SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of the season two finale of Pose.
Not even five minutes into the season two finale of Pose and the emotions start stirring as it is evident there has been a time jump from last week’s episode of fun in the sun. Now in 1991, we see Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Pray Tell (Billy Porter) reunite as it is clear they haven’t seen each other in a while. Less than five minutes in and these two will have you all up in your feelings, reaching for the Kleenex — but I would save some for even more emotional moments in the finale because this episode is quite a journey.
Written by series creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals and directed by Janet Mock, the episode is titled “In My Heels” — which is more than appropriate considering much of the episode sheds a glamorous light on what it means to be a woman and more specifically, a mother.
At the start of the episode, when we see Blanca reunite with Pray Tell, she has moved her business to the nail salon to the inside of her house. After we see a tearful reunion between the two, she admits she is suffering from empty nest syndrome as Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) has a flourishing dance career and is on tour and Angel (Indya Moore) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) have a home of their own. On top of that, she is not doing well. As soon as Pray Tell asks, “How long has it been since you were in the hospital?” We see her in a hospital bed suffering from the effects of the HIV virus.
In what could easily be a moment of doom and gloom, the writers waste no time in fueling optimism in Blanca’s fate — and that’s largely thanks to Rodriguez’s beautiful and hopeful portrayal of the character (seriously, if this woman does not get an Emmy or a Golden Globe for this performance soon, I’m going to lose all faith in humanity). Spirited and determined, she is visited by Angel, Lil’ Papi, Pray, Elektra (Dominique Jackson) and Lulu (Hailie Sahar).
When Pray asks why none of the ladies have been at a ball lately, Elektra bluntly said she is tired of the same ol’, same ol’ and that the judges panel — who are all men — do not know what it’s like t go through the trouble to look fabulous, walk a category and strut in heels (hence the title). Lulu points out that since the release of Madonna’s “Vogue”, it’s only the men who have seen the benefits of ball culture hitting the mainstream while the women who built the foundation of the ball scene have gone unnoticed and underappreciated. In other words, it’s lowkey appropriation, but more sexist if anything. Instead of getting defensive, Pray decides to go to the council and fix it.
When Pray meets with his fellow emcees, they agree that they will dress up in drag and walk a ball to literally feel what it’s like to be in their heels (again, a reference to the title) while the ladies judge — a trading places scenario to build a sense of empathy.
Meanwhile, Angel pays a visit to Mrs. Ford (Trudie Styler) to inquire why she hasn’t booked a job in a while. Mrs. Ford admits that people have found out that Angel is trans and she’s been losing jobs because they claim she is a “fraud” and not a real woman. In another emotional moment of the episode, Angel breaks down in tears. Now, this is a moment that sets Pose apart from other shows when it comes to portrayals of the treatment of the trans community. Yes, there is unfair treatment, but at the same time, there are good people out there. The character of Mrs. Ford could easily dismiss Angel. She could be transphobic and treat her like garbage. Instead, she becomes an ally with about being a white cisgender savior. With a careful balance, Mrs. Ford remains a businesswoman but still maintains her humanity by saying: “The world is not ready” while comforting Angel.
But alas, Papi sees the silver lining. Using his hustling skills and being the eternal good guy he is (for real, he is the ideal man for many-a-women…and men even), he attempts to start his own entertainment management firm so he can book jobs for Angel. He seeks to get a possible partnership with the Ford Agency and she is apprehensive. In a call back to their earlier conversation in the episode, Angel tells her, “The world don’t change. People change it.” And with those realer than real words of wisdom, Mrs. Ford agrees to mentor Papi under one stipulation — he must book a job in two weeks in order to seal the deal partnership. They shake on it and thus launches Esteban Martinez Talent Management.
With the Blanca-Pray Tell reunion, Angel and Papi’s relationship and a hilariously messy scene where Elektra is teaching the men how to walk in heels in preparation for the upcoming Mother’s Day Ball, there are many “moments” heartwarmingly stitched into the overarching theme of womanhood. Once again, Blanca gets another tearful reunion as Damon comes home and visits her in the hospital and Ricky and Pray Tell share a thoughtful conversation about their past struggle with gender expression.
And season two couldn’t end without a gag-worthy monologue from Patti LuPone’s Frederica Norman who has been arrested for setting Blanca’s nail salon aflame (we all knew she did it). Now in prison serving some Orange is the New Black realness, she is visited by her lawyer who informs her that the judge revoked bail. She says they are so predictable and he tries to spit out more reasons why she’s in there (with the fire being the main one).
“It’s because I am woman,” she says behind the prison glass. “I am in here bc they want to make me an example. To put me in my place. To put all women in their place. We are not allowed to have empires or emotions. We are expected to sit at home patiently waiting for our husbands. Cook their meals; supply unpaid emotional and physical labor — to aid in the fulfillment of their dreams. We are not supposed to have dreams of our own.”
She admits that she regrets ruining the dream of another woman (Blanca) and is more than happy to serve time for that, but for everything else, she isn’t going to apologize. “I refused to be shamed for my ambition!” she exclaims while storming off in a huff while rocking an orange jumpsuit.
All comes to a head at the Mother’s Day Ball, where Elektra is named mother of the year — the honor held by Blanca last year. On top of that, Papi comes in with good news of his own: he booked a job for Angel in a German soda ad — or something like that. The celebration of the news becomes even more intense when Papi and Angel propose to each other and they both say yes. If they are not the best couple on TV, I don’t know who is. Category is: butch queen femme wedding realness!
Blanca, who has been sick and has unable to attend any balls, rolls up (literally in a wheelchair) for her first ball in a while to compete in a new category titled “Candy’s Sweet Refrain” in honor of the dearly departed Candy (Angelica Ross). Since it’s 1991, she absolutely slays a performance of Whitney Houston’s performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl which makes the entire room gag and scream with delight as a Papi waves a House of Evangelista flag and Damon waves Rainbow Flag proudly — which is quite subversive considering it could very well be — whether intentional or not — a substitute for the American flag.
In the final moments of the ball, Elektra takes the place of Pray Tell and Blanca, Lulu and other women sit on the judge’s panel to oversee the men as they walk in the category of: “Butch Queen Up in Drag’s First Time at a Ball”. They are delivering finger-wagging looks as Elektra calls the shots and playfully reads each man. She’s certainly giving Pray Tell a run for his money but he reciprocates by serving up some serious Diana Ross realness. Set to the tune to Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman”, he finds his inner-woman and expresses his femininity, something he has been struggling with the entire episode.
“It takes guts to do what these men are doing,” preaches Elektra. “Stepping out of their comfort zone and into the shoes of another. We should all do this more. If we did, we would make a better world.”
The ball ends in a celebration like the first season — something that Pose prides itself on. Instead of leaving a hovering pessimistic question mark as a cliff hanger and mourning struggle, the FX series perseveres and overcomes obstacles. There may be competitive rifts and reads between the House of Evangelista, House of Wintour and House of Ferocity, but there’s always a sense of familial love that beats beneath all of it — and through it all, they manage to look damn good.
There’s a small epilogue at the end where Blanca, after the ball, meets two wide-eyed kids named Quincy and Chilly who have been kicked out of their homes and loved what they saw at the ball. Blanca’s maternal instincts kick in and she takes them under her wing — just like she did Damon, Angel and Papi. This all calls back to the beginning of the episode when Pray Tell told her “The whole point of the balls is to remind you that you’re not alone.”
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