Per usual, Scandal Season 6 opened with a lot of spinning plates — an assassination, an illegitimate-ish president-elect, and Olivia Pope suffering the unique indignity of losing her ex-metamour's presidential campaign. But amidst all that, it also cooked up a new love affair, which is actually pretty compelling, if potentially doomed from the start. But even if the show is setting them up for disaster, there are plenty of reasons why Mellie and Marcus are the Scandal couple to root for this season.
Marcus Walker has gone from a civil rights activist having an affair with the D.C. mayor's wife, to a gladiator with Olivia Pope & Associates, to White House press secretary in just two seasons. That stings for Mellie, especially, because she's basically hanging out at rock bottom after narrowly losing her bid for the Oval, where Marcus will now be enjoying plenty of time as a staffer for Cyrus.
We first saw their spark ignite during a flashback to Mellie's race. As her campaign manager, Olivia apparently shuttered OPA for election season and diverted the talents of her entire firm to help Mellie secure the presidential nomination. With his knack for PR, Marcus helped Mellie shed her snobby, perfectionistic, unapproachable facade by convincing her to read mean tweets about herself on Kimmel. It almost killed her, but Mellie was rewarded for powering through her humiliation with better polling numbers.
It looks like Marcus kept deploying this particular skill with Mellie for the rest of her campaign, too, as we saw when he convinced her to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game. Usually, when we see a power struggle play out in a Scandal couple, it's between two powerful people each trying to best the other. What makes Mellie and Marcus' relationship different in the Scandal universe is Mellie's financial and political power, but Marcus's social, intellectual, and emotional prowess. Mellie is smart, capable, and ambitious, but she needs someone to teach her empathy, tenderness, and the importance of cutting herself some slack, as well as others.
Marcus doesn't have the money or influence that Mellie has, but he has the capacity to coax out a more authentic Mellie, the woman she really is behind her perfectly constructed, southern debutante, impeccable governor's wife and first lady facade. She tries to break the mold herself by running for Senate, but going after what she wants is only the first step. She still needs someone to help her break down the walls that supported the old Mellie.
As Olivia points out in her case against dating Marcus: he's young, he's a campaign staffer, and he greatly admires Mellie. Of course, this only invigorates Mellie's interest. Marcus helps her feel powerful while also unleashing some of the humanity she's been hiding away to be a more palatable female political candidate. It's a markedly different dynamic than Olivia and Fitz, who are forever searching for the person who can match their level of power to feel romantically fulfilled. Mellie and Marcus lean into their complementary imbalance of power and let it exchange hands naturally, depending on who needs it in what moment.
Unfortunately, Mellie still needs some help in this department. When Marcus leaves the Grant campaign to accept the position of White House press secretary, Mellie takes it as a personal affront, rather than supporting his ambitions and seeing the move as a way to spend more time together, not less. This sets up a nice little obstacle for them to overcome, and it plays right into the dynamic they've already established. Mellie lashes out and constructs a rigid wall to punish Marcus because she feels hurt, and Marcus will have to gently tear it down to reveal her real emotions about the fight.
It's contentious, but it's honestly one of the healthier and more realistic relationship set-ups Scandal has given us. Ideally, Marcus and Mellie don't become victims of circumstance and lose their grip on the relationship, like Fitz and Olivia so often do, over factors outside their control.