Tuesday, July 23, 2019

REVIEW: 'Pose' - Pray's Health Is Compromised Leading Up to the Annual AIDS Cabaret in 'Love's In Need of Love Today'

FX's Pose - Episode 2.06 "Love's In Need of Love Today"

After falling ill while organizing his annual AIDS Cabaret, Pray Tell lands in the hospital leading to a series of unexpected visitors.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of FX's Pose.

"Love's In Need of Love Today" was written by Brad Falchuk & Our Lady J and directed by Tina Mabry

This show has always been such a beautiful celebration of love. It embraces a community that has long been marginalized and gives them purpose beyond dying. Sure, the specter of death is ever-present in this world. There is always the uncertainty that someone could be dying because of their failing health or the discriminatory violence of the world. And yet, the show always knows how to bounce back by celebrating the accomplishments of this community and ensuring that they are all validated in ways that are significant and special. When Candy died, it was shocking and tragic. It also inspired people to take ahold of their lives and not let any opportunity pass them by. They know just how precious life can be. They understand better than anyone else that no one knows exactly how much time they have left in this world. As such, the pressure is on to live as one's true and authentic self. But it is still an active choice that needs to be made every single day. The joys of life and love are so crucial but require a ton of hard work. Now, this hour puts Pray Tell in harm's way. It seems like he too will follow the same trajectory as Candy. No, he won't be the victim of an anonymous beating. But he does pass out while serving as MC. He is having a blast and making sure that the word is out about the annual AIDS cabaret. But there is also the looming fear that this year he will experience the event as someone whose spirits need to be lifted instead of someone actually performing. Now, it always seemed unlikely that the show would kill off yet another character this season. It always has to be careful when it comes to those decisions. It paints a true and honest portrayal of the world in order to empower and inform the audience watching. These are still concerns that impact the LGBTQ+ community to this day. It wants to speak truth to the HIV/AIDS crisis and the uncertainty that goes along with Pray and Blanca's treatment. But it never wants that to hinder them from living their lives. It's such a precarious and intimate moment when they share their truths with others. There is the stigma that being out about one's health will lead to further discrimination. The world believes that the bodies with the virus are toxic. And yet, Blanca wants everyone to remember that they are human beings. They are fully complex and nuanced people who have powerful and beautiful stories worth sharing. She steps in for Pray in organizing this event to its completion. Pray just has to make the active choice to stay alive and embrace it. It's much more daunting than one might think as well. He absolutely has the love and support of his community. And yet, he too is susceptible to dark thoughts about how life isn't worth fighting for any longer. He envisions Candy as someone who is now having the time of her life in Hell. It's a fabulous and intoxicating journey for her. One that Pray should join. It's through these hallucinations that it becomes clear what Pray projects onto death. He sees it as the people he has lost along the way. But it also highlights the resentments and grudges he still holds. He is perfectly capable of overcoming all of this. He bounces back and makes that choice to keep fighting. It comes from the continued love and appreciation amongst the living. But Candy's voice will remain the one in his head that creeps in whenever he may have doubts. That too is scary and realistic.

Pray's brush with death could be completely overpowering to this overall episode. He is one of the most sympathetic and entertaining characters in this world. The show would feel broken without his presence in it. As such, some in the audience could see all of this as one big manipulation. It lures us into a false sense of lose only to immediately bounce back to life. And yet, all of that may also be seen as justified because the show feels the duty to showcase the full complexities of living. The medication doesn't have the same reaction for everyone. Pray lived in fear over what the pills would do to him. And now, he believes that he was right to fear them in the first place. That could be very debilitating. He understands that he has someone in Blanca who can honor his legacy and fill his place in this world. But he doesn't want to step out of it just yet. At first, it seems like the audience would have to settle for his imaginary performance of Judy Garland's "The Man That Got Away." That is such an iconic moment that Billy Porter relishes for every single second. It's gorgeous and glorious. But it also underscores how Pray isn't in his right mind at the moment. He can still face criticism from his own community. In the end, the men and women dying of this disease find themselves in the same place though. Pray may not be dying here but plenty of people are. As such, that reignites the passion for these performances. It's more than just Pray and Blanca this year as well. Now, everyone gets the opportunity to join in the fun. It's not just some dour evening that puts things into context about how few precious moments may be left in life. Now, it truly is a celebration that shows that the people in the hospital still have love, support and acceptance out there. They may not have the strength to get up and perform themselves but they can still be entertained and see a world they rarely get to experience once more. Sure, it's not all great. It's hilarious how Elektra isn't a good singer at all. She deludes herself into thinking she is because her house validates her. And yet, she doesn't get the same rapturous applause that others do. It's the most joyful when it's Judy and Blanca getting up and singing. It's so surprising from Judy because it's the audience seeing a new side of her. Now, she is the one all glammed up and putting on a show. And Blanca once again brings down the house first as a solo act and then welcoming Pray onto the stage with her. This is such an open and welcoming community. Blanca sees the value in getting the word out so the fundraising is a major success. Four thousand dollars can make a huge difference. It means she also has to admit when she is wrong about Frederica. Now, it mostly seems like the show contorts itself into creating a reason for Patti LuPone to sing. The audience may not care because she is such a legend who deserves all the praise she has gotten throughout her illustrious career. But the show makes a point of it as well in saying that it's all a distraction to ensure that Frederica remains the outside antagonist. It's fun and campy. But it also works in a remarkable way to propel the narrative forward. She gives this community something to fight for while they are still strong and alive. They make their presence known and can't be dismissed or ignored.