'The Politician' Season 2 Review: Payton wades through dirty swamp of deceit in uniquely intelligent season

‘The Politician’ finds itself in a new kind of genre which is part satirical, part hyper-real, and part just good old optimism and hope


                            'The Politician' Season 2 Review: Payton wades through dirty swamp of deceit in uniquely intelligent season
Ben Platt (Netflix)

Spoilers for ‘The Politician’ Season 2

Season 2 of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan’s Netflix comedy series ‘The Politician’ is more outrageous, spicier, and more ridiculous than Season 1. And Season 1 was already an extraordinary amount of wild.

No longer about a silly high school student body election, Season 2 has real stakes. Now in New York, the flawed, egotistical, control-freak, and short-fused Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) takes on Dede Standish (Judith Light) in the New York State Senate race. Dede, of course, is a hundred times the opponent Astrid Sloan (Lucy Boynton) ever was. She is a long-time incumbent. She is greatly admired as a Senate Majority Leader. And her secret weapon is her no-nonsense Chief of Staff Hadassah Gold (Bette Midler).

And with the stakes this high, the drama is significantly more potent. From complicated personal relationships with Astrid and Alice Charles (Julia Schlaepfer), to complicated professional relationships with McAfee Westbrook (Laura Dreyfuss), James Sullivan (Theo Germaine), and Skye Leighton (Rahne Jones), Payton always has his dish full. A little too full.

But Season 2 of ‘The Politician’ is not just teen drama. It is an intelligent examination of the ways of politics. The nuances of the game. The pitfalls. And the moral and ethical lines that can and cannot be crossed. While Season 1 did the same thing, the scope and the depth of this is greater than ever in the sophomore season. 

Back in high school, all the scheming may have seemed childish and juvenile. But now, it feels necessary. After all, politics, especially campaigning for a position, is a dirty business. In Season 2, we see Payton wade through the swamp of ethical conundrums, cheap shots, and duplicitousness. Surprisingly, however, unlike Season 1, Payton comes out a better man.

There is a very significant conversation between Payton and his mother Georgina Hobart (Gwyneth Paltrow) that makes for a good examination of this flawed person. Georgina helps Payton understand the difference between morality and ethics and ultimately helps Payton discover what has been at the root of all his demons: the inability to accept himself for who he is. He is, true to the show’s title, a politician.

But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The words “politics” and “politician” can almost be used pejoratively. But this show makes a case for why it shouldn’t. This goes for all the characters in the show, not just Payton.

Season 2 of ‘The Politician’ sees overall growth in everyone. It sees people coming to terms with who they are. It sees regrets. It sees acknowledgment of wrongs. And it sees the fragility of the people behind the public effigies they create for themselves. Be it Dede, Hadassah, Alice, Astrid, or Payton, everyone learns something. And everyone is better for that learning. 

Sure, ‘The Politician’ Season 2 has its fair share of tomfoolery and absurdities. But it is a uniquely intelligent show on politics that offers a perspective few others do. It can be called a satire. But it’s also not just that. ‘The Politician’ finds itself in a new kind of genre which is part satirical, part hyper-real, and part just good old optimism and hope. And which is why it manages to be one of the better things to have arrived this year.

‘The Politician’ Season 2 is available for viewing on Netflix.

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