Tuesday, August 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Pose' - The House of Evangelista Reassembles to Support Blanca's Powerful Voice in the Ballroom in 'In My Heels'

FX's Pose - Episode 2.10 "In My Heels"

After a medical setback, Blanca struggles to reassemble the House of Evangelista. Meanwhile, Pray Tell confronts old traumas when an exciting new category is proposed.

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 season finale of FX's Pose.

"In My Heels" was written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Steven Canals and directed by Janet Mock

Pose knew that it had to up the ante with its season finale. It couldn't simply be all about the stunning victory for Mother of the Year. This season has focused less on the competition aspect of the ballroom community. Instead, it highlighted the strength of this community and the resilience of their friendships with one another. They may compete in the balls but they will support each other against any kind of threat they could endure. That has been so heartening to watch across this season. It's no longer a bitter rivalry between Blanca and Elektra. Now, they are two mothers with complete respect and love for each other. They have drastically different ways of leading their houses. They share their concerns. But they also celebrate their victories. Elektra wins Mother of the Year here. And yet, that's mostly just a title to be served. It's not the core source of the drama. Instead, that honor belongs to Blanca's triumphant return to the ball. This season has certainly seen her struggle. She has been knocked down in her fight with Frederica. She lost so much as a result of her business going up in flames. But karmic justice does prevail at the end of the day with Frederica being arrested for that crime. Sure, that also amounts to a moment where Frederica recognizes Blanca's womanhood even when she's yelling at her lawyer for failing to honor her own ambition. That's the way Frederica sees the world. It can be an empowering speech about what is possible for women in society. But she has also done plenty of shady and unethical things just because it's the way that business is expected to be done in this world. It's fitting that she ends up in prison with her final speech seeming like a nice resolution to her conflict with Blanca. Of course, it's much more precarious that Blanca is in the hospital. Now, this story is very reminiscent of the time earlier this year when Pray Tell was also in the hospital due to complications from HIV. It's basically the same exact story which can be troubling. Yes, the show is playing things very truthfully in stating that it's a very scary and unknown time for those who are positive. Their lives can change in an instance. It may not take much for them to land in the hospital and need to get their affairs in order. Blanca has assembled her will and is making the final preparations for what her children and friends will receive after she is gone. It's morbid and tragic. It also comes with the understanding that Blanca probably isn't going to die. The show just brings her to the brink of death so it's then rewarding when she comes back to life. It is a very basic storytelling technique in order to get the audience completely onboard with the rousing moment later on. That moment in the ballroom is incredibly effective and powerful. Plus, Blanca's health being in jeopardy may be the only thing that could reunite all of the children from the House of Evangelista once more. She has felt alone in her apartment lately with her children all leaving to pursuing bigger things elsewhere. They are making their impact on the world. This house needed to be strong in the finale. They may not be the ones actually competing in the ball. But it's the support that ultimately matters. The support for their community and each other. None of this derails Blanca's ability to get up and perform in the category that Candy fought to bring into this world though. It's such a stunning performance of the national anthem as well. There is no use holding a competition afterwards either. This is clearly a transcendent moment that cannot be topped. Everyone appreciates that because they too understand Blanca's story and just how powerful it is to see her in this particular moment once again proving why she has always been one of the best mothers in this world. Her children may be out of the house now. But she is still their mother. Moreover, she can continue to support other children who need her guidance now as well. Her feeling inspired in that way is also so important. She helps two children right outside the ball when they need it the most. That shows that Blanca is back and doesn't plan on leaving anytime soon.

The finale also aspires to tackle masculine and feminine norms. The pettiness still exists within this world that opens people up to feeling judged and attacked. Angel loses her modeling contracts because companies believing that she is being dishonest about her identity. She isn't real. She's just a man dressing up as a woman. That's so offensive. And yet, it's so fantastic to see Papi continue to lift her up and for her own modeling agency to support her. That easily could have been a connection that was severed. Instead, Ms. Ford operates from a place of compassion. She knows exactly how real and true Angel is. She continues to support both her and Papi. She sees this as a community that represents the world and a very underserved audience. The fashion industry may be slow to change. It remains a perilous time. But Papi's argument that it takes people to force that change is very persuasive. It may be a story that starts with tragedy. But it too ends on such a rousing note with Papi booking his first gig as a talent manager that will send him and Angel to Berlin the following morning. Plus, it further highlights just how loving and uplifting this relationship truly is. Angel was conditioned for so long to settle for less when it came to love. It wasn't something that she could have simply because no one would ever love her true self. She has faced so much rejection that she just assumes it will happen before it does. Papi won't let her be defeated though. He works hard to lift her spirits right up when she needs it the most. It's sweet when they propose to each other. It too is a celebration of two characters who really deserve this moment. They have been so good for one another. It may have been scary at one point. But now, Papi continually proves that he will fight for her because he sees her as a beautiful soul through and through. Meanwhile, Pray and Ricky's relationship is much more complex and nuanced than most people initially think. It's more than just Pray stealing youth from the younger man he is dating. It's more than Ricky soaking up the wisdom of someone older. They too are loving and caring of one another. The water is firmly under the bridge regarding all of the scandal that first erupted by the two seeing each other. Damon has tested negative and has gone on to such wonderful things in Europe. He is even getting to choreograph a show. Meanwhile, Pray is just as joyous to see Blanca survive everything she's going through as everyone else. He celebrates her and the women in his life. But Elektra points out how the movement has been favoring the men of the ballroom community more than the women. They are the ones in the spotlight that still shines thanks to Madonna. They are the ones getting the most interesting new categories. Meanwhile, the women still feel like they are being judged and have to constantly abide by the rules of perfection that are simply too high. Those standards can be crushing. As such, it's amusing to see the tables turned with the MCs walking the ball in drag. But it's also just as insightful when Pray talks about his hesitancy towards presenting as too feminine. He has long been proud and confident about the way he operates in this world. He is loud and blunt about it. However, he still feels the resentment and trauma of a childhood full of abuse. He fears that if he ever embraces too much feminine energy than his father will knock him down yet again. That's absolutely terrifying. Him admitting that allows him to feel closer to Ricky with the strength to actually follow through on this challenge. No, he doesn't have a resounding victory like Blanca does. But it shows that this community is accepting of its own and can handle the criticism that anyone has to lobby towards them.