Photo: Pose (FX)

A defining quality of Pose is its absence of suspense. There has never for a second been any doubt that Blanca would win the “Mother Of The Year” award that has been teased all season. There’s never any doubt that House Of Evangelista will win the ultimate house battle against House Of Ferocity in the season finale. It’s not that Pose isn’t without drama or occasional tension, but it doesn’t throw in dramatic twists just for the sake of keeping viewers on their toes. Pose’s predictability might not be for everyone, but there’s something remarkably comforting and powerful about the way Pose lets its heroes win and delivers satisfying outcomes.

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It is, in many ways, the anti-American Horror Story. That Ryan Murphy production is relentlessly punitive of its characters, doesn’t allow for hope or healing. Pose isn’t playing it safe by any means, but it also doesn’t play fast and loose. The characters here are celebrated and allowed to pursue and even achieve their dreams. That’s a narrative that’s especially hard to find on television when it comes to queer characters of color.

When Blanca has a conversation with Damon’s dance teacher and finds out that Damon’s scholarship has been approved for another year, she says she wants to be the one to give him the good news himself. Immediately, my first thought was that something bad was going to happen. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The scene is so pure, so hopeful about Damon’s future, and even after seven episodes of this show repeatedly proving that it isn’t here to knock these characters down, I had that thought. Part of that is because I’m someone who professionally watches television, so my senses are heightened in situations like this. But part of that is also because I’m a queer person whose senses are especially heightened when it comes to the happiness and wellbeing of LGBTQ characters on television. The “Bury Your Gays” trope is alive and well, and even though I didn’t think something as extreme as a death was going to happen that would prevent Blanca from being able to deliver this good news, the impact of that trope still makes me unfortunately dubious whenever an LGBTQ character experiences happiness. I’m always waiting for that other shoe to drop.

Pose is the revolutionary antidote for that feeling. Its characters aren’t wholly defined by their traumas. Pray Tell is still grieving the loss of Costas, but he also finds a cute new guy whose into him and who is supportive when Pray Tell informs him that he tested positive for HIV. They smooch in the middle of Indochine, and that joyful, freeing moment is instantly uplifting. In fact, both Pray Tell and Blanca have to reveal their statuses to someone in this episode, and both scenes are much more layered than just being wholly tragic. Yes, there’s obviously sadness and fear in Blanca’s voice as she tells Angel the real reason she needs to her to go to night school and start preparing to take over House Of Evangelista, and there’s sadness and fear in Angel’s reaction, too. But there’s more than that. Blanca wants Angel to carry on her legacy, to become a strong and inspiring mother just like her, to live her best life.

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Conflict still exists on Pose, and there are life-or-death stakes, too, especially when it comes to Blanca and Pray Tell’s positive statuses. There’s even a little bit of conflict when it comes to Damon’s good news about school. He and Ricky land roles in a music video that would require them to go on tour for a few months, so Damon has to choose between continuing his education and taking a paid gig, which is, after all, the end-goal for the education. Blanca flexes her excellent motherhood muscles yet again by encouraging him to make the decision for himself. She won’t force him to stay in school even if she thinks it’s the right thing to do. Damon does ultimately choose school, another example of how influential of a mother Blanca is.

So much of this finale reiterates exactly why Blanca deserves the “Mother Of The Year” award, starting with the way she takes in Elektra. All of the intricate relationship dynamics that have been unfolding over the course of Pose’s first season come into play in the finale—from Ricky and Damon’s relentlessly cute romance to Angel and Blanca’s sisterhood to Stan and Angel’s relationship. But the finale really hinges on the reconciliation between Blanca and Elektra. Blanca becomes the mother to her former mother, and that evolution comes from a meaningful, convincing place. One of Blanca’s most impressive traits as a mother is the way she knows how to specifically support and push each person she helps. She doesn’t have the same approach helping Elektra to get her life back on track as she does with Angel or with Damon. She’s good at helping people because she really sees them, really knows what they need to hear and do in order to better themselves. She’s right about the hosting gig at Indochine being perfect for Elektra.

And then Elektra has the chance to help her out, too. When Lulu and Candy show up at the final ball full of spite and arrogance, they viciously tear Blanca down. Competition of course plays an important role in ball culture, but the way Lulu and Candy treat Blanca here is nothing short of bullying. But Elektra swoops in, announces that she’s walking on behalf of House Of Evangelista, and also reads Lulu and Candy in such a delicious way. Blanca and Elektra have each other’s backs in this finale, which is, again, another example of Pose’s optimism. Elektra and Blanca go from having a fierce rivalry to saving each other in the finale. Instead of relying on overly dramatic and suspenseful twists, Pose undoes conventions, flips the dominant narratives on their heads. In that sense, it’s still doing the unexpected, still challenging assumptions even though the outcomes aren’t shocking.

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There’s even hope for Patty, who is finally in full control of her life, dictating her terms to Stan. There’s an interesting parallel here between Patty and Angel, because they both have a clearer sense of what they want now, and they both tell Stan what that is in the finale, making it clear that they’re autonomous outside of him and his desires. Stan and Angel’s arc together has ended up being a really complex part of Pose, and her decision to end things on her terms this time stems from a shift in her priorities and wants. She knows that they both have been projecting shit onto each other, and that sense of self-awareness shows a lot of growth and emotional maturity on Angel’s part.

Almost the entire second half of the finale takes place at a ball, which really allows Pose to spotlight what its best at: queer and trans joy. The ball sequences are immersive, fun, and glamorous. Here is where Pose shines in all its glory, and choosing to end on, essentially, a huge party underscores that hopeful, comforting energy that drives Pose. It’s not like all of the characters’ problems fade away, but it isn’t sadness or oppression or trauma that’s centerstage here. It’s joy, and it’s an overwhelming sense of family, love, community, and self. Pose has created something magical in its first season, embodying exactly what the balls represent and feel like for these characters. It’s welcoming, and it’s celebratory, and it brings the drama but not the doom and gloom. Pose finds light in the darkness, and that makes it nothing short of vital, revolutionary television.


Stray observations

  • That’s a wrap on season one of these reviews. Thanks for joining me every week, and I look forward to Pose’s next season (and am still crossing my fingers for some queer women characters next season).
  • I love Pray Tell and Blanca’s friendship so much.
  • Mj Rodriguez deserves so many awards for her work this season. Indya Moore does, too. I would have liked to see more Angel in this finale, but what we do get is great.
  • Ricky and Damon’s love for each other is just so, so special.
  • Every look at this ball is so good. Blanca looks divine in the dress Pray Tell makes her, and Elektra takes her diva aesthetic to a whole new level.

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