But the plot veers away from Payton for large swaths of time to introduce us to New York State Senator Dede Standish (Light) and her right-hand woman, Hadassah Gold (Midler). Dede is approached by a senator from Texas who wants her to be his running mate for the US presidency. She's all for that; she just needs to keep the fact that she's part of a long-term throuple with her husband and another man quiet. (This show adores a throuple. And maybe it's worth it alone to hear Tony-winning Light say "Devil's Triangle.")
So how does this all relate to the story of Payton? Well, it becomes relevant when his former lackey McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss), now an early graduate of Columbia University, goes to work with Dede and Hadassah and finds them resting on their laurels when it comes to reelection and vulnerable to an attack by an upstart challenger. From there, McAfee rallies Payton's former high school opponents and allies to convince him to run against Dede.
Nearly all of Payton's one-time foes, from woke lesbian Skye (Rahne Jones) -- who once tried to feed Payton a cupcake with rat poison -- to ice queen Astrid (Lucy Boynton), appear in his dorm room to get him back into politics. They need something to believe in and that something, apparently, is Payton. And thus, the season ends with Payton mounting a challenge to Dede, making his primary issue the New York transit system's ineffectiveness. (We've got a regular Cynthia Nixon over here!)
My general fatigue with The Politician's erratic storytelling was rendered completely powerless to the idea that if I keep watching in Season 2, I'll get to see Bette Midler and Judith Light on the warpath. As I watched that last episode play out on my TV, I thought: "Why wasn't this the show from the beginning?" Certainly there had to be more to it than the half-baked, detached-from-reality fare I'd been consuming so far.