04th Oct2019

‘The Politician’ Review (Netflix Original)

by Rhys Payne

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The Netflix original The Politician is a fascinating look into the possible consequences of unhealthy obsessions with ambition and determination which is something not many TV shows look into. Too many times we see a determined character who risks friendships, relationships, family etc to achieve the thing they crave and they achieve their dreams making everything worth it in the end but instead, this show gives an alternative view of ambition. It is important to note, however, that this is a dramatisation and while it is based on real-life things have been exaggerated for TV.

The first thing I noticed about The Politician was the sporadic episode length that drastically changes from one episode to another. It varies from an hour to twenty-five minutes which is very confusing until you consider the fact that the show is based on real life. If you think about episodes as a series of days, then it’s not every day that a huge series of dramatic events happen but instead, a few things happen each day almost randomly. This shows that the creative team involved in this show thought about not just the themes but also the actual structure of the show which not many other TV shows think about which further helps this show because unique and innovative. On top of this, the actual character structures are based on real people. Within the series, there are no good or bad characters (i mean there are characters that do bad things but everyone does something that is considered ‘bad.’) This based on the belief that in the real world there are no bad people instead just people who do bad things. Even the ‘bad’ things that these characters do in this show are all within the world of believability and are realistic. This show helps bring many, often ignored, issues to the mainstream media. For example, the lead character is adopted but there is no big scandalous story about finding out about it or discovering their ‘real’ parents instead they just live their life and the audience almost forget that they are adopted. Also, this show is fantastic for the representation of women, queer people, disabilities, mental health and alternate relationships (such as throuples) and fluid sexuality which is a true reflection of modern life that we all live in. The show represents all types of people which makes it stand out from the other shows that aim to empower a small group of people, whereas this show aims to empower as many people as possible. Because of all this, the show is hyper-modern and so many people can relate to the show. However, due to all this real-life compatibility, it does make some of the more serious message even more impactful. Scenes that depict suicide, for example, become very close to the bone and hard to watch and so it not a show for a younger audience but instead a more mature audience that has already been exposed to the more dark and serious sides of life.

Having known Ben Platt from his roles in musical theatre productions such as ‘The Book Of Mormon’ and ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ but never actually seeing one of his shows live I was dubious at first that his casting as the lead character in this show was just the token celebrity hiring but after watching The Politician in its entirety I can not imagine anyone else playing the lead role of Payton Hobart – a character who is focused on becoming student body president, for which he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Ben has a young-looking face which helps display the plucky, aspiration young person that this character fundamentally is. The fact that Ben sings during this show was the cherry on the cake. As I have outlined, He has a history in musical theatre and most noticeable is known for his incredible vocal ability. There were two key scenes where he sings but the best, in my opinion, was at a character funeral where he sings “The River.” This was an extremely emotional scene that had me in tears partially because of the funeral itself but also because of Ben’s phenomenal vocals and emotional acting. I already had high expectations for his performing ability but this song even exceeded them. Playing to Ben’s assets was a smart choice and made for an even more enjoyable viewing experience. Payton is an adopted character that is also Gay which only adds to the positive representation on the show.

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Zoey Deutch, plays Infinity Jackson and helped bring much of the drama to The Politician. Zoey also has a face of innocence and softness which made many of her scenes heartbreaking and emotional. This character has the greatest progression from a weak and feeble girl to a strong and defiant woman by the end of the series. Through this, she learns that not all relationships are positive and that it is of key importance to escape toxic relationships.

Infinity’s grandmother Dusty, played by Jessica Lange, could be considered as one of the ‘bad’ characters in this show was fantastic in her own perfectly cruel. From a writers perspective, one of the most important things to do is to justify the evilness of a character. What dusty did was supposed out of love and not losing people who she loved and cared about, which is a big concern for parents/grandparents which does sort of justify her criminal activity. A minor character that I didn’t particularly enjoy was Elliot, played by Russell Posner, who only appeared in one episode but he was the focus for the majority of the episode. Although this change of perspective was refreshing and appeared in one of the shorter episodes it was a nice change but after this episode, Elliot faded back into the background and is never brought back. This is the only example of consistency being slightly off in the show. However, One of my favourite characters in this show was Ricardo, played by Benjamin Barrett, who was supposedly Infinities dim-witted boyfriend who is easily influenced and is quick to anger. Although he was supposed to be dumb, he was at times extremely clever when he references mythology and extensive knowledge of musical theatre etc which did bring about a lot of comedy but also surprises the audience. He was the character who always gave in to his emotions who many people can relate too.

One of the nicest things in The Politician was the colour pallet and aesthetic they used consistently throughout the whole series. The homes used a lot of Gold to give a modern backdrop but also suggest Royalty and richness (who is a key theme in the series.) On top of this, each character had a set colour palette for their outfits which helped show things about the character but also helped with consistency for the audience.

Payton, in this series, had one of the most fashionable and iconic costumes the fashion team had considered each character, especially Payton, traits and personality to decide on the clothes to use. Payton was smartly dressed through, not always in a suit, which helps show the audience that to dress smart you don’t always have to wear a suit. I would consider him as my new fashion icon for everyday life. One creative decided I didn’t partially like was a cloud scene which takes place later in the series. While it was emotional and heart wrenching to watch, in the grand scheme of things it was too surreal and didn’t partially fit the real-life influence of the show.

In general, The Politician is a phenomenal show which showed the extent some people go to achieve their dreams but also that our achieving our dreams are not always what we expect them to be. It’s a show that is relatable and incredibly realistic which is gripping and crammed full of drama.

***** 5/5

The Politician is out now on Netflix

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