Season 1 introduces Olivia Pope and the various members of her firm, as well as President of the United States Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), his chief of staff. The season focused on the lives of the team members, the relationship between Olivia and the president (her former employer), and the mystery surrounding Amanda Tanner’s (Liza Weil) involvement with the White House, among other cases the team solved.
Season 2 has two arcs. The first arc focuses on Fitz’s attempted assassination in addition to the election-rigging, of which, more information is revealed through flashbacks. James investigates Defiance and the election-rigging for Fitz’s campaign. It’s revealed through flashbacks that the rigging was done by Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Verna and Hollis at election campaign headquarters. James teams up with David to try to build a case to take down Cyrus and Fitz. However, James ultimately lies in court, covering for Cyrus.
An assassination attempt is made on Fitz’s life, which almost kills him. As a result, Sally takes over as President, much to Cyrus’ dismay. After surviving, Fitz decides to get a divorce, which Mellie tries to avoid by somehow convincing her OB/GYN to induce her labour 4 weeks early. Huck is arrested for the attempted assassination after being framed by his girlfriend Becky. After David helps Huck go free, Huck, Olivia and her team trick Becky to show up at the hospital where she is arrested. Fitz finds out that Verna was behind the assassination and kills her. At the funeral, he reveals to Olivia that he doesn’t want a divorce as he is devastated after learning about the rigging from Verna.
The second arc focuses on finding the mole who is leaking classified information from the White House. Olivia and the team investigate the case after figuring out that the CIA Director’s suicide was actually a murder. Olivia gets to know Captain Jake Ballard, who works with the leader of B613, Rowan, who orders Jake to get close to Olivia. At the end of the season, Mellie gives Fitz an ultimatum, either he becomes loyal to her, or she goes on national television and reveals Fitz’s affair with Olivia. Fitz chooses Olivia, which makes Mellie reveal the affair. Fitz announces his re-election campaign.
As Olivia and the team continue to investigate who the mole is, Huck manages to capture Charlie, who reveals the mole’s identity: Billy Chambers. They figure out that Billy is working with David, who steals the Cytron card, but frames Billy and gives Cyrus the card in exchange for being reinstated as US Attorney. At the end, Olivia’s name is leaked to the press as being Fitz’s mistress, and it is revealed that Rowan is Olivia’s father.
Season 3 focuses on Fitz’s re-election campaign for his second term, as well as, Olivia’s family problems after her father comes back into her life and she discovers that her mother (believed to be deceased for 20 years) is alive, which leads to Olivia Pope & Associates trying to find Olivia’s mother, Maya Lewis.
After Olivia’s name is leaked to the press as Fitz’s mistress, Olivia Pope & Associates faces financial troubles when all their clients fire them. The firm accepts “new” clients in order to pay the bills. Rowan becomes more involved with Olivia’s life, which begins to affect her, and leads Huck and Jake to investigate B613. They discover during a military action code named “Operation Remington”, Fitz shot down a civilian aircraft over Iceland and Olivia’s mother was one of over 300 casualties. Olivia goes to Fitz and asks him about it, but he refuses to respond. Determined to find out the truth about Operation Remington, the firm investigates Rowan and learns that a passenger was removed from the flight by a Federal Marshall just prior to take off. Quinn starts to hang out with Charlie, who sets her up to kill a security guard who was an eye-witness to the Federal Marshall’s removal of the passenger. As a result of Quinn’s inadvertent murder, Huck tortures her and she leaves the firm.
It’s revealed that Maya was the passenger who didn’t get on the plane, and that she has been imprisoned by Rowan for the last 20 years. She manages to break free and Olivia Is shocked when her “dead” mother contacts her. When Rowan finds out about Maya’s escape, he puts her on FBI’s most wanted terrorists list. Olivia manages to arrange a flight to Hong Kong with Maya on it, but after she leaves Olivia figures out that Maya really is a terrorist by the name Marie Wallace. After Fitz captures Rowan at the Pentagon, Olivia asks Fitz to arrest her mother, but Maya manages to escape.
Meanwhile, Fitz faces problems when Congresswoman Josephine “Josie” Marcus is in the running to win the Democratic Party primary against Senator Samuel Reston and become the first female president of the United States. Cyrus tries his best to find dirt on Marcus in order to ruin her campaign, but fails. After Olivia finds out that Fitz shot down the plane which killed her mother, she declines the offer of being the campaign manager for Fitz’s re-election and becomes the manager for Josephine Marcus’. After an incident with Marcus’ sister, Josephine backs out of her campaign.
Cyrus discovers that Sally plans to run against Fitz as an Independent when she hires Leo Bergen to be her campaign manager. He tries to blackmail her by having James flirt with her husband, Daniel Douglas. However, James figures out Cyrus’ plan, and sleeps with Daniel devastating Cyrus. When Sally finds out about this, she becomes furious and kills her husband. After the murder, Sally calls Cyrus for help. David gets a visit from a woman from the NSA who has the recording of the conversation between Sally and Cyrus, which David shares with James.
The second part of the season focuses more on the re-election campaign as Olivia has taken over as the campaign manager. At the same time, Sally announces that she is running for President by being an Independent. As a result, Fitz chooses the Governor of California, Andrew Nichols, as his new Vice Presidential running-mate. Nichols develops a relationship with the First Lady, Mellie. The campaign faces problems when Sally, stricken with guilt over murdering Daniel, almost reveals the truth at a debate. Cyrus asks Jake to help protect the secret, which he does by killing James to prevent exposing Cyrus’s involvement in the cover up. The president’s eldest children, Jerry and Karen Grant, come to the White House for an interview, but Olivia soon figures out that they aren’t pleased with their parents.
Maya and Adnan Salif team up with Dominic Bell, who gives them a bomb. Olivia and her team, with the help of Rowan, track down Dominic and try to find Maya. In the season finale, the bomb goes off in a church, which Sally uses to her advantage to rise in the polls. On the election day, Olivia and Cyrus are convinced that Fitz has lost, but Rowan orders Tom to kill Jerry, which ultimately makes Fitz win the election. Olivia takes up her father’s offer and leaves with Jake to an unknown location for a new life.
Season 4 focuses on Olivia’s return to Washington, D.C., after spending two months relocated to an island off the coast of Zanzibar with Jake, and how her absence has affected the people around her.
The first half of the season focuses on Jake’s arrest for the death of Jerry Grant after Rowan forces Tom to name Jake as the operator. Rowan continues to try to make everyone believe Jake is guilty, which inspires Olivia to find out the truth for herself. After forcing Tom to reveal Rowan as his operator, Fitz, Jake, and Olivia make a plan to arrest Rowan. Unfortunately, the plan fails, causing Rowan to shut down B613 and start eliminating B613 agents. Olivia tries to kill Rowan when she confronts him, but he manages to flee.
The season also focuses on how Olivia Pope & Associates has been closed, which has led Abby, Huck, and Quinn to seek alternative employment.
Abby is now the White House Press Secretary, and is struggling with gaining the respect of Cyrus and Fitz, because they choose to demean her by calling her “Red” instead of Abby. Later in the season, Abby finds herself even more stressed by the presence of her abusive ex-husband, who has been nominated for Virginia State Senator. As a result, she enlists Leo Bergen to help ruin his campaign. Huck is working at an electronic shop and is refusing to return to the firm, but he eventually does. In the past two months, he has been watching his estranged family, but his former wife, Kim, has not allowed him to see his son, Javi. However, much to Kim’s dismay, Huck and Javi begin to form a friendship by playing video games together.
Quinn has stayed in contact with both Abby and Huck, in addition to trying to find Olivia. During the first part of the season Quinn works on a case for Olivia’s friend Catherine from law school, in which Catherine’s daughter was murdered and Catherine’s grief-stricken husband committed suicide. The case takes an unexpected twist when Quinn discovers that the killer of Catherine’s daughter, Kobiak, has been working with both the head of the RNC, Elizabeth North, and Vice President Andrew Nichols. Their plan is revealed as an attempt to start a war in West Angola. Elizabeth North and Andrew Nichols engineer the kidnapping of Olivia, anticipating that Fitz will do anything to save her. Having predicted correctly, Nichols then successfully convinces Fitz to give the okay to go to war with West Angola.
Mellie struggles with the sudden death of her son, Jerry, at the end of series 3. She finally comes to terms with her loss after finding out that Jerry was murdered due to being deliberately exposed to bacterial meningitis rather than contracting the disease naturally, and she chooses to form an alliance with Elizabeth North. Later, after having an affair with Nichols, Mellie discovers his true nature, when he threatens to tell the press about their affair.
Cyrus starts sleeping with Michael, a male prostitute, who is in Elizabeth North’s pay. After finding out that Michael has been leaking information to Elizabeth, Cyrus calls on Olivia for help. As pictures of Cyrus and Michael are leaked, the couple comes up with a plan to get married as a way of handling the crisis.
While Olivia is being held captive, the team that Nichols hired experiences an internal issue leading to its ringleader being killed by Gus, one of his employees. Gus then opens a blackmarket auction for Olivia, and terrorists and foreign nationals start bidding for her. Olivia manipulates the auction to gain the upper hand over the kidnappers, but is unable to stop the auction and is sold to Russia. Stephen Finch, a former Pope & Associates “gladiator” gone for three seasons, returns to rescue Olivia in Russia, and she is safely brought back to America. Shortly after, Nichols suffers a massive stroke, believed to be caused by a collaborative effort between Mellie and Elizabeth. Olivia is visited by Fitz, but reveals her disgust in his decision to go to war to bring her back and drives him away.
Despite the team’s concerns regarding her mental and physical state, Olivia chose to return to her work, starting with a case of an African-American boy who was shot by a white police officer. The team’s further investigation finds out that the white police officer set the entire thing up to look like he shot the boy in self-defense, and he is consequently arrested.
Meanwhile, Fitz begins looking for a new Vice President. He initially decided to have Mellie take the place, but Cyrus speaks up against it. Mellie later pushes for Virginia Senator Susan Ross to be nominated for the position. Fitz then hires Leo Bergen to assist Susan, but Leo consistently puts pressure on Susan, who decides to quit the race. However, after several considerations, Susan is sworn as Vice President.
On receiving files from Huck’s estranged wife, David talks to Jake and Huck about what he should do with the files. Huck tries to talk to his wife Kim about them, but she manages to convince Huck to testify. After Huck’s testimony, David begins investigating the case. Jake tries his best to stop David, only for David to continue pursuing the investigation, getting help from other B613 agents. David ultimately finds out that his assistant is a B613 agent who has killed other agents as Jake manages to shoot her.
Olivia Pope & Associates continues to handle more cases, such as those of Susanne Thomas and Marcus Walker. Susanne threatens to reveal secrets about D.C.'s top politicians on her new book; while the team was able to eventually convince her not to do so, Huck suddenly kills her. Marcus Walker is accused of murdering the Mayor’s wife, with whom he was having affair. The team eventually discovers that Mayor was in fact responsible for the murder, framing Marcus for it. The team convinces the Mayor to step down from his position, but Marcus decides to reveal the truth to the media.
As Susan’s seat in the Senate is vacated, Mellie decides to take her place. She enlists Elizabeth to help her in the election campaign. Mellie faces problems in her campaign when her half-sister visits the White House and threatens to reveal her past, but Fitz manages to persuade her not to. Then, former Vice-President Sally Langston raises concerns about Mellie, but Olivia manages to shut her down. Mellie also struggles with initially low ratings in Virginia, and decides to enlist Fitz to help her. Fitz decides to seek advice from Olivia, who also advised him to pick Susan as the new Vice-President.
Fitz begins pushing a bill (later known as the Brandon Bill) following the recent shooting near the White House, but is struggling to get it through Congress. He tries to have the bill pushed as soon as possible, but Susan wants to read the entire bill first before giving her vote. With advice from Susan, Fitz eventually decides to improve the bill.
Olivia meets a man named Russell at a bar, and has a one-night stand with him. Meanwhile, Rowan begins threatening Olivia when she and the rest of Olivia Pope & Associates, along with David, begin planning to shut down B613. Russell is later revealed as a B613 agent hired by Rowan to get closer to Olivia, and he attempts to kill Jake when Olivia and the rest of the team continue to defy Rowan. Olivia later realizes this, and has Russell tortured by Huck and Quinn, while helping David with the investigation of B613.
Susan continues to defy the Grant Administration, helping out a female officer who appears to have been raped. She enlists Olivia Pope & Associates to help, and further investigation leads to the revelation that one of the higher officers was responsible for the act. After leaking the video footage, the officer is forced to confess the truth to the media. Mellie then uses the opportunity to raise her ratings, by giving a speech on how the military mishandled the case, showing sympathy for the female officer instead of talking about her son.
Huck and Quinn managed to torture Russell into revealing information about a secret operation named Foxtail, but he escapes before they found out more information. It is later revealed that the lawyer enlisted by the team for the case hearing is a B613 agent, and that he later helped Russell escape only to be killed by Rowan. Operation Foxtail is later revealed to be centered on Mellie, as Rowan generously offers to finance her campaign. The operation was Rowan’s escape plan for the case against B613.
In the season finale, members of a grand jury gathered by David for the B613 case are killed after the initial hearing. Olivia Pope & Assoociates and David begin investigating the scene, and realize that Rowan was responsible. He had also blackmailed Mellie into giving the names of the members, causing her to feel responsible. Cyrus later finds out the truth, but decides not to tell Fitz. After seeking advice from Maya, Olivia and Jake decide to reveal B613 to the CIA, but their plan backfires. They later came up with a plan to frame Rowan for embezzlement of the funds at the museum where he is working, and he is imprisoned. Later, Fitz finds out the truth about what Mellie and Cyrus have done, and he orders them to leave the White House. Elizabeth then takes Cyrus’ place as the chief of staff. In the last scene, Fitz reunites with Olivia.