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

Pose delivers an instantly iconic wedding episode

Image of Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and MJ Rodriguez in FX's Pose
Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and MJ Rodriguez
Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX

I’m a sucker for a wedding episode of television. They’re super sentimental, over-the-top spectacles engineered to make the viewer cry, laugh, believe in a picture perfect kind of love. And I fall for it every time. Weddings in real life are full of pageantry and performance, and television leans into it. Pose, unsurprisingly, checks all the right boxes for a wedding episode, even deploying some classic soap opera devices—including not one but two appearances from ghosts—to really do things up. “Something Old, Something New,” written and directed by Janet Mock, is one of the most luxurious TV weddings to ever air. But it’s also another striking example of how this show bends rules and expectations. Angel gets her dream wedding, but it also feels distinctly emblematic of her and her community. Pose utilizes wedding episode tropes but still carves out its own space. It’s an engrossing combination of tradition and creativity.

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The road to the wedding is a little laborious, especially given how Papi’s secret son Beto continues to feel like such a forced storyline, but the resolution of this conflict does at least land much better than its hamfisted introduction. It’s sweet to see Papi so focused on spending time with Beto, and it also tracks with who this character is. Papi always gives everything one thousand percent, and he has come a long way since season one. He’s still goofy and playful, but he’s also got his life together, and watching him dive headfirst into parenting is delightful. The scenes between them are lovely, but there’s also more to these than just some lighthearted father-son bonding. Papi has some important conversations with Beto about masculinity, life, and feelings. He encourages Beto to cry, gives him space to grieve. So much of this show revolves around reimagining family. While Papi’s path to fatherhood is not exactly conventional, he’s already proving himself as a parent.

Then juxtapose that with the scenes between Angel and her father, who she has kept in touch with and periodically given money to despite the fact that he kicked her out when she came out as trans. Blanca is surprised by this, but Angel suggests she still feels a familial obligation to him. When she meets up with him, it’s tense. He occasionally uses the right pronouns but also misgenders her. He claims to be trying, but he’s not listening. He centers himself. Pose this season has really grappled with a lot of its characters’ relationships with their blood families to mixed results, but these scenes between Angel and her father work. Pose doesn’t use this as some redemptive arc for her father. Instead, Angel has agency. This is about her letting go of the obligations she felt to him. This is about her realizing that she has a chance to co-parent with someone who loves her very much.

Her initial reaction was to run away from Papi when she found out about Beto, but as she reveals in her wedding vows later in the episode, she didn’t grow up with a healthy model of love and family. Her fear comes from a genuine place and so does her eventual return to Papi and to Beto. It certainly isn’t seamless. Angel frantically taps Blanca in to help watch Beto while Papi’s running an errand. Suddenly, the conflict of Beto’s sudden appearance in their life settles into a much more grounded and layered storyline. It’s funny to watch Angel struggle with Beto, but it’s also sweet to watch her try.

The first half of the episode also includes a new health development for Pray, who is losing his sight due to an infection. Pray reveals this to Blanca in a devastating scene, and he also reveals the gorgeous dress that he designed for her. But these scenes get a little lost in the fray of all the wedding stuff. They’re narratively important and yet clunky. Even more extraneous is the rapidfire subplot of Lulu kicking out her bad boyfriend, which feels like an afterthought. I’ve been enjoying Lulu a lot this season, but her addiction and path toward sobriety hasn’t been treated with the same level of nuance and care that other similar storylines have been.

But even though there’s imperfect pacing and plotting in the first half of the episode, that final half hour that covers the wedding day is a radiant and instantly memorable chapter of television. Yes, it brims with sentimentality. But the emotions are genuine. None of this feels like artifice or cheap, cornball grabs at tearjerker moments. It’s real and it’s fantasy all at once. Papi gives a poignant toast to his groomsmen, echoing some of the themes he touched on with Beto by talking about expectations when it comes to masculinity. Lemar, Pray, and Ricky are his only groomsmen, and he has no blood relatives here just like Angel. He’s a straight man with three gay groomsmen, and he acknowledges that this is far from conventional but also very meaningful to him. Their courage about being out has taught him about love. It’s another great, sweeping Pose monologue that should seem corny but ends up being sincerely moving and emotional. Angel Bismark Curiel gives his best performance of the series throughout this episode.

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The ghost of Cubby, brandishing a martini, shows up during Papi’s speech, a wink toward the fact that this wedding episode isn’t going to play by the rules. This wedding isn’t just about one couple. It’s about an entire community. It’s about a massive family. And the people who aren’t there are just as important as the people who are. Over in the bridal party, Elektra, Lulu, and Blanca bestow a stunning Angel with the traditional marriage gift of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. And here’s where Pose again has fun playing around with tradition. These four gifts are so specific to the characters who present them and their relationships with Angel. They make the tradition their own. Blanca explains the significance of her mother’s cookbook (something old) Elektra gives a luxurious fur coat (something new) more meaning than just luxury. Lulu gifts Angel her one month sober chip (something borrowed), which is a significant symbol for their shared journeys with addiction.

Then there’s the something blue: Candy’s hammer. Candy’s hammer is easily the most iconic prop in the history of Pose. And the gift comes with an appearance from Candy’s ghost, who plays the piano, looks fabulous, and gives Angel a compassionate pre-wedding pep talk. Pose doesn’t hold anything back here; it’s practically fairytale magic. The four wedding gifts tradition suddenly shifts into something more specific, something unconventional and yet perfectly at-home in this show’s world. As with the rom-com-ready montages last episode, Pose’s wedding expands traditions. The ceremony itself is a gorgeous display of community and reimagined ritual. It visually looks like a by-the-numbers expensive wedding until you look a little closer and see all the other women in the crowd wearing the wedding gowns Elektra secured for them last episode. This wedding is a celebration of trans and queer people of color, much like the ballroom is.

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Indeed, with Pray Tell overseeing the ceremony, it does evoke the ballroom. This is another safe space that these characters have carved out for themselves, and they’re doing it their own way. There’s even a musical number, Papi eschewing traditional vows to instead sing “I Swear.” Ricky joins in on back-up and then everyone’s singing.

Mock delivers impressive directorial work throughout the episode. Cubby’s and Candy’s appearances work as well as they do because they’re written and directed without a mawkish sheen. They’re moments that feel special but not overdone. All the grand wedding shots and sequences are deftly directed, maximizing the glam and grandeur of it all. But some of the quieter, more zoomed-in scenes are also exemplary of just how good Mock is at the helm. Shots of Blanca and Christopher throughout the wedding subtly suggest that they’re both imagining themselves getting married one day without either character actually saying it. And the episode’s final scene—of Papi, Angel, and Beto on the beach together—says so much with so little. It’s uncomplicated, gleaming romance. It’s the kind of love Angel so desperately wished her parents had provided growing up. It’s the kind of love Angel convinced herself she didn’t deserve. But Pose so often asserts that everyone deserves love. The delicate, sun-soaked bliss of this final scene is the perfect happy ending. Papi and Angel’s journey to this wedding has been a captivating, potent, charming love story. And their big love for each other touches every character in powerful ways, giving the episode an abundance of not just beauty and opulence but also emotions, humanity, and heart.

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Stray observations

  • Okay, yes, Angel’s wedding dress is obviously perfect and gorgeous. But I personally thought Elektra was actually best dressed. And doesn’t that feel exactly like Elektra? Subtly upstaging the bride? I love it.
  • I could have watched several more minutes of Angel and Papi talking about the seating chart and accounting for people’s interpersonal drama.
  • Papi is such a smooth-talker in that marriage license scene. He does the most in order to make sure Angel’s worst nightmare doesn’t come true, and that’s real romance.
  • Ricky is the perfect Fun Uncle.
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