The second season of the groundbreaking FX series receives 10’s, 10’s, 10’s across the board.
June is Pride Month, and it’s no coincidence that Pose has returned to FX. The Ryan Murphy drama is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall without saying it out loud, and this second season is here to remind people of the struggle that brought us to this point. The freshman season plunged us into the Ball culture of the late 80’s, and that’s still there. The House of Evangelista lets you have it, but there is something more important about to erupt. As HIV and AIDS ravage this community, Pose will not allow you to forget that thousands died in order for us to have rights in 2019, and the fight continues.
The second season flashes forward to 1990, and Madonna’s “Vogue” is becoming the song of the summer. While other members of the House of Evangelista are more skeptical, reigning Mother of the Year, Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) is sure that Madge’s song will bring her community into the mainstream. They will be seen, and other members are just as ambitious. Angel (the luminous Indya Moore) is encouraged to enter into the world of mainstream modeling through a contest to become the “Face of 1990.”
While the women of Evangelista set their sights on a higher calling, Billy Porter’s Pray Tell is struggling with the amount of death he is seeing in the community. There have been sturdy dramas about the AIDS crisis before, of course, but I don’t recall one that has so many scenes set in a funeral parlor. Other works have mentioned that they’ve gone to countless funerals, but Pose keeps bringing us back to the same shabby, depressing place. The season kicks off with Pray Tell and Blanca visiting a massive grave for people who died of AIDS whose families didn’t want them–or the bodies were unclaimed. The gloom isn’t in this season just for the sake of doom and gloom, but to not let us forget that there are still horror stories related to this point in history.
There is an anger bubbling in this season that is so compelling in its necessity. Pray Tell reluctantly attends an ACT UP meeting and then Evangelista participates in a die-in at a Catholic Church to protest abstinence. There are scenes where Porter’s Pray Tell is literally shaking with anger, but not just at the people who don’t try to have empathy. He does not shy away from telling members if his own community that they are focusing on the wrong things at this crucial moment. His friends are dying almost every day, and Porter wears that grief on his face the entire season. His performance is breathtaking and unshakable. I love how his fear mixes in with his anger in his voice.
Pose does get lauded for its writing, attention to detail, and it’s groundbreaking casting, but it features probably the most unsung ensemble on television. Porter has always been a showcase in everything he does (my well worn copy of The Broken Hearts Club confirm that), but Mj Rodriguez’s strength should not go unnoticed. There is a sadness to her that makes you want to reach out and help her, but she doesn’t let you see her sweat. It’s probably the most underrated performance of the entire cast. You want to be her friend. She goes toe-to-toe with none other than Patti LuPone this season, so that says a lot. Moore continues to be a standout as Angel, and she is able to focus on herself this season instead of a romance that we knew was doomed from the start. In scenes where she’s being photographed, she is so alive and happy. She moves her body a different way–she’s freer and it’s such a joy to see and so heartbreaking when the reality of the world we live in rears its ugly head. Angel Bismark Curiel has some nice moments as Lil Papi as he supports Angel’s modeling dreams.
Pose does revel in its own fabulousness, but that’s because its characters have to in order to survive. As of this posting, the Human Rights Campaign has reported that 26 transgender people were killed due to anti-transgender violence in 2018, and 8 have already been killed this year. The majority of those people who have been killed were women of color. At the end of every episode this season, there is a quote from someone living through this moment of history. Pose has a strong message, but it achieves it without being preachy or obnoxious about it.
There is an elegance in Pose‘s anger. And you should be angry too.
Pose debuts its second second season on June 10 on FX. The first season is available on Netflix.