Saturday, September 28, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Politician' - Payton and Astrid's Campaigns Battle to Impress an Undecided Voter in 'The Voter'

Netflix's The Politician - Episode 1.05 "The Voter"

Payton makes an eleventh-hour push to lock down the school's undecided voters, including one student who has other things on his mind besides politics. 

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's The Politician.

"The Voter" was written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Ian Brennan and directed by Ian Brennan

Does this show actually have anything new, interesting or nuanced to say about politics? Increasingly, the answer appears to be no. It's just a heightened and satirical version of the world the audience has largely been living in for three years now. It may feel easy for some to be energized about needing to speak up and make a difference. But elections are often won by the levels of enthusiasm. The previous episode noted that Payton and Astrid have similar and high disapproval numbers. They feel they have to go all out at the end in order to prevail in this race. That mostly just comes across as them increasingly promising more outrageous things at the final debate. It's not something that anyone can particularly feel inspired by or passionate about. Sure, some students have the causes that they are energized about. Guns in schools is a serious issue. Addressing climate change is another. But it's just easier to believe that a vote won't actually change anything. That is inherently cynical. It's a form of privilege as well. Elliot may come from the other side of the tracks by this community's standards. But he still has the opportunity to get an excellent education at an impressive high school. The race for student body president may be one of life or death for the campaigns. For Elliot though, it's just something happening in the background. It disrupts his day because people keep coming up to him trying to engage him and see if his mind can change. He isn't going to vote though. He doesn't feel motivated to do so. He sees the race as two wealthy and privileged kids fighting it out for selfish reasons. He sees through their promises. He knows that they are empty and meaningless. In fact, they prevent him from achieving what he actually wants in this world. Sure, it's gross that all he can think about is sex and jerking off. And yet, that's a perfectly reasonable mentality for a teenage boy. It shouldn't be his only concern. But he is propped up to make it seem like the only thing of value because porn and temptation are so easily accessible. He lives in a highly sexualized world even though he has no outlet to answer the questions he has about his own sexuality. That too seems like a luxury for the elite and privileged of this world. Payton can boast about his sexual fluidity as an attribute largely because it helps him stand out as unique. Meanwhile, Elliot is living the more conventional life where no one is truly speaking to him. Waiting until the last moment to reach out to him was a mistake. His mind was never going to change. He would only get more annoyed with the various individuals from the campaign. Sure, it's awful when he pushes Astrid's campaign pollster. That's the way he can let his frustrations out at the world. No one knows who he is. No one sees him. His response isn't justified though. He is just as awful as everyone else in this world. But that too comes with the underlying sense that everyone is destructive and corrosive in their own unique way. It's all just a performance that we put on. That's annoying because it comes with the understanding that nothing can ever really change. It also highlights how politicians so often don't speak to the people in a genuine way. For Payton and Astrid, it's a race to win with an undecided vote still out there. To Elliot, it's people constantly trying to sell him something he doesn't want or care about. It's depressing because it's about the freedom of fair and safe elections. But again, this campaign shouldn't matter. It's just a way for Payton and Astrid to seem impressive in the future even though they already have their lives figured out. They make it into a big deal. It doesn't need to be. That has the opportunity to be refreshing. Instead, this episode mostly seems like a gimmick that goes on for way too long even though it is the shortest episode of the season by far. The character of Elliot is designed to showcase a new perspective. That identity just happens to be very cliche and silly without adding anything of substance to the proceedings except possibly making the audience more depressed while showcasing the desperation elsewhere in the narrative.