THE POLITICIAN Review: It’s GLEE Meets HOUSE OF CARDS In Netflix’s Edgy Dark Comedy
Netflix keeps swinging for the fences and hitting homers. Not sure if a Baseball metaphor is appropriate this The Politician review, but I’m not too familiar with political metaphors. Netflix keeps winning in a landslide? Moving on…
The Politician is an edgy new series about sociopathic characters with ambition and desire, and the obvious dark side that comes with it. It’s the first show from the landmark Ryan Murphy and Netflix deal. And it delivers in spades. No, that’s a card game metaphor.
The Politician Is Glee Meets House Of Cards!
The silly kid from the Pitch Perfect movies, Ben Platt takes center stage in one of the finest performances I’ve seen since Reese Witherspoon in Election. Platt channels many of Witherspoon’s vibes in The Politician, in a role that’s incredibly well crafted and even better performed. Platt puts himself on the map in a spectacular stride from supporting character actor a leading man.
Let’s back up.
The Politician is all about the ambition of Payton (Platt), a high school senior running for school president. The goal? To become actual president of the United States Of America. If you thought that the regular high school teen drama focused on high stakes of teenage life, then The Politician blows it all out of the water. To see Payton and his loyal team of compatriots live life with such exact precision, knowing that their future political careers will put these very moments under scrutiny . Their every move, relationship, and action is coldly calculated and polled based on that one future ambition.
The Politician is an amazing allegory to the modern world of politics right now. Murphy’s contrast of the petty-ness of high school drama with real-life political presidential campaigns is hilarious. And exhausting. The show is somehow able to cram in so much story, at such breakneck speed that I’ve had to check my clock multiple times to see if I blacked out from sheer engagement and not realized when we went from one episode to the next. It’s insane!
The Politician Is So Good It’s Exhausting
For example, The first 7 minutes of episode 1 of The Politician sets up Payton’s ambition to be a school-then-real president and his potential sociopathic nature. Then reveals that he’s possibly bisexual as he confronts his opponent and sexual partner for running against him. And how that partner’s girlfriend is using sex to motivate him into running against Payton for the benefit of an impressive college application. This, and more, in 7 minutes. Exhausting!
The Politician is a sharply written and wonderfully executed show that goes from plot point to plot point in dizzying speeds. This isn’t a complaint but praise. The multiple subplots and story threads running through the series, with multiple characters is riveting. There’s not one set of characters that I didn’t want to see more of.
Platt is wonderful as a neurotic, single focus driven teen with Zuckerberg-like social anxieties. Then we’ve got the ridiculously amazing supporting cast that I’ve never heard of before. But first, the familiar faces. I’ve never been a fan of Gwenyth Paltrow beyond the Marvel Studios films. But she’s just sweet as hell as Payton’s mother Georgina; trapped in a loveless marriage with a rich husband, solely to feed Payton’s ambitions. Jessica Lange kills it (in more ways than one!) as Dusty Jackson, the manipulative grandma of a teenage girl with cancer. Bob Balaban is Payton’s finicky and fickle adopted father, who holds the key to Payton’s rich upbringing.
Good Show Or Bad, The Politician’s Acting Talent Is Unmatched
But the ones we don’t know. Oh my God! Where does Netflix find this talent? Firstly, David Corenswet as that political rival I mentioned earlier; where is the thirst for this good looking and naturally talented man? Zoey Dutch as Infinity, the caner patient teen, who seems to be also on the spectrum, is wonderful. Her innocence in a setting where everyone wants to take advantage of her, rivals Payton’s storyline in terms of intensity and sheer joy to watch unfold. Lucy Boynton as Astrid, the rich mean girl who wants to feel more, is incredible. Astrid’s story arc is just as incredible as Payton’s. See… I can’t even pick which side character is better on the show.
The Politician works on many levels. If I had to compare it, I would describe it as Glee meets House Of Cards. The series creates a world that I want to revisit. With characters whose story arcs and development we experience in small glimpses, outside the main plot. Leaving a lot more for future seasons to work on. It’s a dark comedy at its heart with great character studies into how entitlement and wealth warp sensibilities across a wide spectrum.
The Politician is currently streaming on Netflix and is completely worth the binge.