By Aishvarya Varma (fetuinyou)
In June 2020, Netflix released the second season of Ryan Murphy’s brainchild, ‘The Politician’. This comedy-drama was renewed with many recurring members from season one’s cast. Ben Platt continues to play the ambitious protagonist, Payton Hobart, who remains on the relentless path of becoming the President of the United States of America. However, now no longer a high-school student, Payton studies at NYU whilst looking to see if he has the chance to secure more votes than Dede Standish (Judith Light) and represent New York’s 27th District.
“We are dick-deep in some serious espionage, missy.” – Hadassah Gold
Dede Standish is the current Majority Leader and New York State Senator. Her right-hand woman and campaign manager, Hadassah Gold (Bette Midler), has one agenda alone – Protecting Dede. It turns out that Dede has a sultry secret of her own that is, as always, leveraged in various ways to increase the blood pressure of both candidates, and us as gripped viewers.
While this remains the main political focus, an interesting twist of events surrounds Georgina ‘Mother’ Hobart’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) reinvention of herself after the death of her husband. This season surprisingly devotes extensive plot points to Paltrow’s personal ambitions. Finding her ruminating about actual actions and not just painting in her backyard or wandering in search of love, her character grows this season in ways that are best not introduced by anything other than the season itself. How the Hobarts meld almost cosmically is as Goop-y as the ever-enchanting and inescapable beauty of on-screen Paltrow.
“There are jobs that feed the ego, and there are jobs that make a difference. Politics does both, It’s vanity without the bitter after-taste.” – Georgina Hobart
The gravitas of a New York State Senatorial race adds a level of seriousness to Murphy’s political satire. Often side-lined in season one as yet another cheerleader-movie plot meant to engage younger audiences, the truth is that Murphy has paid careful attention to the nuances that build perfect political commentary from the very beginning. Well-represented by the title sequence of this show, Payton’s character was pruned to possess a detached ambition destined to paint a political masterstroke. A shout-out to Sufjan Stevens’ alluring voice that adds the requisite ‘feels’ to the poetic visuals.
Unlike common opinions on the interweb about the dubiousness of this character, I firmly believe that no other combination of traits could justify the purity that Murphy’s script aims to achieve. The core of a true statesman is evidenced by his ability to remain neutral and find the solution society requires and demands at a particular point in time.
The moral questions raised throughout the show draw us closer to this reality of good politics, especially the last two episodes of this season. It would be wrong to suggest that such success could have occurred without the loyalty of McAfee Westbrook (Laura Dreyfuss), who continues to be Payton’s chief campaign manager and advisor. Other primary cast members continue to feature in this season, including Infinity (Zoey Deutch).
“It never ceases to amaze how good it feels to say no to things.” – Infinity Jackson
A deeper understanding develops through recurring questions of authenticity often answered by the voice of River; a character that continues to voice Payton’s shadow-side and musical habits. Unsurprisingly, River’s death remains a wound that needs soothing. This season explores an unorthodox route used for remembering him, featuring River’s former girlfriend Astrid Sloan (Lucy Boynton). Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) continues to support Payton’s ambitions and life-choices, aiming to protect him till she can.
This season is exciting & enthralling, with multiple character twists that – for a while – make you wonder if Payton is still the protagonist of Murphy’s tale. Despite a predictable conclusion on-paper, Murphy successfully takes us through a contrastingly unpredictable journey. As secrets of elder throuples, closeted cultural appropriation and young pregnancies are thrown at viewers, we continue to see how far this State race stretches the candidates and the grace with which they tackle disapproval.
If you haven’t seen the show yet, I hope this convinces you to reconsider. I assure you that there’s a lot to learn from this satiric political dramedy.
To fellow fans, let us know what your thoughts on this season are in the comments below.
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