Lucy Boynton as Astrid takes center stage in this episode of The Politician but succeeds only in making an already unlikeable character even less appealing.
Remember when we said it would be nice to learn more about Astrid as a person? Be careful what you wish for. The fourth episode of Netflix’s The Politician is almost entirely devoted to Astrid — her disappearance and the implications it has on the rapidly approaching election. And although it pulls back the curtain on the character, it doesn’t reveal anything particularly likable or engaging. Astrid feels smothered by her life, so she convinces the dim-witted Ricardo to stage a kidnapping, when in fact she’s fleeing to New York City with him to play the tourist.
While we can understand the impulse to get away from her domineering parents and the constant pressures of perfection, the way she chooses to go about it is reprehensible. She wants to escape her wealthy life, but it’s her inherent privilege that allows her to do so — to fly 3000 miles and live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet, seemingly indefinitely without a job. Astrid may not like her family’s money, but she certainly enjoys the freedom it provides.
Meanwhile, back in California, her supposed kidnapping causes massive upheaval in the election. No sooner does Payton make the decision to fire Infinity from her position as vice presidential candidate in light of “Buttmunch-gate,” he’s put under investigation as a possible suspect in Astrid’s disappearance. Luckily for him, the cops in his town are perhaps the most bribable in the continental United States, and clearing his name is easily done. But his problems are still myriad, as he struggles to find a new running mate before the election.
The scenes where Payton and his campaign team plot their next move are the only ones left that really sing. (Speaking of singing, why is there so little singing on this show?) The boy who can no longer distinguish between himself and his political persona has been completely lost in the crowd, his inner conflict abandoned in favor of much less interesting subplots with Astrid and Infinity.
In the end, Astrid’s getaway accomplishes little. She is convinced to return home by the surprisingly wise Ricardo, and she faces the ire of a student body that was legitimately concerned for her well-being while they thought she was missing. Her political career is on life support, as her poll numbers tank and she risks losing her running mate Skye to Payton’s campaign.
But perhaps most frustratingly, she was given an entire episode to shine and still failed to develop into a compelling character. It’s not the fault of actress Lucy Boynton, who has put in perfectly acceptable performances elsewhere. But at a certain point, we need to face facts and accept that Astrid is wasted potential. Even the other characters seem to know it, if her poll numbers are any indication.
With the defection of Skye, Payton’s victory is virtually guaranteed, and it feels as though most of the major subplots have reached their climax if they’re not already completely wrapped up. Still, the show is only half over, so it’s bound to have a few more tricks up its sleeve. With any luck, the series will be able to recalibrate its focus and dig itself out of the Astrid-shaped hole it’s fallen into of late. Well, we can dream, anyway.