By Ben Carpenter, First Year, Film & Television
Season 2 of The Politician continues where we left off, moving the drama from LA to New York with Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) trading in class presidency for State Senate. Throughout the season we see Payton campaign for the New York State Senate against long time incumbent Dede Standish (Judith Light).
With the first season proving to be one of the strongest and most popular releases from Netflix in the past year, I was eager to see what would come in the second season. However, despite my high hopes and the intriguing set up the first season finale provided, the second season can’t help but feel underwhelming.
This time, Murphy seems to have traded in much of the drama for comedic elements and it is with this in mind that the season surprises me, as much of Murphy’s previously razor sharp writing begins to fall flat despite stellar effort from a brilliant cast.
Whilst Ben Platt provides no less powerful a performance than that of the first season, the show is stolen by veterans Judith Light and Bette Midler, who plays her meddling and uptight campaign manager. Every time the script begins to lull, the actresses’ sharp comedic timing and outstanding chemistry helps bring the show back to life, providing much of the seasons laughs.
Further compensating for its inconsistent writing is the gorgeous costume and set design, with almost every scene providing enough interesting colour and design to keep the viewers attention when the story begins to drop.
Nevertheless, even with strong performances and fantastic production design, the second season can’t help but fall flat. Where the story took unexpected and hilarious turns in the first season, season two replaces these twists with predictable plot points and boring subplots, including double pregnancies and spicy lube.
Whilst the first season made little attempt at presenting its story as grounded or relatable, the wealthy elite high school setting provided ample context, displaying melodramatic plot points in an equally dramatic setting. With the second season focusing on a larger political scene of the Senate and even setting up the presidency for Payton’s mother, Georgina (Gwyneth Paltrow), the story moves from witty to ridiculously exhausting with each plot point proving more convoluted than the last.
In a world where a reality television star is the US President, it’s crazy to think that Murphy and his team believe this show to be current
Even with all these issues, the biggest problem lies with the satire Murphy attempts to provide. Whilst it is unfair to expect Murphy to provide sharp satire for every area of politics, you can’t ignore the painfully forced and outdated nature of the season.
In a world where a crude business tycoon and reality television star is the leader of the United States, it’s crazy to think that Murphy and his team believe this show to be current. Payton, in both his ideals and physicality, comes across much more similar to a young JFK or Nixon, and the ensemble cast that portray his campaign team feel equally as passé.
Despite the record breaking diversity seen in both the cast and crew of Murphy’s show Pose (2018-present) it would seem he has gone the opposite route with this production. Whilst the mainly white cast makes sense in the context of a privileged upper class Los Angeles high school, it fails to translate to the amazingly diverse place that is New York – as does the plot line.
Despite the huge scale of the US State Senate race in comparison to the race for Class President seen in the first season, the approach and perspective seems unchanged and the results, despite the cast's best efforts, feel simply out of touch.
Featured: IMDb / Netflix
Does Season 2 match up to Season 1 of The Politician? Let us know!