One week on since its British television debut on BBC Two, and everyone is still talking about Pose. The new drama from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals — which centres around the New York ball scene in the late ‘80s, as a group of social pariahs come together in celebration of what makes them different — is already considered iconic by many, and that’s because it’s incredibly groundbreaking. With a compelling narrative at its core — not to mention heart in abundance — it’s an accessible tale for us all, no matter our backgrounds. Pose’s greatest strength, however, lies in the fact that, in spite of the circumstances the series’ central characters find themselves in, this is by no means a tragic story, but rather a powerful and uplifting one — a fact that is perhaps even more evident in the brilliant second instalment.
‘Access’ opens on an air of positivity, as Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) goes head to head once more with Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) during one of the balls, and even manages to defeat her former house mother. You go, girl. However, her victory dance is short-lived, as she’s knocked back into reality when she’s denied access to a gay bar because of her status as a trans woman.
Blanca is a big focus in this one, although for an entirely different reason. While there is initially some focus on her own desires, they mostly take a backseat this week, as her status as a mother is explored in a bit more in detail. She’s determined to protect her flock, and thus she resolves to make the world a better place, which is what prompts her repeated attempts to overcome those mean gays at the gay bar. I’ll say it again: you go, girl.
Speaking of her children, Damon is also a huge figure in this week’s instalment, as he starts to fall for a young attractive lad named Ricky (Dyllón Burnside). It’s a rather lovely subplot, as the young man comes to realise that, in spite of what he thought when his parents kicked him out, he can still achieve all of his dreams and have a relationship — his sexuality need not affect that. It’s inspiring.
The best thing about Damon’s relationship with Ricky, however, is the conversation he shares with his house mother on the subject. As Blanca scolds Damon for coming home late, she takes the opportunity to educate him on gay sex, as it’s something he knows little about due to the homophobic attitudes of his family. It’s a powerful scene and one that highlights the importance of sex education. What with all the discussion right now about whether or not LGBTQ+ relationships should be taught in school curriculums, the timing of this scene really couldn’t have been more appropriate. What’s more, Murphy, Falchuk and Canals absolutely nailed the dialogue here.
While we’re on the subject, I have to say that the dialogue throughout this instalment is, for lack of a better word, fabulous. How the writers’ manage to switch from fierce campy insults — such as Elektra and Blanca’s bitchy nail salon face-off — to deep and meaningful, heartfelt monologues — Stan Bowes’ (Evan Peters) admitting his utter admiration of Angel (Indya Moore), for example, or Blanca educating Damon — is a testament to their ability. Also, every line that comes out of Pray
Tell’s (Billy Porter) mouth deserves an award. That is all.
Another really interesting subplot is Stan’s interest in Angel. I’m not really sure what the writers’ intentions are with this narrative — which is likely why I’m enjoying it as much as I am. Of course, it helps that Evan Peters is sublime here, and there’s a vulnerability in his character that makes him incredibly believable. On the outside, he’s got everything he needs. He’s smart, incredibly attractive, married to a beautiful woman and makes a lot of money, and yet he feels incomplete. The pressures of having to be somebody that he’s not is why he admires Angel so much — because she’s unapologetically herself. I mean, that’s some beautiful conflict right there. Sure, we hate that he’s cheating on Patty (Kate Mara), but the strength of said conflict makes him so easy to empathise with.
At a push, you could possibly get me to admit that this second instalment is a tad too long — and the narrative structure is rather unusual too — but to be honest, I’m simply too enthralled in the characters to care at this point. On the whole, It’s another cracking episode.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Pose continues Thursdays at 9pm on BBC Two.