Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Families are put to the test on Pose

Illustration for article titled Families are put to the test on Pose
Photo: Pose (FX)

In the penultimate episode of its first season, Pose pulls out all the stops, harnessing all of the strengths it has developed over the course of its first six episodes—fully realized character development, compelling visual storytelling, and narratives that feel deeply personal while still having larger cultural implications—to craft an incredibly tight and immersive episode. It hooks instantly with Blanca’s discovery that Lil Papi has been dealing drugs. In an instant, House of Evangelista is ripped apart, the revelation touching everyone in different ways and shaking up relationship dynamics. It’s the only truly fraught episode of the show so far, but that tension is captivating and organic and doesn’t undermine Pose’s overall ethos. The strength of this family is put to the test, but it isn’t fatally fractured.


Damon and Angel ardently defend and cover for Papi after Blanca finds his pager, insisting that he isn’t selling drugs. But when she talks to Ricky, he cracks almost immediately, afraid for his own security in the house. Ricky doesn’t want to be homeless again, and even though he doesn’t want to be a snitch, he needs to look out for himself. The results are explosive. Blanca confronts Papi on the piers, and his immediate reaction is to push her away, to tell her she isn’t his real mother and that he has never had a real family. Blanca kicks him out, and then the second he realizes his actions and words have real consequences, Papi desperately tries to backtrack. Damon and Ricky’s relationship suffers, Damon sad about losing Papi. The brotherly Damon/Papi dynamic, while never a real focus, has been developed on the periphery throughout the season in a way that makes his reaction very believable. And Angel’s straight up furious with Ricky, blaming him and Blanca for the fact that he’s out on the street now.

Everyone’s strong emotional responses in this situation are visceral and compelling, and Pose doesn’t necessarily present anyone as being fully wrong or right. It’s too complicated of a situation for that, as most family problems tend to be. And this all also reiterates just how much House of Evangelista really is a family, which is why Papi’s words at Blanca sting so much. She has been a mother to him and a very good one at that. Blaming Ricky for what happens isn’t fair; Papi’s own actions got him where he is. But Damon and Angel’s frustrations come from a place of love for Papi. It’s complicated, and Pose lets it be complicated. Papi’s points about there not being a lot of job opportunities for a 20-year-old with an eighth grade education are significant, too. It doesn’t justify what he’s doing, but it crucially contextualizes things.

In one of the best scenes of the episode, Blanca confers with Damon’s dance instructor about her choices and motherhood. They’re both mothers, even if they don’t fit the normative understanding of what motherhood is. They’re both responsible for young people and are trying to mold them into something, trying to help them achieve their dreams. The dynamic between these two is refreshing and sweet, and Blanca finally gets to a place where she thinks she can give Papi another chance, understanding that tough love doesn’t always work out.

House of Abundance starts to fall apart, too, for different reasons. When Elektra’s rich boyfriend comes back to town and realizes that she went through with the surgery, he doesn’t even think twice before dumping her, cutting her off, and replacing her with a new girl. Elektra learns that rich men with trans women fetishes that she used to capitalize off of don’t desire her anymore simply because of her genitalia, a devastating realization that reiterates just how much emphasis heteronormative and patriarchal society places on body parts. Elektra is the most comfortable she has ever been in her body, but people are still telling her there’s something wrong with her, something undesirable.

But because Elektra used her allowance to pay for her surgery instead of paying rent and now isn’t getting any money at all, House of Abundance is evicted. She once again prioritized herself over her children, and this time, they’ve had it. Elektra talks a big game, but her financial stability is...not great. Of course, there are a lot of factors to consider here, and as Blanca points out earlier in the episode when Papi tries to equate his drug dealing with Angel doing sex work (which is wrong on so many levels), trans women need to get money wherever they can get it. But none of that totally justifies Elektra’s mistreatment of her children. Lulu and Candy are right to want to start a rival house. It’s a juicy, dramatic twist that heightens the stakes, but it also just makes sense from a character standpoint. They’ve reached a breaking point with Elektra, and even though she has provided for them in the past, they can’t rely on her anymore.


Things escalate between Angel and Stan, who tells her that he’s probably divorcing Patty. Suddenly, his relationship with Angel doesn’t have to happen in secrecy. They fall into normal couple patterns like eating together, snuggling while watching television, calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend. And then Stan expresses interest in more of Angel’s life, wants to come to a ball. That alone reiterates just how deep his feelings for Angel go: He wants to be a real part of her life and enter her world. At the ball though, Stan is treated like an outsider. Stan has been desperate for belonging and for authenticity, and he still hasn’t found it. It’s hard to feel bad for someone like him experiencing what it’s like to be an outsider, and Angel rightfully pushes back on him for it. It’s unclear exactly what Stan wants, and the way he abruptly leaves Angel is heartbreaking.

The fact that Lulu and Candy nab Papi for their new house as a way to get back at Blanca for leaving House of Abundance is just such a fun, soapy twist. By blowing up the two main houses of the season, Pose is making some bold moves ahead of the finale, shaking things up in a fun but compelling way.



  • Pose has thankfully been renewed for a second season! This is fantastic news! One thing I’m hoping to see more of in season two is queer women of color. This show obviously has great (and unprecedented) representation of the LGBTQ community and I’m not saying this to be critical, but more lesbians please! To be fair, this is my request of most television shows.
  • Blanca’s yellow jacket is so good! She has to deliver a lot of hard truths this episode, but she looks totally fly while doing it.
  • While I’m obviously very supportive of the House of Evangelista I am also ready for the rise of the House of Ferocity. Lulu and Candy have emerged as really fun characters recently.
  • Candy’s attempts at vogueing are so funny.
  • It has been too long since the last time we saw Damon dance.