Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Politician season 1.
Something about The Politician's Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) is so alluring to the people around him that they just can't help but want to be part of his circle. That becomes most clear in the finale of the first season when his ex-girlfriend Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) leaves her wedding to help Payton with his next campaign. It's almost a shame, actually, because Alice is basically a completely different person when she's around Payton versus when she was living her new college life without him. Alice is unrecognisable in The Politician's final episode because she looks happy. She'd been Payton-free for three years and found love with someone who loved her back.
If Alice also looked incredibly different to you when Payton tracks her down at her college, it's probably because she was smiling and laughing. Viewers don't really see her do that when she's Payton's high school girlfriend. At that time, she was always so serious and seemingly resigned to being miserable. She even broke up with Payton just to make him look better for his campaign, and he gave her nothing in return for her huge sacrifice.
And, sure, there are physical changes that make Alice look different in the finale. Her is long and wavy instead of short and in a pristine bob. But it's not just the hair that makes her look like a new person, it's that she was becoming a new person.
When Payton decided he needed her back (only when he learned she was marrying someone else), Alice tried to be strong. She told Payton that their relationship had been toxic for her, and that he could never love her the way her fiancé Thad could. "I’ve sort of come to believe that the way I love you really isn't healthy," she said. "It's more of an illness that you spend your whole life learning how to live with." When Alice stood up to leave, Payton called out to her. She stopped and added in a monotone, resigned voice, "Maybe we can have an affair or something." That tone is the one she uses through many of the first few episodes. But her tone was lighter in her brief scene with Thad. She smiled, she laughed. She looked different because, frankly, she seemed happy.
And then she chose Payton again. She ran out on her wedding to join Payton's state senate campaign, and she will likely find herself wrapped back up on the mess and the stress to come. Payton apologised for ignoring Alice during their fake breakup all those years ago, and he said he was looking forward to starting fresh with her, but he probably won't change just like that — if at all.
Don't be surprised if, in season 2, Alice is back to her blonde bob and pearls, ready to be a stoic, unemotional first lady. Perhaps power really is just that intoxicating to her that she'll sacrifice everything else to be by Payton's side. But Alice deserves better. She deserves someone who makes her smile and laugh in a way where she looks like a completely different person. Instead, all she has is Payton and his ego that needs to be fed.