Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The first episode of The Politician features Jessica Lange scamming her way into Olive Garden, Gwyneth Paltrow smoking cigarettes in an expensive caftan, and Ben Platt belting at a funeral. If that doesn’t sum up the essence of this deliciously over-the-top show—Ryan Murphy’s first for Netflix—then nothing does. The series centers on Payton Hobart (Platt), an ambitious, ruthless high school senior with his sights set on becoming a U.S. president. His plan to get there is ironclad, and it starts with winning his class presidential election. The only problem, though, is he’s not well-liked—especially compared to the hunky jock, River (David Corenswet), running against him.
But a tragic event (I won’t tell you what) soon leaves Payton unopposed. That is, until River’s girlfriend, Astrid (Lucy Boynton), announces her candidacy. In a questionable move to one-up her and earn sympathy votes, Payton manipulates a student with cancer, Infinity (Zoey Deutch), into becoming his vice presidential running mate. However, his cunning plan is foiled when we learn Infinity isn’t really sick: It’s a scam orchestrated by her mother, Dusty (Lange), à la Hulu’s The Act. I know, it’s a lot. Most Ryan Murphy shows are.
And like most Ryan Murphy shows, The Politician is actually quite funny. I mean, it has to be. Nothing about this show is digestible: The characters are obscenely wealthy and snobbish, and the premise itself is far-fetched. I think that’s the point. The Politician is a world full of champagne problems, where the protagonist’s main goal is to win a silly election and his adopted mom, Georgina (Paltrow), paints portraits for charities in the middle of the day. The lack of any real stakes is supplemented by exorbitant camp and biting humor, the type we saw in Scream Queens and American Horror Story: Coven. So if those shows weren’t your jam, The Politician might not be for you.
“I love to take bites out of the very confrontational nature of Payton and the over-confidence and the sort of lack of empathy and lack of regard for anyone else’s motives and feelings, because I’m very much not like that,” Platt tells Glamour about his character, who, at one point in the pilot, literally ponders whether or not he’s a sociopath. “It was delicious to play someone who is so headstrong and walks into a room and believes he’s the best person in the room.”
Boynton has similar feelings about playing the antagonistic Astrid. “She can be such a powerhouse and power presence, and I love those moments,” she says. “That happens mostly at her worst, and I love that part of her. I love playing Astrid at her most aggressive. She has such a presence and is not in the slightest afraid to take up space in the room.”
That aspect of The Politician is definitely refreshing. The female characters on the show—whether that’s Astrid, Dusty, or Georgina—aren’t concerned with being “likable.” They have elections to win, scams to execute, or mansions to iconically glide around. These women aren’t necessarily realistic, but they’re not idealized, either. They’re self-indulgent, over-the-top, occasionally villainous, and always entertaining. Think Chanel Oberlin from Scream Queens after 15 espresso shots.
Which, again, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The Politician paints its characters boldly and with broad strokes. It’s satirical and cynical and, at times, a bit dark. That aforementioned tragic event is truly devastating—and while it’s given the reverence it deserves, the pilot moves quickly back to Payton and Astrid’s win-at-all-costs antics. There’s not a ton of emotional nuance and sensitivity in The Politician. Know that before going in.
There are, however, several parallels to another Murphy classic: Glee. Payton could easily be the younger brother of Rachel Berry, McKinley High School’s show-choir all-star who was determined to make it on Broadway. “Payton definitely has that blind Rachel Berry, I will get it by all means necessary [motto],” Platt says.
That being said, Glee was a polarizing show, and The Politician will undoubtedly be too. It currently has a 55 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so critics are pretty much down the middle. What ultimately will determine your taste for The Politician is your opinion on Ryan Murphy content. This isn’t one of his made-for-the-masses productions, like American Crime Story. His humor and brand are written all over this, in its most extreme forms. Personally, I loved it. Some will hate it. Regardless, I think you should give at least the pilot a whirl—if anything to see Gwyneth Paltrow prune flowers in full glam. I could watch nine hours of that alone.
The Politician is now streaming on Netflix.
The post Netflix’s The Politician Review: It’s a Hilarious Mix of Glee, Scream Queens, and, The Act appeared first on Glamour.