Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes and the minds behind ABC's "Scandal" aired a Ferguson-inspired episode on Thursday that was ripped straight from the headlines and filled with hope.
In the episode's wake, the show's stars -- in front of the camera and behind it -- shared their reactions on social media.
"We had a great deal of debate about this ending. Whether to be hopeful or not. It was really hard. #scandal," Rhimes wrote in a series of tweets. "In the end, we went with showing what fulfilling the dream SHOULD mean. The idea of possibility. ... And the despair we feel now... Ugh. #BlackLivesMatter #Scandal"
(Beware: More spoilers lie ahead, because some of the Twitter comments need context.)
"The Lawn Chair" episode, written by Rhimes and Severiano Canales and directed by Tom Verica, centers on the police-shooting death of a black Washington, D.C., teen who's suspected of stealing a cellphone, echoing the August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
As the story unfolds, the boy's father, Clarence (Courtney B. Vance), stages a protest at the scene of the shooting, puts a lawn chair over his son's body and stands guard with a shotgun. Protesters gather, and Olivia Pope (Washington) is sent in to "handle" the situation for the police department. However, she ends up jumping sides to help Vance's character and a neighborhood activist (played by Cornelius Smith Jr.) in their quest for justice.
After many twists and turns and resolutions that only "Scandal" can provide, Clarence winds up in the Oval Office mourning with the president -- who'd also lost a son.
The episode closes as the teen's remains are put in a body bag, with the camera lingering on his face until the credits roll.
Show runner Rhimes, a vocal activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, live-tweets every "Scandal" episode along with many members of the cast and crew, and this week's emotional episode -- which showcased more guest stars than series regulars -- drew heartfelt posts.
"The last image does me in. Because he's just somebody's baby. That's all. He's someone's child. #BlackLivesMatter #Scandal," Rhimes said.
"Damn it @shondarhimes - I made it through the West Coast airing without crying... until I read that tweet. #Scandal," wrote Washington, who also said she wept through the East Coast airing.
As for Clarence breaking down in tears on the shoulder of President Grant (Tony Goldwyn), Washington tweeted: "My heart is exploding with gratitude AND grief. #Scandal"
Goldwyn, who directed previous episodes of the show, said there was "Dead silence for about a minute!" after the cast did the first table read of "The Lawn Chair."
"Life imitating art imitating life #TheLawnChair #scandal," Verica added.
"Honored&Blessed to join @ScandalABC tonite. Let's continue the convo...@KerryWashington @ShondaRhimes #TheLawnChair," wrote Vance, who linked to an interview he'd done about the episode.
Meanwhile, series regulars who were relegated to sub-plotlines this week weighed in on the episode as well.
"Oh @CourtneyBVance such BEAUTIFUL work! Between your talent & the aching truth of this ep, I've been sobbing for 39 minutes straight," Bellamy Young tweeted, who plays First Lady Mellie Grant.
"The balls that is this episode of #scandal...from pitch to production...#huge," wrote Scott Foley, who plays Olivia's lover Jake Ballard.
"I am so proud to be a part of #ScandaI #ICantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter," tweeted Guillermo Diaz, who plays Olivia Pope & Associates' resident hacker Huck.
"Proud to even be a part of this episode. Of this message. #Scandal," added Katie Lowes, who plays gladiator Quinn Perkins.
Judy Smith, the real-life crisis manager on which Olivia Pope was based, also weighed in on the episode.
"The conversations in tonight's episode aren't easy but they must happen. To move forward, we must talk to each other. #Scandal #TGIT," she tweeted.
Even outspoken "Selma" director Ava DuVernay weighed in on the gravitas of "The Lawn Chair."
"An episode like this isn't easy. Isn't easy to write. Isn't easy to direct. Isn't easy to get on air. I appreciate the effort," she wrote.
Did you see "The Lawn Chair"? Share your reaction in the comments section.