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Main Characters

     Payton Hobart 

Played By: Ben Platt

The protagonist of the series, an ambitious high school student who aspires to become president of the United States today and decides to run for student body president in order to achieve this goal.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: A rare male example.
  • Adorkable: Has his moments.
  • Adventures in Comaland: Payton falls into a coma after developing sepsis and dreams of River while under.
  • Adoption Diss: His brothers frequently point out that Payton isn't biologically related to the rest of the family.
  • The Alcoholic: Payton develops this after the Time Skip and his Break the Haughty moment (see below).
  • Ambition Is Evil: Discussed. In his more vulnerable moments; he fears this about himself as ambition leads to some hard failures; but ultimately he's a good person.
  • Anti-Hero: More or less a Type III: he's cunning and pragmatic but he doesn't go as far as to cheat in his quest for office as there are lines he won't cross.
  • Bi the Way: His girlfriend was Alice Charles, but he also had an affair with River Barkley, whose death deeply affects him.
  • Break the Haughty: Throughout the season, Payton goes from a viable presidential candidate to the student body president to a disgraced president who loses his position after his supposed involvement in an attempted murder comes out. He also nearly dies from sepsis as the result of a shooting (from a BB gun), gets cut out of his adoptive father's will (along with his mother), loses his Harvard admittance, leaves school, and moves to New York, broken and alone. While in New York, Payton develops alcoholism as a coping mechanism.
  • Broken Ace: Payton possesses a 4.3 GPA and is politically and academically savvy, though he is also an Academic Alpha Bitch who is deeply affected by River's suicide.
  • The Chessmaster: Starting at a young age, everything Payton does is part of a life-long plan to get him in the Oval Office. He even plays chess!
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: Well technically Astrid withdrew but Payton became the student body president regardless. He's ambivalent about this method of victory, however.
  • Fatal Flaw: Ambition, but more deeply it's his need for validation.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: An aborted attempt by one of Payton's rivals, in which he retaliates by calling them a bigot.
  • Gender-Blender Name: "Payton" (and its variants) can be a girl's name.
  • Guile Hero: Uses his incredible intelligence to reach his goals. Were he more villainous, he'd be a straight up Magnificent Bastard.
  • Happily Adopted: Downplayed. He's ostracized by his older brothers and initially is The Unfavorite to his father. His mother, however, loves him and Payton has no desire to look for his birth mother.
  • Heroic BSoD: Massively for 3 years following his resignation.
  • He’s Back: In the last moments of S1 after his friends tells him You Are Better Than You Think You Are and he declares his campaign for state senate.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Payton can be ambitious with little regard to others' feelings, but he can be remorseful and kindhearted.
  • The Leader: Of his devoted band of political operatives.
  • Mama's Boy: Payton is openly adored by his mother, to whom he is the clear favorite.
  • Preppy Name: Payton Hobart (and really, his whole family).
  • Second Year Protagonist: Averted, he's explicitly in his senior year of high school in season 1.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Has a chessboard in his room and in the season 1 finale is seen playing chess in Central Park.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Has a sharp looking pair.
  • The Sociopath: Discussed. One of his biggest fears is that he can't feel anything. Especially when he struggles to cry over River's death, but successfully does so to manipulate Infinity onto his campaign.
  • The Unfavorite: He implicitly was this to his father Keaton before his brothers tried to suffocate him. His mother, however, is the inversion.
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     Infinity Jackson 

Played By: Zoey Deutch

Originally Payton's initial running mate, who suffers from cancer.
  • Abusive Parents: More like Abusive Grandparents and Played for Laughs. It seems like Dusty is just milking her for her cancer at first – getting free things like front-row tickets to a Rascal Flatts concert because of it, but it turns out Dusty has actually been making her deathly ill this entire time – Infinity has no traces of cancer whatsoever. All of the chemo and injections were actually toxins. Still Played for Laughs for the most part.
  • Adorkable: Infinity has this in spades.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: She sometimes acts childish and naïve for a 17-year-old. Some examples include her grandmother describing her as having the IQ of a five-year-old and her believing that the restaurant in Ratatouille is run by actual rats. While these instances could be the result of being seriously sheltered by Dusty, it could probably also be the result of the amount of (unspecified) poison forced into her system since she was a young child stunting her cognitive development.
  • Bald Woman: Not a sci-fi version. Infinity has no hair due to her illness but actually shaved by her grandmother.
  • Blackmail: Infinity accuses her grandmother Dusty of poisoning her deceased mother, and uses this as blackmail in order to get away from her.
  • Genki Girl
  • Ill Girl: She is suffering from cancer. Except she really isn't.
  • Munchausen Syndrome: Infinity is at the receiving end of this.
  • Nice Girl: Infinity is a soft-spoken girl who appears to be genuinely kind in a sea of alpha bitches and bitches in sheep's clothing. However, she can be manipulative when she needs to be.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Andrew tells Payton that she doesn't really have cancer, which is confirmed at the end of episode 2.
  • Parental Abandonment: Infinity lives with her grandmother, after her mother died of kidney failure due to lead poisoning. Her father's fate is unknown.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Infinity was raised by her grandmother Dusty.
  • Speech Impediment: Has a slight lisp and a soft voice.
  • Teen Pregnancy: She is the result of one.
     Astrid Sloan 

Played By: Lucy Boynton

Payton's rival, River's girlfriend.
  • Alpha Bitch: Astrid is this in spades.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: She's Payton's main opponent in S1 along with Dusty. Though she pulls a Hazy Feel Turn in the back half of the season and becomes less interested in the race meanwhile Dusty proves a much more despicable character.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: She calls out her father Theo's superficiality and lack of attention towards her. However, he doesn't care and views her in disgust. Astrid later calls the police on him for crimes he committed.
  • Daughter Of A Whore: Her mother is a former escort.
  • Faking the Dead: Or rather, her disappearance. She briefly runs away to New York with the help with Ricardo.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The first season finale has her work with Payton in his campaign to become State Senate Leader of New York.
  • Lady Macbeth: Lampshaded by Payton when she gets River to run for office.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Astrid despises her life and doesn't have many friends. This leads to her faking her disappearance in order to skip out of town to stay in New York for several days.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Astrid isn't above using devious means to try and win the election.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Lucy Boynton's British accent occasionally shines through.
  • The Rival: To Payton.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: At least in second grade, when she called Payton a "fag". Otherwise, Astrid appears to be a subversion of this trope.
  • Preppy Name: Astrid Sloan.
  • Two First Names: Sloan can also be a first name.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Has this when her dad expresses pride at her calling the cops on him.
     Keaton Hobart 

Played By: Bob Balaban

Payton's adoptive father, Georgina's husband.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Keaton is aware he's in a bad marriage to Georgina, but doesn't want her to divorce him.
  • Convenient Coma: He throws himself off out of a window after learning that Georgina wants a divorce, which leaves
  • Jerkass: He forces Georgina to stay in their failing marriage by threatening to cut her and their son Payton out of the will if she cheats again and eventually makes good on this promise. Additionally, he plays favorites with his three sons regularly.
     River Barkley 

Played By: David Corenswet

Astrid's boyfriend, Payton's tutor and ex-lover
  • Ambiguous Disorder: River felt down about his life and many of his good moments were outweighed by the bad, which somewhat implies depression. However, much of these details come from Payton's coma dream, so it's dubious whether this is true or that's what Payton believes River's mental state was when he shot himself.
  • Bi the Way: His girlfriend is Astrid, but he had feelings for Payton, whom he also had a sexual relationship at some point before River committed suicide.
  • Driven to Suicide: River fatally shoots himself in front of Payton, and attempted suicide unsuccessfully a year prior to this.
  • Hidden Depths: He can speak Mandarin, the result of living in China until age 10.
  • Nice Guy: River is generally a kindhearted guy.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Somewhat. His girlfriend Astrid replaces him as Payton's rival in the student body president election in order to memorialize River. His ghost appears to Payton periodically after episode 1.
  • Posthumous Character: He only appears in flashbacks and dream sequences after his death in the first episode.
  • Private Tutor: River was a tutor in Mandarin to Payton.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's kind of hard to describe parts of the show without mentioning that River dies by suicide halfway through the pilot episode.
     Alice Charles 

Played By: Julia Schalepfer

Payton's girlfriend, member of his political team.
  • Runaway Bride: When Alice learns that Payton is running for New York State Senate, she runs away from the altar to look for him.
  • The Stoic: Generally Alice doesn't show a lot of emotions. She even manages to pass a polygraph test by staying stoic.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality
  • Two First Names: Alice Charles.
  • Your Cheating Heart: She fakes doing this to Payton in order to get him sympathy points during the presidential election. Except she isn't fake-cheating on him - she's been sleeping with Theo for several months.
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     McAfee Westbrook 

Played By: Laura Dreyfuss

One of the members of Payton's political team.
  • Ambiguously Gay: She expresses no interest in guys. In episode 4, it's revealed that McAfee is having an affair with Skye, though that alone doesn't confirm her sexuality as of yet.
  • Brainy Brunette: Mc Afee has brown hair that borders on being dark blonde, and she is very smart.
  • Cincinnatus: She's offered the vice-presidency by Skye but refuses and turns her in, as she still believes in Payton.
  • Deadpan Snarker: McAfee has this in shades.
  • Lady in a Power Suit: Almost all of Mc Afee's clothes are trouser suits, but she also fits the character archetype to a tee, being a largely calm, aloof woman/teenage girl.
  • The Lancer: Serves as this to Payton along with James.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Quite possibly.
  • Nice Girl: Is arguably the kindest of Payton's political team. A downplayed moment of this is that, unlike James, she has the sense of referring to the exchange student Pierre by his first name rather than simply "the Haitian vote".
  • The Only Believer: She believes in Payton's vision even when Alice and James don't later on.
  • The Smart Girl: She shares this role as well with James on Payton's campaign. She later graduates from Columbia with a double major in only three years.
  • The Stoic: Not to the extent of Alice, but McAfee is pretty impassive much of the time.
  • Two First Names: Inverted, both her first and last name are traditionally surnames as lampshaded by Bette Midler.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Payton.

     James Sullivan 

Played By: Theo Germaine

Another member of Payton's political team.
  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: He pulls this on Payton after the latter finds out about his affair with Alice.
    • Subverted when it's revealed this was all an elaborate Batman Gambit to damage Astrid's campaign that Payton was in on.
  • Camp Straight: He has a somewhat effeminate style of speaking and dress however he turns out to be straight when it's revealed he's been sleeping with Alice.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Frequently. For example, when Payton chastises him for being late (though technically he was on time - James just wasn't ten minutes early as per usual), James tells him that he will be looking for a catheter to use in order to stop his occasional wanting to go to the bathroom.
  • Jerkass: James is blunt and rude and often dismisses other students as lesser.
  • I Told You So: To Payton after the fallout from fake cancer-gate. Not that he's particularly happy about it.
  • The Lancer: Serves as this to Payton along with McAfee.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Pulls this after Payton is forced to resign as student body president. But he does become roommates with Payton after the Time Skip.
  • The Smart Guy: He and McAfee are the brains of Payton's campaign, though the candidate is no slouch himself.
  • Sour Supporter
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Is fond of giving these to Payton.
     Skye Leighton 

Played By: Rahne Jones

River and later Astrid's running mate, a gender-nonconforming student.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Skye is identified as gender non-conforming, but others frequently refer to Skye by she/her pronouns without any objections from them.
  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: Skye joins Payton's ticket after Astrid's running off to New York costs them valuable time.
  • Brutal Honesty: As they mention in their first scene (and demonstrated in later episodes), Skye isn't afraid to give their honest opinion, not matter how blunt it is.
  • Butch Lesbian: Skye's dress style leans towards this, and they are a lesbian.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Skye is a fan of throwing around snarky barbs, especially towards Astrid.
  • The Dragon: As Astrid's running mate
    • Dragon Ascendant: First when they take Astrid's spot at the top of the ticket after her elopement. Second when she succeeds Payton after his resignation. Neither last long.
    • Dragon with an Agenda: Like many VPs, she's clearly running for her own purposes and has little love for Astrid. No surprise when she changes sides and later tries to kill Payton.
  • Easily Forgiven: Serves minimal jail-time for trying to kill Payton, who actually seems happy about her light sentence and becomes friends with her.
  • Heel–Face Turn: They go from being against Payton (even calling him a sociopath) to being a friend of his after several-months-in-jail-and-a-Time Skip-later.
  • Hidden Depths: Skye is a fan of Guys and Dolls.
  • Hyper Competent Side Kick: They're much better at playing the political game than Astrid and is quite frustrated by this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Yes, Skye can be sharp in their opinions and isn't afraid to call out people for their behavior but they try to help the marginalized students of their school by being part of the school election.
  • Sixth Ranger: Joins Team Payton after jumping ship from Astrid's failing campaign. She betrays them not long after by trying to kill Payton but in the S1 finale she is Easily Forgiven and joins the team for good.
  • The Starscream: She tries to assassinate and replace Payton.
  • Straw Feminist: Of the Soapbox Sadie variety. She refuses to identify with any gender, is a lesbian, and often makes speeches regarding women's issues.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Skye is a lot kinder in the season 1 finale than in previous episodes. Of course, the Time Skip may have something to do with that.
     Ricardo 

Played By: Benjamin Barrett

Infinity's boyfriend.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": His audition in "The Assassination of Payton Hobart, Part 1".
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: He is obsessed with Infinity (though he does cheat on her with Astrid at one point) and his attempted assassination of Payton is based in this trope.
  • The Ditz: Ricardo isn't the smartest tool in the shed. He admits this in "Gone Girl".
  • Hidden Depths: Twice in the same episode.
    • First he shows immediate familiarity with Sondheim's Assassins when Infinity tells him about her casting. Then he auditions himself and treats it as Serious Business
    • While doing research for his role (which somehow includes learning about The Iliad), he gets the idea for Payton's assassination from Philoctetes' death. This would have worked perfectly and cleared him of any suspicion had he not told Infinity.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: He's not a good singer.
  • Manchild: Ricardo has shades of this.
  • Spanner in the Works: Ricardo's attempt to get back at Astrid for destroying his relationship with Infinity leads to Astrid and him running off to New York in the middle of the presidential election which then leads to Astrid falling behind in the polls.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Slept with Astrid multiple times when the two were in New York.
     Dusty Jackson 

Played By: Jessica Lange

Infinity's grandmother.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: She serves as this for Payton in S1 along with Astrid and is by far the evilest character on the show.
  • Deep South: Originally from West Virginia.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The restaurant scene in episode 1 has her using her granddaughter's disability in order to draw sympathy in order to get a table.
  • Evil Matriarch: Of the Jackson family. She poisoned Infinity and likely killed Infinity's mother (her own daughter).
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dusty originally appears like an old-fashioned Southern Belle who cares for her granddaughter. However, as the first season unfolds, the viewers learn that she has been poisoning Infinity to keep her at arm's length (while passing it off as cancer) and killed her own daughter by slowly poisoning her into kidney failure because she didn't want to leave either. Additionally, she's homophobic and attempts to have Payton assassinated.
  • Hate Sink: She's a elitist, homophobic Rich Bitch who killed her daughter and poisoned her granddaughter into illness.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Dusty likely caused her daughter's death from kidney failure by feeding her lead paint chips, caused her granddaughter to fall ill, and attempts to have Payton killed.
  • Munchausen Syndrome: Pulls this on her granddaughter.
  • Offing the Offspring: She killed her daughter by poisoning her until her kidneys failed.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In the series trailer, she describes gay people as only "munching on butts and celebrating Halloween".
  • Rich Bitch: Dusty is rude and self-centered and also wealthy.
  • Southern Belle: What she passes herself as.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Infinity accuses her of poisoning her late mother, Dusty says this: "What are you saying? That I went down into the basement and peeled paint chips off the wall and fed them to your mother?" But she denies doing the poisoning.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Her main modus operandi.
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     Georgina Hobart 

Played By: Gwyneth Paltrow

Payton's adoptive mother.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Her marriage to Keaton is this. She married him when she gave up on love altogether and continuously has affairs with other people. Keaton is aware of all of this, but still wants her to "pretend" for him.
  • Bi the Way: She's married to a man, and has an affair with Brigitte, the family horse trainer.
  • Journey For Self Discovery: She's leaves for one in the penultimate episode of season 1. Last heard, she's in the Bhutanese Himalayas.
  • May–December Romance: She married to Keaton, who is significantly older than she is.
  • Parental Favoritism: It's clear that Georgina is closer to Payton than to Martin and Luther - the both of whom she calls "borderline psychopathic".
  • Parental Neglect: Georgina was subjected to this during her childhood to the point where she barely knew her mother and had to learn details about her from her nanny.
  • Put on a Bus: She probably won't come back from her soul-searching odyssey for at least a little bit.
  • Your Cheating Heart: She cheats on her husband numerous times.

Recurring Characters

     Andrew Cashman 

Played By: Ryan J. Haddad

A guy who has a crush on Infinity.
     Martin Hobart 

Played By: Trevor Mahlon Eason

Payton's adoptive older twin brother.
     Luther Hobart 

Played By: Trey Eason

Payton's other adoptive older twin brother.
  • Adoption Diss: Not above doing this to Payton.
  • Always Identical Twins: With his brother Martin.
  • Big Brother Bully: To Payton.
  • Jerkass: Between treating their younger brother as lesser because he was adopted, treating their mother like crap, and attempting to suffocate their comatose father to keep their brother and mother out of the will, Martin and Luther are pieces of work.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Martin and Luther.
     Brigitte 

Played By: Martina Navratilova

Georgina's ex-lover.
     Theo Sloan 

Played By: Creator/DylanMcDermott

Astrid's father.
  • Abusive Parents: Of the emotional/verbal variety to Astrid.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Theo is terrible to his wife, whom he nonchalantly mentions to the police officer tasked with searching for their daughter is an addicted former escort.
  • Education Papa: He views his daughter Astrid as a disappointment because she didn't care about winning or losing the election (and subsequently dropped out), thinking that she isn't conforming to the image that Theo wants her to conform to.
  • Freudian Excuse: His crushingly high expectations for his daughter shape her craving for power. He in turn has a Freudian Excuse in his own abusive father.
  • Rich Bastard: Is loaded and also an extreme douchebag.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: His last words to his daughter after she called the FBI on him are how proud he is of her. Given his Manipulative Bastard tendencies, he could either be genuine, getting under Astrid's skin one last time, or possibly both.
     Lizbeth Sloan 

Played By: January Jones

Astrid's mother.
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