Review Roundup: THE POLITICIAN Season 2, Starring Ben Platt, Judith Light, Bette Midler, Gwyneth Paltrow, and More
Season 2 of Netflix's The Politician has been released!
This sesaon, Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) fights to unseat Dede Standish (Judith Light) in the New York State Senate race. As a long-time incumbent and greatly admired Senate Majority Leader with no-nonsense Chief of Staff, Hadassah Gold (Bette Midler) at her side, Dede's re-election was supposed to be easy, but Payton - who sees this as the next step on his path to the Presidency - must decide what kind of politician he ultimately wants to be in order to succeed, even if that means exposing secrets, lies, and a throuple. Meanwhile, his mother, Georgina Hobart (Gwyneth Paltrow), makes a momentous decision that threatens to upstage him and everything he's hoping to accomplish. But if Payton wants to rise above petty politics and succeed without compromising his character, he must find his voice and strengthen his political message to inspire and excite the voters.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter: Perhaps even more than the disappointing first season, the second season of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan's Netflix comedy is a hollow and perplexingly stale glimpse into American politics. At seven episodes, several running under 40 minutes, The Politician is neither effective escapism in a moment of general cultural discomfort, nor does it have anything vaguely insightful to say about our electoral process - a basically unforgivable sin for a show airing in an election year.
Hank Stuever, Washington Post: It's entirely possible to watch "The Politician" and not know whether its take on politics is meant to be meaningful and relevant or - and this may be the better way to enjoy it - completely and coldly meaningless. "The Politician's" burn-it-down regard for all politics is a tired stance and a bit off topic in the current moment, which so badly needs a rebuilding of good politics and good people.
Let us fall back, then, to the show's only sure defense: It's a comedy. In that regard, there are plenty of campy pleasures here.
Anita Singh, The Telegraph: Perhaps The Politician (Netflix) arrived at the wrong time. A satire about politics? Now? Or perhaps this kitschy Ryan Murphy show failed to land because it features the most insufferably entitled rich kids since Gossip Girl. But it's back for a second series, and it has a saviour in the form of Bette Midler. Midler plays Hadassah Gold, loyal chief of staff to Senator Dede Standish, who is played by Judith Light. The pair DON'T so much steal the show as turn it into their own personal heist movie. Unfortunately, they're not on screen all the time, and we're stuck with the rest of Murphy's characters.
Andrew Crump, The Playlist: Frankly, the absence of a moral center, or even a driving ideology, turns an otherwise typical Murphy production into a spectacle of jaw-dropping tone-deaf nonsense. "The Politician" presents as a window into cynical politicking, a hard glance at how the sausage is made during election cycles and in the everyday execution of official governing duties, but it's every bit as calculating and soulless as the concepts it's critiquing.
Isobel Lewis, Independent: The show has always excelled at satirising people who exploit "woke" culture for their own personal gain, with cultural appropriation, zero-waste living and sex positivity all flitting between being Payton's campaign platform and his biggest downfall. But these concepts are never mocked with actual cruelty. Sure, it's a bit ridiculous to always carry around a glass bottle to avoid using plastic packaging and yes, cancelling an adult for a fancy dress costume they wore when they were six might be a bit OTT, but the big ideas they represent are presented in a positive, respectful light.
Lewis Knight, Mirror: Thankfully, the execution of the second season is much more economic and less scattered, despite the tendency to shoehorn some characters into the story that had already outlasted their shelf life.
This gives Platt his best material to work with yet and the show no longer finds unnatural ways to force in a musical number and instead makes it feel much more fun and earned when it does come.
Shuvrajit Das Biswas, The Cinemaholic: Ryan Murphy's show once again captures individual ideologies against the backdrop of the American political system. The writing on THE WALL is clear insofar as the show actively tries to grapple with present-day issues. However, 'The Politician' still comes across as a fantastical tale which ultimately does little more than scratch the surface of what it is truly trying to say.
Beth Webb, Empire: Season 2 sees Payton move to New York for the next phase of his projected journey towards the Presidency, and this time Murphy and co-creators Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk seem to have succumbed to the discourse. Packing the series to the gills with hot takes on everything from climate action to cultural appropriation, the writers have used Payton and his Gen Z campaign strategists as a way of opening up a broader conversation around the power that young people can wield today.
Liz Shannon Miller, Collider: While The Politician can't be blamed for the timing, perhaps it might have been wiser to wait on releasing the season. The logline for the series is constructed around the idea of discovering, through the political ascent of Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), what it takes to be a politician today. Like the first season, there's a high level of energy that verges often on a level of camp that is almost reminiscent of vintage Glee episodes; there's a lot of speechifying on the part of characters. But while at times the second season is quite watchable - 90 percent of the time thanks to its cast - the show doesn't really know what it wants to say about, well, anything.