excellent at your job, and you will have atrocious parents who will cause you tremendous amounts of pain. Take Grey’s Anatomy‘s Meredith Grey and Scandal‘s Olivia Pope, for example. Mer has McDreamy; Olivia has Fitz. Mer is a respected surgeon; Olivia is the best “fixer” around. Mer’s parents are/were awful; Olivia’s parents are/were awful.
And after Thursday night’s Scandal, in which we learned the truth about Olivia’s mom, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Whose parents are worse? Meredith’s or Olivia’s? Let’s break it down.
Ten years ago, we were introduced to Meredith Grey. She was a dark-and-twisty surgical intern who had unknowingly slept with one of the hospital’s attendings just hours before her first day. As the seasons went on and we learned more about Mer’s dark side, we discovered that just about all her scars could be traced back to her childhood. Her mother, Ellis Grey, was one of the best surgeons of her time. She was dedicated to her work, which meant she wasn’t exactly cut out for motherhood. She pushed Meredith aside starting at a young age. And as Meredith aged, she simply learned that no matter what she did, she would never live up to her mother’s standards. Let’s just say Ellis never would have won Mother of the Year. Ever.
And then there was Meredith’s father: the passive Thatcher Grey. After Ellis started an affair with fellow surgeon Richard Webber, Thatcher walked away from his family. He didn’t fight for Meredith. Instead, he met a new woman, remarried, and started a new family. It wasn’t until his second wife, Susan, helped him reconnect with Meredith that they started to try and build a relationship, a process that was cut short when Susan suddenly passed away under Meredith’s care. Upon finding out about his wife’s passing, Thatcher did the one thing Meredith didn’t expect, and it is a scene that has stuck with me to this day: He slapped her.
After that, Thatcher became a good-for-nothing drunk who would later clean himself up with the help of a 20-something girlfriend. But leave it to Thatch to show back up at the hospital years later in need of a liver transplant that only Meredith could give him. She, of course, did. But we don’t know much about Thatch since then. My guess: After Lexie died, he went off the edge again, and now, he’s drinking himself into a stupor somewhere dark and alone.
Meredith only overcame her many childhood scars after a year of intense therapy, along with a little help from a very dreamy man and her bestie, Cristina. However, despite all of that trauma, I’m not so sure Meredith Grey has the worst parents on television. I’m not even sure she has the worst parents in Shondaland.
Let’s take a trip from Washington to Washington D.C. — where the actors behind Meredith’s parents, Kate Burton and Jeff Perry, reappear as Vice President Sally Langston and Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene! Despite the fact that there are still many questions to be answered about Olivia Pope’s parents on Scandal, we now know enough to officially state that they aren’t the greatest role models.
When Olivia was 12, her mother died in a plane crash (or so we thought). Olivia was raised by her father, who she thought worked at the Smithsonian. But it turned out that Eli Pope was less of an art-lover and more of the leader of B613, the government’s top secret killer spy organization. He trained people to become killing machines, and when they disobeyed orders, much like Huck did once, he would torture them in “the hole.” They would live for months, even years, in a dark hole with nothing to do, no one to talk to. He ruined people.
If that wasn’t bad enough, we recently discovered that he once ordered the murder of 329 people when he had a plane shot down that Liv believed her mother was on. Twist: Eli had gotten Olivia’s mother off the plane before it was shot down, but had since been keeping her captive in a prison for the last 20 years. Basically, Olivia’s father being “command” of B613 makes him the biggest, baddest, scariest guy on the planet.
And considering Olivia’s mother didn’t die on that plane crash, we just recently became acquainted with Mama Pope, a.k.a. Maya. Just last night, she saw Olivia for the first time in 20 years. Maya had managed to escape Eli’s grasp just long enough to find Olivia, who was determined to get her mother safely out of the country. Olivia pulled all the strings she had — including getting the POTUS to pull an alias named Marie off the no-fly list. Marie, of course, had Maya’s picture and a bunch of what they thought were bogus terrorist charges.
But just as Liv’s mother pulled away on a plane to Hong Kong, Olivia remembered a phone call she got the day her mother left when she was 12. A man had asked for a woman named Marie. It wasn’t an alias; her mother was a known terrorist, and her father had been right about trying to keep her in the country. What this means for Olivia’s father, in terms of how evil he is, I’m not sure. Although I am sure that he’s still the head of a very bad organization, and I’m also sure that he’ll never win Father of the Year.
So in Shondaland, who gets your vote for worst parents? Olivia’s are certainly bad on a bigger scale — terrorist and head of government spy organization — but at least Olivia wasn’t scarred with their demons when she was young. And I do think they both actually love her (in their own way). Meredith, on the other hand, had a workaholic mom and an alcoholic dad who showed her basically no affection. Sure, they’re not as flashy, but they definitely left a mark on Meredith that still affects her and the things she worries about now that she herself is a mother.
So the question is …