‘The Politician‘ is back on Netflix for a tougher battle for power. This time Payton moves from the school elections to try and become the state senator for New York. It is a fight that is just as dirty with opponents not holding back punches. Ryan Murphy’s show once again captures individual ideologies against the backdrop of the American political system. The writing on the wall is clear insofar as the show actively tries to grapple with present-day issues. However, ‘The Politician’ still comes across as a fantastical tale which ultimately does little more than scratch the surface of what it is truly trying to say.
The Politician Season 2 Recap:
The new season starts with the state senatorial race heating up. Payton is on the backfoot despite leaning on climate change and environment protection as a core issue to engage younger voters and garner their support. Dede, the incumbent opponent, on the other hand, wants to be done with the race because she’s been tapped to become the Vice President. Of course, her entire success hinges on hiding the fact that she’s involved in a ‘throuple’ (threeway relationship).
While Payton and his team sit on this nuclear information, Dede and Hadassah manage to come across Payton appropriating the native American culture by dressing as Geronimo. Both sides have their moles in each others’ campaigns and soon there is a chance that the race might devolve to mudslinging. However, Payton exercises restraint, while Dede shows political maturity. Thus, the contest is much more civil than the school president’s election we see in Season 1.
Ultimately, the race is too close to call, thanks to Infinity’s foolishly daring stunt of stealing a ballot box. The candidates decide that a tiebreaker will be settled via a game of rock, paper, scissors. While both candidates put in their research and turn the simple game into something convoluted, Payton, Dede and Hadassah manage to have a heart to heart in a cozy bar far removed from the political playing field. Since they all share a relationship of mutual respect and admiration, Dede realizes Payton’s potential as her replacement and concedes the race. The season ends showing the changes Payton has brought in, while he’s become a father to Alice’s child. At the same time, he is offered a brand new opportunity by Dede that might change his life forever.
The Politician Season 2 Review:
Despite setting a bigger stage for the elections, ‘The Politician’ still cannot bring itself to tackle the big issues with any degree of depth. Apart from surface references to several societal notions like the ‘cancel culture,’ the series could have shown the electoral process with a greater degree of seriousness considering this is the election year in the US. For a show that is literally concerned about politics, most of the political races are pretty far-fetched. Take for example Payton’s mother, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who runs for the California gubernatorial race, and eventually the elections for the POTUS.
Similarly, there are quite a few inconsistencies from Season 1. Zoey Deutch’s character, Infinity Jackson, only appears in a few episodes since the actress has a lot of film projects on her platter. However, what is more striking, is how different Infinity is currently than what we see in Season 1. She seems like a new person altogether. ‘The Politician’ Season 2 is not all bad, after all. If one looks past these few errors, they can enjoy the moments of personal motivation and ambition, not to mention some astounding performances.
Bette Midler steals the show as Hadassah Gold, Dede’s advisor. Despite her ferocity in politics, the wonderfully layered character always captures our attention with her newfound love and passion, which conflicts with her loyalty to Dede at times. Murphy’s story might come across as synthetic, paying lip service, but the brilliance lies in the individuality displayed by the characters. Be it Alice’s decision to leave Payton for some time, or Astrid’s choice to not have her baby, the show highlights the strength of women.
There are some fine thought-provoking sequences too, like when Payton talks to his mother about the difference between ethics and morals, and the kind of person he wants to be. Similarly, when Alice and Payton have a falling out, her words about our capacity to rationalize a lot of wrongs make sense in the present day and age. In the new seven-episode season, Murphy has one particular gem titled “The Voters.” Much like last season, it provides viewers with the chance to see how the voters look at their candidates. In this instance, a lot of questions are raised about the honesty of the politicians’ beliefs, when people see them from close quarters. It is a conundrum of convictions and results.
Ultimately, ‘The Politician’ has improved over the seasons. There is a degree of maturity that we see in the characters, a greater desire to engage with individual dilemmas. Marked by some moving musical performances from Ben Platt, ‘The Politician’ does not have a single dull moment in the second season. If only the tale were told more organically, the characters with their very real problems would be more relatable to us. However, for now, one cannot help but look ahead to the next great challenge awaiting Payton Hobart.