July 22, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Pose”


No one could have known when POSE went into production that it would be Ryan Murphy’s last original series (created with Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals) for the Fox group of networks and studios, before his giant new Netflix deal kicked in.  Nevertheless, Pose has had a fitting tone of valedictory, of summing up and looking ahead.  For all its grittiness and occasional violence, the series represents Murphy at his most optimistic and least cynical, and following on Transparent, it can fairly claim to be a further step into trailblazing trans characters into the mainstream, surprising quite a few by gaining a wide enough viewership on FX to secure a second season.  (Continuing the process, this past week CW and DC TV announced at Comic-Con that next season’s Supergirl will feature TV’s first trans superhero.)

Pose‘s season finale, written by the three creators and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton, was a bliss-out, so loaded with happy endings that it felt as though the producers themselves expected it to be the last episode of a one and done experiment.  If a show only 8 episodes long can be said to provide “fan service,” it did so by uniting Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), the near-saintly mother of the upstart House of Evangelista in the 1980s NY ball culture of the show, with her own former mother, the imperious but down on her luck Elektra (Dominique Jackson) of the one-time House of Abundance.  Together, the two were a virtual Avengers of the balls as well as a dynamite buddy-comedy team, vanquishing the mean-spirited House of Ferocity for every trophy that wasn’t nailed down.  Like everyone who came into contact with Blanca, Elektra emerged a better human being (and a hostess at Indochine!), and along the course of the episode, thanks to Blanca’s encouragement, Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) embraced an education over a stint in an Al B. Sure tour, Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) returned to the nest from his exile with the Ferocity team, and Pray Tell (the spectacular Billy Porter) moved on from the AIDS death of his lover, and his own HIV-positive diagnosis, to seek love once more.

It could also be regarded as fan service that the episode devoted mercifully little time to the series’ weakest plotline, the romance between Evanglista ingenue Angel (Indya Moore) and conflicted Donald Trump employee Stan (Evan Peters), which broke up Stan’s marriage to Patty (Kate Mara).  Even better, there was no sign at all of Pose‘s one true villain, Stan’s boss and Trump surrogate Matt (James Van Der Beek).  Peters, Mara and Van Der Beek all gave thorough performances, but it was obvious whenever their characters were on screen that the writers’ minds were elsewhere, and one hopes Stan’s break-up with Angel stays permanent in Season 2.

Pose has been far from perfect.  Like virtually every other FX Murphy series, it abused the network’s willingness to let episodes crawl past the 60-minute mark, and it could be blunt and repetitive.  It wore its heart not just on its sleeve but on all articles of clothing (articles, it should be noted, that were suitably fabulous for the show’s demands, all credit to Costume Designers Analucia McGorty and Lou Eyrich).  It’s lacked the analytical vision of The Deuce, which takes place in an overlapping milieu.  Although a certain amount of exaggerated acting here fit the story, some performances stayed over the top.  That was supplanted, however, by the show’s emotional honesty and clear love for its core characters, and by the great work done by Porter, Rodriguez and Moore, among others.

There weren’t any cliffhangers to speak of by the time the finale ended, so Season 2 of Pose can go in any number of directions.  Self-indulgence may be built into its DNA, but ideally the next round of episodes won’t follow the conventional TV model by just replicating the first.  With territory to explore all its own, the series has the opportunity to continue breaking new ground.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."