Did Payton Win The Election? That Unexpected 'The Politician' Season 2 Ending, Explained

Savannah Walsh

From ELLE

Spoilers for season 2 of The Politician ahead.

How do you solve a problem like Payton Hobart? That's the central question of The Politician season 2, all seven episodes of which dropped on Netflix last week. When we're re-introduced to the ambitious wunderkind, played by Ben Platt, he's mounting a New York State Senate race from his NYU dorm room. Following that dubious high school class president win, Payton's set his sights on the Senate seat of longtime incumbent Dede Standish (Judith Light).

Viewers of the first season know that Payton will stop at nothing to gain political power. What we don't know is the lengths to which Dede, her campaign advisor Hadassah Gold (Bette Midler), and Payton's rival-turned-ally-turned-rival-again Astrid (Lucy Boynton) will go to challenge him. But in the season finale, titled "Election Day," all the forces opposing Payton seem to bend to his will. An election he was poised to lose falls into his lap, his on-off love Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) returns to his side, and a bid for the Vice Presidency arrives. How do you solve a problem like Payton? Apparently, you don't.

Photo credit: GIOVANNI RUFINO/NETFLIX

Although a third season has yet to be confirmed, it won't stop viewers from speculating about Payton's next campaign—and the inevitable downfall from his current high. Below, we break down the key moments from the ending of The Politician season 2.


Dede concedes the tied election to Payton in a shocking press conference.

At the start of the finale, Payton and Dede's teams are scrambling after the results of the election come in at a tie. In lieu of a second voting day or coin toss, the candidates agree to a game of rock, paper, scissors. Each side is convinced their strategy will lead them to victory—including Payton's campaign, which discovers Infinity (Zoey Deutch) secretly stole a ballot box in a demographically older neighborhood.

But everything changes when Dede and Haddasah grab a drink at a downtown piano bar. (The one where Payton sang an emotional rendition of Billy Joel's "Vienna" toward the end of season 1.) As luck would have it, Payton is there again, and his rendition of Pippin's "Corner of the Sky" moves Dede so much, she seemingly decides to concede the race. In a press conference on the day the rock, paper, scissors match was set to take place, Dede expresses her disillusionment with politics and passes the baton to the impassioned younger generation.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Meanwhile, Astrid and Alice come to different conclusions about motherhood while at a pregnancy retreat in Upstate New York. Both are pregnant with Payton's child after a brief, ill-planned throuple arrangement. Astrid gets an abortion and vows to restart her life. Alice returns to Payton to get married and raise their child, under the condition that she can pursue her own dreams alongside his. Dede's political ambitions also enter a new chapter, when Payton's mother and new California Governor Georgina (Gwyneth Paltrow) offers her the VP slot in her forthcoming presidential campaign.

Payton's campaign team discovers he rightfully won the election in the first place.

Although Payton secured the State Senate seat he's been chasing all season, the fact that he might not have actually won eats at him. "For someone who has staked his future on winning elections, I don't win many elections," Payton tells his campaign staff before making his first speech as senator-elect. But McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss), Skye (Rahne Jones), and James (Theo Germaine) end up counting the votes in the stolen ballot box, discovering that Payton had won the race—by 23 votes. While the true results give Payton renewed confidence before addressing his constituents, it also confirmed that the illegal theft undermined his credibility.

Photo credit: GIOVANNI RUFINO/NETFLIX

Then, there's a time jump two years into the future.

As is the case with season 1 of The Politician, the second season jumps two years into the future. Payton celebrates his first term on the State Senate and his accomplishments that led to a greener New York. Alice is attending medical school while the couple raises their young son Archie, Payton's running unopposed in the next election for Senate. While all seems well in the group, McAfee, Skye, and James find themselves longing for the next campaign. "The last two years have been a revelation," Payton insists to his team. "Not just because I became a husband and a father. But because I learned that a meaningful life is not all about ambition. We didn't worry about the next thing. We stayed devoted to the thing in front of us."

Photo credit: NICOLE RIVELLI/NETFLIX

While Payton may not be seeking out a new campaign, one ends up finding him. Hadassah and Dede track him down with an offer to be Dede's running mate. That is, four years from now, when she runs following Georgina's one-term presidency. Payton doesn't give a definitive answer, but seems to find clarity when an image of the late River (his former lover and confidant, played by David Corenswet) briefly flashes in his mind.

Season 3 will have to answer other major questions.

Although the final look between Payton and Dede says a lot, there's no guarantee he'll accept the VP job. While the position serves as a direct line to the White House, it also poses a threat to his family's harmony. Plus, it could be stopped by the constitutional rule that a person must be age 35 to be president. (After all, Payton was living in an NYU dorm like, a second ago.) Other queries heading into season 3 include: Will Hadassah and William make their relationship work long-term? Who is McAfee's unnamed fiancé? And what state is the world in now that Georgina Hobart sits in the Oval? Until season 3 is confirmed, these answers will remain hidden alongside that secret ballot box.

Watch season 2 of The Politician on Netflix.

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