Much like last night’s exemplary episode of Pose, I won’t waste time getting to the point: I loved it.
Series co-creator Steven Canals made his Pose directorial debut (and wrote the episode), which ranks among the series’ best.
When we spoke with Canals last year, his passion for this project was abundantly clear. The perspective he brought to the show last night brought out the best of one of television’s most vital programs.
We begin where we left off last week. Pray and Ricky are developing a relationship. The elder of the two is instructing him on how to embark on a healthier lifestyle. Ricky, obviously someone with some complex intimacy issues, pushes the relationship into flirtation and then sex.
What happens next might be my favorite queer sex scene I’ve seen in a mainstream television show. Much like Looking’s (much briefer) scene between Patrick and Kevin exposed audiences to missionary sex between men, and How To Get Away With Murder made headlines with a rimjob, this scene was surely eye-opening for straight viewers.
For those of us already considered, um, advanced studies, it was just really hot.
It’s apparently exactly what Pray needed, because he’s got some extra pep in his step when he meets the other emcees. It’s not long before the others suss out that Pray is getting some. The emcees give Pray some guff about the May-December romance, but ultimately are happy to see him happy.
Despite the positive effects on Pray’s disposition, the timing couldn’t be worse for Ricky. Damon had invited him over for a romantic dinner (OK, pizza rolls and fruit punch) and to tell him that he’s ready to take him back. Of course, the best time to tell Damon about his status was yesterday, but no time like the present. Ricky tells Damon (while also letting it slip that he’s been spending time with Pray Tell), and, of course, Damon freaks out. It’s the most intense performance we’ve seen from both Ricky and Damon, and — despite often being the least compelling characters on screen — they nail it.
There must be a lot on the young Evangelista’s mind, because he’s also graduating from his dance program. His final performance is, as always, breathtaking. Canals deftly demonstrates that he can direct the sort of big, flashy performance sequences this show does so well.
After the performance, there’s one of my favorite scenes in the show’s short history. Damon’s teacher stops Blanca and they share admiration for how they’ve each cared for Damon. It’s beautiful and worth a rewatch.
Back at the House of Evangelista, everyone gathers to celebrate Damon. Angel, obviously still dipping into drugs, passes some snide comments to Damon, and it really feels like something between siblings. However, it escalates real quick, leading to Damon spilling about Angel doing drugs, Ricky being positive and Pray hooking up with Ricky.
Blanca doesn’t believe Damon about Angel, but she throws Pray out of her home. The Evangelistas are now a house divided.
At the next ball, Damon works out his frustrations on the dancefloor, earning himself another trophy … and a spot on tour with Malcolm McLaren.
Outside the ball, Blanca confronts Pray about how his and Ricky’s age difference, as well as their place in the community AND Ricky’s current health crisis, puts him in a vulnerable position. Pray turns it back on Blanca, accusing her of being hostile to their relationship because she doesn’t have any prospects of her own. It’s a deep cut, for sure. Blanca responds with a whole lot of knowledge and how hard it is for her having to be HIV-positive and attracted to straight men.
This is a conversation that happens in nowhere else on television. Here is a conversation about privilege that shows that, yes, even gay, black, HIV-positive men still have some degree of privilege. That is some next-level socially-conscious conversation.
Pray responds by going home and getting way, way drunk. Ricky is there for him, caring for him, but Pray thinks he’s just a player and won’t stick around. No one does. Who is there for him now?
The next morning, Pray awakes to find Ricky. “You’re still here,” he says as he sits down to the breakfast Ricky has waiting. Another gorgeous moment.
Angel and Blanca met at the diner where Angel confronts her about going so easy on her. Blanca jumps to blame Papi, but Angel takes full responsibility. She knows the rules and forces Blanca to kick her out for breaking them. (It helps that Papi found a nice new, cheap place in a fancier neighborhood.)
Between Damon’s tour and Angel’s new place, Blanca’s got an empty nest. Of all people, it’s Elektra that reminds her the mark of a good mother is preparing your children to grow up and take on the world. Otherwise, you’re just raising a parasite.
“I don’t care if you’re a Connecticut white girl, a Chinatown immigrant or one of us: If you choose to be a mother, you choose to shape the world,” she tells Blanca. “Your children will truly appreciate you … when you’re dead. Until then, you want gratitude? Get a puppy.”
Elektra is often one of the stiffest performers, but this small moment of tenderness is some of her finest work.
The final shot of the episode follows Blanca through the windows of her apartment as she travels from one end to the other, ending up at the table alone. A final exceptional scene in an episode just chockablock with them.
If this is the last we’ve seen of Damon, I won’t be heartbroken. (Though, again, this was his strongest performance.) I’m already incredibly invested in Ricky and Pray Tell’s relationship. How will Blanca cope with losing her children when being a mother has been so core to her identity? Without them, will she be forced to confront some things about herself?
After last night’s episode, I can’t wait to find out.
What did you think of the episode?