'The Politician' Finds Some Heart in Dirty Politics

Starring Ben Platt, Bob Balaban, Lucy Boynton, Zoey Deutch, Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, Bette Midler, Gwyneth Paltrow and January Jones

BY Kevin LeverPublished Sep 23, 2019

Sometimes, the best plans are the ones going off the rails. Netflix's new eight-episode series, The Politician, created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, finds ambition in its many forms clashing to create a boiling point in Santa Barbara, CA.
Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) looks to secure his place as student body president of his school in an unstoppable ascension into Harvard and one day, the presidency. It's a noble effort, one that comes under endless attack as greed and the ambition of others start to eat away to reveal that winning isn't always easy, and it comes with personal cost along the way.
The show has an enthusiastic energy to its every moment, where a heightened, somewhat over-the-top tone helps find an immense amount of charm. The souped-up storytelling style helps hone the chaos, as Payton tries to find humanity in a setting where composure and a need to succeed surpasses all else.
The world of wealth, privilege, and taking everything for granted becomes a source of smart comedy, usually used in a form of punching up at the higher class (and when it does punch down, it's in service of portraying ignorance in the character). The writing on the show serves as a constant shifting of the wind, allowing a gamut of political chaos that fits the narrative and characters as they attempt to fight bad press and potential drop in poll numbers.
The Politician uses real-life politics and their historical momentum in clever and biting ways, taking a mostly smaller-stakes situation and dialing it up to 11 by making it about Payton's view of success over the next 30 years of his life. Everything is a reflection of what's to come, and so Payton feels every hit tenfold as he sees it as a mark against his future.
Ben Platt is wonderful in the lead role, able to show many sides to a young man far too ambitious for his own good, and how far someone with that large of a driving force is willing to go. It's a performance that finds emotions running high, with Platt rising to every occasion and carrying the show on his shoulders. It also allows a chance for Platt to continue to show his unbelievable vocal talents.
Those starring alongside Platt are equally great, including a wonderfully sweet Zoey Deutch, a maniacal and enthralling Jessica Lange, a pained and wonderful Gwyneth Paltrow and a fun and committed Lucy Boynton.
The Politician's eight episodes tell a cautionary tale of how lies can unravel when trying to do the right thing. It's about finding your voice and going off the plan to become who you're really meant to be. With that, The Politician is a rousing success, a show that fits incredibly well into Ryan Murphy and company's style and finds some heart in the game of dirty politics.


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