Sunday, September 29, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Politician' - Payton Faces New Problems and Opportunities in a New City in 'Vienna'

Netflix's The Politician - Episode 1.08 "Vienna"

Payton reevaluates his life after a reckoning, but when a window of opportunity opens, he grapples with a big decision about his political aspirations. 

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 season finale of Netflix's The Politician.

"Vienna" was written by Brad Falchuk and directed by Brad Falchuk

Was it necessary for the show to start in high school? The show is designed around a specific race Payton is running in each season. So, it's largely about the campaign and the people who serve as politicians. And yet, the first season largely showcased a privileged and lavish world that didn't seem to match any kind of truly political sensibility easily understood by the audience. It's strange that Judith Light and Bette Midler fit in this world better than Jessica Lange and Gwyneth Paltrow did. That's disappointing. Many of them have worked on Ryan Murphy projects as well. They understand this sensibility. This is an incredibly over-the-top world. And yet, it's hard to truly figure out the narrative trajectory from this first season. This finale is setting things up for the future. The penultimate episode brought a lot of conclusion to the various stories being told in high school. And now, the narrative jumps ahead three years to depict many of these characters in college when an opportunity presents itself to get the band back together so Payton can run for State Senate in New York. It essentially becomes the premise for the next season. That may be a lackluster idea for a season. But the execution here helps salvage what was an incredibly disappointing first year. Again, the story didn't have to start with Payton in high school running for student body president. It just forced him to make some crucial realizations about himself. He now sees his blind ambition as the most corrosive thing to his entire identity. He was so fixated on his final goal of being President of the United States one day that he refused to feel any emotions that didn't serve some larger purpose to his campaign. He was so cruel and alienating to his friends and peers in this world as well. He wound up losing everything. He wasn't accepted into Harvard like he planned. He is cut off from his father. He made enemies who wanted to kill him. But now, the bad people are in prison. A Vanity Fair article was written about this strange and crazy story. And yet, most of the people are just moving on with their lives. Payton being humbled in this way makes him more introspective. However, his ambition wasn't his only issue. This finale seems to replace that with alcoholism. And so, it is exciting to see him performing "Vienna" at a bar at the start of this episode. That quickly makes way for the realization that he comes home drunk every night. He is continually chasing after things he lost awhile ago. It simply doesn't make sense that Payton and Alice are re-litigating the details of their fake breakup in high school. They see that as the thing that doomed them as a couple. And yet, Alice appears to have the understanding that the type of love in this relationship was toxic. She should get as far away from that as possible. That is antithetical to the final twist though. This story needs all of Payton's peers from high school to drop everything in order to help him run a new campaign. That's easy for people like McAfee and James to do. They have always remained connected with him. Infinity and Skye are the same way especially after they each got the help that they needed. Astrid presents herself as the person who quickly found dirt on his new opponent. But Alice leaving her fiancé at the altar doesn't make much sense. Again, the show wants the audience to believe in Payton and Alice's romantic connection. It's just difficult to do so. In fact, it still remains a problem that everyone believes in Payton as a politician so fiercely despite him constantly being lost or destructive. They view all of this as an opportunity because Dede Standish no longer has a campaign infrastructure. She hasn't had opposition at the ballot box in awhile. She even has an offer to become the next Vice President. That's where her ambition wants to take her. That's what's on the line for her. The action is so quick and succinct with her. It establishes who this woman is as well as the longtime effectiveness of her chief of staff, Hadassah Gold. They are a formidable team. The audience should probably be rooting for Payton to prevail in a shocking upset. But that still requires him to have more convictions and actually be able to argue them in a way that shows him growing his support and enthusiasm in the state. That may be the most looming problem. And yet, it should be interesting to see how all of this continues to develop.