Netflix's The Politician: A Spoiler Free Review

“You don’t have to be a good person, as long as you do good things.”

Image Courtesy of Netflix ​

    When Netflix launched The Politician at the very end of September, I, like many Netflix fans, was looking forward to new, highly-bingeable content, but didn’t really know what tone the show was looking to create, or even what the show was about. All I knew was that Ben Platt (of Pitch Perfect and Dear Evan Hansen fame) would be playing Gwyneth Paltrow’s son, and that was enough to tempt me to watch the first episode. At the very most, I was expecting a teen drama centered around high school, like Gossip Girl or Riverdale, with too-old actors playing sixteen-year-olds trying to scam each other for a prom queen crown--and yet, when I finally did watch this firecracker of a season, I found that The Politician sets itself apart by diving into complex moral questions while maintaining the aesthetics and humor that define the lives and character arcs of the TV teen. In short, The Politician is Netflix's love letter to the edgy, scandalous, and too-cringey dramas of the early 2000s, with an enchanting Gen-Z spin and penchant for inner darkness, and I loved every over-saturated second of it.

    The story of The Politician follows wealthy teen Payton Hobart as he campaigns for student body present of Saint Sebastian High. Payton is an ambitious young man who sees his election as student body present as the very first step of his plan to someday become president of the United States, but when his campaign becomes entrenched in treachery, lies, scandal, and tragedy, Payton has to face the reality that the world may be more complex than it seems. Played to perfection by Ben Platt, Payton struggles to decide whether or not he’s a good person, or if he’s only capable of doing good things for other people. Payton’s struggle to create an identity separate from his ambition mirrors a struggle that many of us face in our own lives, where work often overtakes our other passions--and this very human struggle to self-actualize makes Payton a compelling protagonist, a delight to watch, and a heartbreaking hero for the teen TV world. This deep inner struggle is set against a dazzling backdrop of expensive clothes, fancy cars, beautiful, elaborate houses, and more than one musical number, creating a dichotomy between pain and perfection which is simply delicious to behold. The supporting members of the cast, particularly Zoey Deutch, David Corenswet, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jessica Lange, all shine in their unique roles, switching on a dime between dramatic monologues, musical numbers, lightning-fast deliveries, and dark humor. 

    If you’re looking for a school-centric show to watch in between cramming for exams, The Politician is for you. Funny, dark, intelligent, and full of iconic moments, this candy-colored comedy is sure to go down as one of the best first seasons of the year, with a second season already confirmed by show creator Ryan Murphy slated to release next summer. Until then, I think I’ll be listening to Ben Platt’s rendition of “River” on repeat and looking forward to what Payton and his team are planning for their next campaign--because, on this show, anything can happen.