Why Netflix’s The Politician is the Next Binge-Worthy Show

If you were watching the 2019 Emmys last month, you may have seen ads for new Netflix series soon to hit the platform. The Politician immediately caught my eye. I needed something different from watching the same episode of Friends or rewatching The Office. The episodes were released on September 27, and yes, I finished the series in a little over 24 hours.

Just a fair warning: for those who are waiting to watch the series or are on that last episode, there will be spoilers!

For a little background, The Politician was created by Ryan Murphy, the mastermind behind American Horror Story. It has an amazing cast as well – Ben Platt, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler, Judith Light and Gwyneth Paltrow (just to name a few). The show takes place in a San Bernardino, California high school where Payton (Ben Platt) is running for class president. Payton is a senior vying for acceptance into Harvard on his own merit; he was adopted by affluent parents (Gwyneth Paltrow and Bob Balaban) who bought their two sons into Harvard. Sound like a familiar admissions scandal from earlier in the year?

Payton is dating Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) but also finds himself crushing on River (David Corenswet), his opponent in the school election. When Payton learns River is running for class president, too, he feels backstabbed. Becoming president always felt like Payton’s surefire way to get into Harvard and to eventually become President of the United States. To complicate things more, River ends up becoming Payton’s Mandarin tutor where the two kiss. Oh, did I mention River is dating Astrid (Lucy Boynton)? Astrid is also Payton’s rival… so that’s a little awkward.

In order to win the election, Payton and Alice decide to break up as a strategy to win the campaign; they believe that by staging Alice had cheated on Payton, he could receive sympathy votes. The high school sweethearts have big plans that involve living in the White House as President Payton Hobart and First Lady Alice Charles, so they don’t mind playing a little dirty. All Alice requests from her boyfriend is he glance back at her, just so she knows they are okay. However, Payton never looks back at her. Alice ends up getting into Harvard and cheats on Payton with his best friend, James (Theo Germaine).

Unfortunately, we do not get to see Payton and River’s relationship develop as River secretly battled depression and chose to end his own life. Personally, I like how The Politician does not shy away from mental health issues. Murphy, the director, never fell into the stereotypes of mental health, and this is something I appreciated as I’ve struggled with mental health issues myself. River was set up to be one of the most popular guys in school, adored by everyone, but of course, even the people who seem to have it all can be struggling, too. The show also touches on a few hot political issues such as gun violence, pollution and gender equality.

Gif by Unknown via Tumblr

Following the death of River, Payton organizes a class assembly to remember their former classmate. Throughout the series, we also witness Ben Platt’s talent. For those who may be unfamiliar, he gained major attention after being the lead in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. Rumor has it that after seeing the show, Ryan Murphy invited Ben to dinner where he first brought up the idea of this TV show. To highlight’s Platt’s talent, Payton sings on numerous occasions whether it be at the memorial, in the school’s production of Assassins or three years in the future performing in a bar.

It is then up to Payton and his campaign team, McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss) and James, to find his second in command. We are then introduced to Infinity (Zoey Deutch) and her grandmother, Dusty Jackson (Jessica Lange). Infinity believes she has cancer, but Payton is tipped off about Infinity possibly faking it. During a school blood drive, the campaign team secretly has her blood tested, and after it comes back negative, they discover Dusty is using Infinity for free trips—talk about major Gypsy Rose vibes. Infinity’s boyfriend, Ricardo (Benjamin Barrett), becomes aware of what’s going on and decides to give a video to Astrid. In the video, a reporter asks Infinity about her leukemia, and Dusty and Infinity flip out and call the reporter a “buttmunch” (which gets misinterpreted as a homophobic slur as the reporter is gay). As a result, Payton kicks her off the ticket, and he must find a new running mate.

In the end, Payton does end up winning the class presidency. This is only the beginning of troubles for Payton, though. He ends up getting poisoned by Skye with a bad batch of cupcakes, everyone finds out he secretly tested Infinity’s blood and he ends up in the hospital with sepsis after being shot in the butt by a BB gun bullet soaked in possum blood (ew). Thankfully, Payton survives it all, but sadly, his acceptance to Harvard gets pulled.

The series ends three years in the future where Payton and James attend NYU, McAfee has graduated from Columbia a year early, Alice is married and attends Harvard, Astrid is a waitress, and Infinity and Skye have written books about their life experiences. We are also introduced to state senator, Dede Standish (Judith Light), from New York. She has run unopposed for the past 13 elections up until Payton gets inspired to run against Standish with all his friends from high school coming together to be a part of his campaign team.

And that’s what you missed on The Politician! Will Payton win the election against Dede Standish? Will we see more of Ricardo and Dusty Jackson? Will Payton ever become president and Alice his first lady?

Photo by The Politician via Tenor

I guess we will have to wait and see in the next season. Fortunately for us, Ryan Murphy signed a five-year contract with Netflix, so Murphy is just getting started!