*N.B. May contain unintentional Pose Season 2 spoilers.*
The Category is…Season 2 Finale Extravaganza! Brilliantly by directed Janet Mock, who made television history last season as the first trans woman of colour to write, direct and produce for a series, this marks the second episode Mock has directed this season, and its one the most satisfying.
It’s May 1991, and as with the opening of the season, episode 10 begins with a touching scene between ballroom ‘elders’ Pray Tell (Billy Porter) and Blanca (Mj Rodriguez). Their friendship is at the heart of Pose, and it’s moving to see them always there for each other when needed.
There’s a strong theme of female empowerment and female kinship running through the finale. Elektra (Dominique Jackson), who has started to show a warmth and a far gentler side without losing any of her ferociousness or bite, bemoans that women have been pushed aside at the balls. In the aftermath of the monster hit that was Madonna’s Vogue, the women of ballroom feel that the attention has benefited the men who were already dominating as MCs, judges, council members and walking in the categories.
As the episode title might suggest, the men of show explore their femininity, with Elektra acknowledging that “it takes guts…stepping out of their comfort zone and into the shoes of another.” While Ricky says he’s discovered he can be both “butch and femme at the same time”, there’s some reflection from Pray about why he’s uncomfortable in heels in more ways than one, leading to some words of wisdom from youth to elder “embrace all of you.” It’s a touching moment, where Mock gets the tone just right, as she does throughout the episode.
Written by the show’s three creators Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, every character has a moment to shine, including the series’ female characters outside the ballroom scene, Trudie Styler’s high-powered modelling agent Ms Ford, an approachable businesswoman with a heart, contrasting with Patti LuPone’s ruthless property mogul Frederica Norman. While Sandra Bernhard, who has thankfully had an expanded role this season as nurse Judy, brings empathy, tenderness and authenticity to her scenes.
Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) announces an ambitious mission to change the conservative world of nineties modelling from within to be inclusive of trans women. It seems like an unlikely proposition, but then again, just last year, so did the likelihood of a series like Pose being made, let alone becoming a multi-Emmy-nominated international hit. Curiel as Papi brings so much emotion to his scenes with Angel (Indy Moore), with her beginning to let her guard down and show her vulnerability with him. It’s been a delight to see their relationship develop this season and the scenes of pure love between them in this episode.
With a focus on character development away from the balls for much of this season, this episode’s Mother’s Day ball makes up for it, with the announcement of mother of the year and one of the best ball sequences of the series. It’s energetic, celebratory and uplifting with some fabulous lewks being served by costume designer Analucia McGorty, Emmy-nominated for her work on the show, and some fierce moves curtesy of choreographer Leiomy Maldonado.
Throughout the episode there are moments of exuberance, and pure joy, as well as gently moving scenes you might want to keep the Kleenex at the ready for. And make sure to clear some floor space to dance in, especially once those hits start pumping at the ball. Janet Mock and the creative team have delivered a deeply satisfying end to the season, clearly made with a lot of love. Pose continues to be one my favourite shows on television.
By James Kleinmann
POSE “In My Heels” Season 2, Episode 10 airs tonight Tuesday 20th August at 10pm e/p on FX.