How 'The Politician' Finale Sets Up Season 2

The Politician S01E08 Still Judith Light Bette Midler - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Netflix

[This story contains spoilers from the first season finale of Netflix's The Politician.]

The final hour of The Politician's first season not only caught up with the ultra-ambitious titular character several years after his scandal-plagued run for high school president, but it also introduced the players in his next run for office.

Payton Hobart (Tony winner Ben Platt) faded into obscurity (and incidentally developed a drinking problem) after his disastrous run for student body president. Instead of Harvard, he settled for NYU (which has produced no U.S. presidents, vs. Harvard's five, or seven if you count advanced degrees), and makes money playing at a piano bar.

Enter powerful New York State Senate Majority Leader Dede Standish (Judith Light), who's being tapped for a vice presidential run by a Beto O'Rourke-esque Texas senator-elect (Sam Jaeger). Once Dede and her chief of staff (Bette Midler) set their sights on the White House, she begins to neglect her district. When some of Payton's old high school pals realize there's an opening for fresh blood to challenge Dede for her seat, they visit Payton with a proposal: Maybe his political career isn't over after all, and he should run.

The episode set up a season two that will see Platt and Light go head-to-head in the local race, switching the setting of the series from sunny California to New York City. The specifics, however, are still elusive, even to star Platt.

"We really don't know [where the story is headed]," Platt told The Hollywood Reporter about season two. "Every time we think we know, [creators Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk] really shock us. All I know is that it will be very much focused on mine and Judith's race, and that we'll be in New York now. And we're theoretically a little bit older and coming into our own as adults."

The first season focused on a group of teens whose ambition and privilege collided in sometimes disastrous ways. Season two will see those characters adapting to adulthood in a completely different environment than the one in which they were raised.

"I think the most interesting thing for all of them is seeing what happens to them when you strip away the context for their personalities that seem very formulaic and that have been developed very pragmatically in reaction to their surroundings," said star Lucy Boynton, who plays Payton's high school rival.

Boynton wants to see how the characters are able to translate the way their privilege and ambition has shaped their personalities into new, very different contexts. "How best to thrive and survive in that surrounding has been developed into a persona. Once you pull away the high school surroundings and context, what does that turn into? What survives and what falls by the wayside? We'll see how much Astrid stays true to herself."

Platt echoed that sentiment. He's interested in, "like Lucy said, seeing how much of our archetype remains when we're out of that environment and in the real world, and how much will remain intact just by virtue of the fact that we're still in a political setting."

He added, "For Peyton, similarly, I think by the end of the season he's had this taste of if he does strip away his ambition and all of his gravitas and his self-preservation, he can feel all these things and be very connected and empathetic. Obviously, his ambition once again at the very end gets the better of him, and he wants to jump back in the game. So I think it'll be interesting having tasted now both sides of it, whether he can strike any better of a balance or whether he'll have to fall completely back to his old ways. Your guess is as good as mine."