Pose Season 3 “offers up the happy ending that real life so cruelly denies”
This is the third and final season of the Ryan Murphy drama series set in the ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s and 90s, against the backdrop of the family houses, mothers and fathers of Black and Latinx trans and gay humans, the refuge for the outcasts, the tragedy of HIV and Aids, the fabulous costumes, moves and voguing, love and loss.
It’s a sad farewell.
Knowing things had to be wrapped up, however, gave the writers a firm platform to work from; storylines are wrapped up to our satisfaction, plus we glean some insights into our characters’ pasts. We learn about Elektra’s (Dominique Jackson) background and what brought her to the big city, and how she – a cunning businesswoman – managed to accumulate riches beyond her, or anyone else’s, wildest dreams, allowing her to shower extravagances on her friends, and real family.
Among her many talents, Elektra is the queen of the clap back. Remember the brilliant scene in the video below from Season 2? She does it again in Season 3 when confronted with a homophobic wedding dress shop owner; this time she takes it even further thanks to her new business associates…
Pray Tell (Billy Porter) is no slouch in the razor-sharp-retort department either, eloquent and articulate in the art of put down. Oh, to have these comments roll off the tongue on demand rather than only coming up with them three hours later!
As emcee and a member of the Masters of Ceremony Council, Pray is central to the balls, as well as the House of Evangelista, of which Blanca (MJ Rodriguez, who made Emmy history this year as the first transgender person to be nominated for a major acting award) is mother and mentor.
Pray’s first love and his singing in church as a teen are both revealed when he returns home to visit his family – and make arrangements for his inevitable premature passing due to HIV/Aids. This path has been mapped out for Pray since Season 2, but it still hits hard when it comes – and how it comes.
As a nurse’s aid, Blanca encounters a patient in hospital who has benefited from a drug trial, but then finds out – along with her wonderful, gorgeous dream boyfriend Christopher (Jeremy Pope), whose support is almost unwavering – that these trials exclude persons of colour. This leads to them taking a stand in activism to change the system. It works, up to a point, and Pray looks the picture of health. But his actions that follow show exactly the kind of person he is – selfless and heroic. If you do not cry, you are surely made of stone.
As much as there are tears of sorrow in this season, there are tears of unadulterated joy. Angel (Indya Adrianna Moore, pronoun they please) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) are the romance we all wish we had. Their love is almost transcendental but, as with all the relationships in this LGBTQA+ world, where society has its oftentimes inflexible and unreasonable rules that stand in the way of a simple dream like a wedding, it comes with challenges. A shock from Papi’s past almost derails them completely; if you do not cry, you are still made of stone.
With these strong arcs dominating Pose’s series finale, the balls play a slightly smaller role but it just wouldn’t be Pose without those flamboyant scenes – and all the stops are pulled out, the grandest of all being Pray and Blanca doing Diana Ross’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough as a tribute to Candy. Maybe it won’t make you cry, but you will get goosebumps.
This season is ultimately a high, which focuses strongly on the bonds between the characters and what they would do for each other. Which is pretty much anything and everything. You know the joke about friends helping you move, but real friends helping you move the body? That is literally in this season, and it’s so darn normal.
“We weren’t interested in only telling a story about trauma,” executive producer Janet Mock, who co-wrote the episode, said at a press conference, reported Bustle. “The ballroom is a representation of what it means to congregate and share testimony and to love on each other. And our show is a celebration of the everyday intimacies.”
Given the continued discrimination, media misrepresentation and violence endured by LGBTQ+ people – and our trans siblings in particular – we might accuse Pose of sashaying away before the fight is won, said The Guardian. “But its version of revolution always included bettering the bleak truth through sheer force of imagination. And so, this show has offered up the happy ending that real life so cruelly denies. Angel, Blanca, Lola, Electra [sic] and Pray got to live out their wildest dreams. Everyone else must continue to dream. While ‘living’ and ‘werking’ and ‘posing’ too, of course.”
My heart is full.