Pose Season 3: When it comes to the extended, two-episode premiere of Pose‘s third season, it’s best not to ask too many questions. With just a short seven-episode run to wrap up the triumphant drama, the first two installments worked overtime to shuffle pieces in place for the final ball.
But still, this is Pose, so it’s nice to be back with the girls, even if it felt at times like we were watching them live at 2x speed.
Picking up years after we left our friends, season three starts in 1994. The ballroom community has changed with the introduction of prize packages that include not only a cheap, plastic trophy, but a cash prize. Former House of Abundance dancer, Lemar, is the new head b*tch in charge, launching the House of Khan.
Lemar and his crew terrorize the Masters of Ceremony Council for their cash prize and fail to live up to the family values of Blanca’s generation. In fact, Lemar has neglected to visit his House of Abundance sibling Cubby as he dies in the hospital.
When Cubby passes before Lemar gets there, all the former Evangelistas can take no more. They reunite to face the House of Khan at the next ball, beating them for the prize and creating an opportunity for Blanca to take the mic for a rousing speech about the importance of community and family while Lemar and company skulk off like a defeated Team Rocket.
Getting the gang back together is no small feat. The intervening years have scattered the House of Evangelista, and time has been kinder to some more than others. For example, mother Blanca is working at the hospital with her sights set on becoming a nurse. She’s also dating a hunky doctor named Christopher, which leads to some scenes that feel ripped from a Shonda Rhimes soap.
There’s some trouble in paradise, though. Christopher’s mother, a black Bunny MacDougal, has some questions for Blanca. She’s mostly sniffing around Blanca’s upbringing, education and other classist concerns. But when Blanca snaps back that she’s also “transsexual,” Christopher has no choice but to stand up to his mother and leave with Blanca in tow.
Even with her career and her love life popping off, the need to get the Evangelistas back together has more to do with her children’s struggles. Damon’s fate is murky, at best. He’s back initially and preaching the 12 Steps, before disappearing completely, only described as relapsing. (COVID’s production interruption is likely to blame for Damon’s ambiguous end.)
Papi and Angel are still together. Papi appears to be working hard, but Angel? Hardly working. Instead, she spends her days smoking with Lulu. Just a joint with a sprinkle of crack. It doesn’t take long to spiral.
She’s still doing better than Pray Tell. As the steady drumbeat of funerals punctuates his life, and his own mortality hangs heavy around him, Pray turns to booze to numb everything. The thing is it seems to only numb his joy and love. He’s tempermental and unreliable. He snaps at Ricky (and who could snap at a boy that cute?), and withdraws from the Masters of Ceremony Council.
Blanca knows drastic action is needed. She calls in trauma counselor Lisa (The Politician‘s Rahne Jones) to consult on their approach. It’s decided they’ll do an intervention, which is a weird look for Angel and Lulu, both barely able to conceal their own increasing drug use.
What good is in an intervention without rehab? Unfortunately, rehab costs a cool $2,500, which may as well be $50 million for this crew. Then, in classic Brady Bunch fashion, they realize they can win the money to cover the rehab expenses if they win the big talent show! (You know the classic Brady Bunch where they enter a talent show to cover Alice’s rehab?)
Elektra takes charge directing. She’s got extra time since her place of employment as a dominatrix got raided and shut down. (Remember when that was the worst thing about Giuliani? Lol.) She cuts Lulu from the show, opting instead to have Pray Tell take on the lip sync (which he slays, obviously).
Before the show, Pray stops by to visit Castle, a fellow Master of Ceremony, while he’s resting at home. He’s sick, and Pray notices the meds he’s been stockpiling. Oh, don’t worry, Castle assures him. Plus, he makes sure to tell him, if he were going to ever off himself, he’d do it at the Four Seasons. (And I’m sure he’d check-in under the name “Chekhov.”)
Pray brings him to the ball, but he mixes meds and booze and ends up having a seizure on the floor. Castle is taken away in an ambulance, leaving Pray Tell to pick up where he left off at the bar. Lemar makes another villainous appearance to say something nasty, which earns a knuckle sandwich from the increasingly tense Pray Tell.
Back at the House of Evangelista house, the intervention they were planning for Pray goes off without so much of a plan. Things take a turn quickly, and Pray proceeds to burn every bridge in sight. It’s hard to watch, first, because I love these characters, and I genuinely don’t like to see them fight. (It’s been a long, lonely pandemic, guys). But it’s also hard, because it’s feels so real. Pray’s resistance feels true to that character’s pride and stubbornness. Pray refuses to go and storms out. Back at home, Ricky packs his bags and leaves. It’s a devastating scene with both Dyllón Burnside and especially Billy Porter delivering big performances.
Although the intervention didn’t take with Pray, it had an effect on Angel. Papi finally got her some more work, but she’s got work to do on herself. She went to see Lisa, and she wants to be better.
Pray drags himself out to yet another funeral, where he meets with the other Masters of Ceremony, except Castle. They tell Pray Castle’s been missing, and he wasn’t at his place when they stopped by. Pray (and the audience) know he’s at the Four Seasons, which is where Pray finds him. He’s alive. He realized he wants to live. Now, Pray needs to realize it, too.
Inspired by Castle’s determination, Pray returns to Blanca, the one who doesn’t leave, the friend that has always been there for him, his sister. The last we see is Blanca driving Pray up to rehab.
Interestingly, the show decides to weave O.J. Simpson throughout the first two episodes, first the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, then the infamous Bronco chase. It’s hard to tell any story about 1994 without at least a passing reference to O.J. (and we know Ryan Murphy has a particular interest). Pose doesn’t just use it as set dressing, though. Instead, it’s a clever way to introduce bigger conversations about race, police, assimilation, privilege and politics. It’s all deftly handled, keeping the conversation honest without forcing too neat a parallel onto the narrative of the week — a rarely seen bit of restraint from a Ryan Murphy show.
We’re still a long way from a happy ending, but this evening’s stories ended more hopeful than they started. What do you think awaits the House of Evangelista? What did you think of the premiere? Sound off in the comments.