Creators; Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy. Starring; MJ Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Dominique Jackson. Color. Rated TV-MA. 3 seasons.
“Pose” is unlike any show ever placed on the small screen. The levels of this program go far beyond a textbook galleria of standard television. It was surprisingly good over the first few episodes whilst watching after a friend recommended it to me. By the end of Season 3, this show about the LGBTQ community is arguably a TOP 5 SERIES I have ever had the privilege of watching. To my fellow heterosexual men and women, particularly the ones that are still stuck in the world of homophobia, check this fantastic piece of art out. “Pose” has so many elements in the mix that are funny, entertaining, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring all at once. Homosexuality in whatever form is not a choice, just like being heterosexual is not either. Fear to be who you are and constant condemnation are relatable to all. “Pose” also deals with the Crack epidemic, the AIDS crisis, and even the Mafia. This three season show presents a community that deserves far more than a standard episode breakdown. There are so many moving pieces as any great drama showcases. From gay to straight to transgender, “Pose” is the ultimate expression of being who you are, a human on this Earth. This review will tell the story of the four main characters, in no linear order, and how each of them grow. Similar to how the show does not stick strictly to the beginning, middle, end format. Hopefully this extraction of this family does an all time great series justice. Welcome to the ballroom…
1. Billy Porter as “Pray Tell”:
We begin with the heart and soul of this expansive world. Billy Porter as Pray Tell is the driving force both on and off the ballroom floor. Ballrooms are a central aspect of this community. As the Master of the Ballroom, Pray Tell is the guiding force. We meet him first with his electric announcing voice introducing competitors at the hottest ballroom in New York for the LGBTQ community. The instant Pray Tell is behind the mike, it is clear this man is an entertainer of the highest order. From a club to a giant sporting event, it would be impossible to not get pumped up by Pray’s energy. He owns the crazy suites on the stage and on many nights he is the show people come to see. Outside of the onstage performances behind the podium, life is a rollercoaster of up and down experiences for Mr. Tell.
His life is representative of the best and worst of the community. From the beginning this character comes off as a dynamo of personality. The underground New York LGBTQ community syphons through this charismatic force of nature. No question no other person could create the fantastic energy that Billy Porter is able to achieve. Prey Tell can also be a vindictive bitch to some of the queens performing. Comes with the territory.
Pray Tell somewhat dictates how the judges will rank the performances of certain houses at the ball, thus setting the tone for the entire community. . He is not judge, jury, and executioner, but he is pretty close. The politics of this world run through ‘The Godfather’ Pray. And yet he almost always supports the lesser known houses behind the scenes. There is the rare occasion when Pray has a beef, as we all do. Being the leader of this community comes with great responsibility.
Early on in the series it is revealed Pray has HIV. On top of that, the love of his life Costas Perez (Johnny Sibilly) is on his death bed with full blown AIDS. This show does not pull any punches as far as how that experience looks. The loss of his dearest strikes fire in Pray’s campaign to fight for the rights of HIV patients, including multiple fundraisers for the shunned AIDS ward at the hospital. The second season finds Pray on life support with his fellow LGBTQ members forcing him to get up there and perform even though he thinks he’s done. Long ways away from it buddy.
When it comes to his personal life, Pray Tell has a complicated one. After his main love’s death, he sleeps around before finding a young man named Ricky (Dyllon Burnside). Ricky seduces the elder statesman despite having serious ties to the House of Evangelista. We will get to that. Ricky is a hot young gay man attracted to Pray’s power. Pray just wants to feel the tenderness of a lover. Being with the ‘children’ is off limits for mothers and fathers which brings shame to the great Pray Tell. But this is not a one night stand. His relationship with Ricky could become love.
Ricky becomes Pray’s serious partner. Unfortunately for Ricky, he is going into a relationship where an alcoholic is coming into his addictive prime. After all of the deaths of people he loves due to AIDS, Pray goes into a spiral of giving up and all Ricky can do is pick him up when Pray is wasted.
Pray Tell’s story is a dichotomy. It is a story of never giving up while at times getting so close to giving up. All of our lives are a flash in the pan. Good times and bad times. The life and story of Pray Tell is the biggest flash one could hope for.
Best Quote: “Kindness does not cost you anything”.
2. Domonique Jackson as “Elektra”:
If you think a legendary performer like Mariah Carey is a diva, wait until you meet Elektra. This bitch takes no prisoners and refuses to never not look glamorous. The early season one leader of what is known as ‘The House of Abundance’ shows how to lead a group with an iron fist. To a fault. Side note to explain now here, houses are situations in which elder members of the community take in the younger and more confused members with questions about one’s sexuality as a guide towards acceptance and hopefully happiness. Elektra insists on perfection and refuses to except failure from her daughters and sons yet is also very kindhearted when push comes to shove. That comes from a complicated past all the way up to a very lucrative future.
Domonique Jackson is the perfect choice to play Elektra. This character is mainly focused on surface looks because she has an innate complex fear that the underlying human beings of LGBTQ personalties will not be appreciated. From the start, Elektra is the queen bee for multiple characters throughout the series. She begins as the leader of this world until the perfect situation falls apart on her. Don’t worry, this bitch will not be pushed into the gutter ever again. Elektra rises in multiple scenarios, from getting a rich S&M sex-addicted millionaire to be her slave to becoming involved with the mob. That is how it is done.
Let us start with the S&M obsessed man. In season 2 Elektra is working at a shop that specializes in pleasing twisted Wall Street players who have to keep their crazy desires under wraps. This black gimp suit wearing ‘John’ comes along and offers Elektra and her crew complete access to his mansion in the Hamptons with the condition that they keep the guy caged like an animal. To each his own? The ladies enjoy a weekend on the beach, despite Mother Blanca’s reluctance to expose herself in public. Blanca ends up having the best time with a man, but that is her story. The height of this trip comes when the girls go to have dinner at one of the super rich white conservative restaurants. While all of the regular customers are speaking at a whisper as they slowly sip champagne because they are clearly already day-drunk on mimosa’s, the “Pose” crew are having a blast of their own in this high life world. Something completely foreign to these divas. An annoyed white woman finally gets up and approaches the table asking for them to leave. The other girls tell Elektra to be cool, that is until this white priss says the ladies have to leave. At that moment Elektra goes off in one of the most phenomenal go f-ck yourself monologues ever.
That is Elektra. She is often a pain. But if you mess with her or her people, good luck to you.
As the show winds down in Season 3, Elektra’s final chapter sees her coming into immense wealth. Having started a lucrative sex phone line, Elektra is approached by the New York mafia. The gentlemen are looking for a business they can launder money through. As one of the Italian gentlemen comments, “Phone Sex Sells”. This partnership propels Elektra into mega wealth and allows her to bring an array of good to the ballroom community.
No doubt the biggest badass, Elektra is the sponsor who personifies the essence of her community and is unparalleled.. Her serious abuse as a young transgender child from both her mother and her time hooking at the docks gave her a tough exterior. Fortunately, the pain from the past never completely contaminated her good heart.
Best Quote: “You’re Lucky I Believe In Second Chances”
3. Indya Moore as “Angel”:
The phoenix from the ashes along this journey is no doubt Mrs. Angel. From the start, Angel is a troubled, insecure child who knows that in her heart she is a woman. After being turned away from the blood relatives who should love her regardless, Angel is on the street selling her body to disgusting men looking for a cheap blowjob. The turmoil for her is not even close to being over as she joins the House of Evangelista! At first she is a positive component in the community, shining when performing on ballroom nights in particular. Angel also goes through all sorts of low times. But trust me, this is one story that ends well.
From the beginning of her journey, Angel (Indya Moore) is a young lost soul. Her mother doesn’t exactly except her to put it lightly and the young lady deals with the biggest mountain of mental health issues amongst these characters. Fortunately, Angel’s story is the love story that is up there with any Disney princess ever.
Angel’s early beginnings in the community are similar to Elektra’s in that she also spent time hooking on the docs. Mother Blanca finds the lost young soul and brings her into her newly forming House Evangelista. With the eclectic young group of various LGBTQ type members coming together, Evangelista quickly becomes the hottest show in town with Angel being one of their brightest stars on stage. Too bad her success cannot eliminate the past that will always haunt her.
Mother Blanca refuses to have drug use in her house. This forbidden situation happens to Angel in two chapters. The first being an opioid fueled binge involving fellow house members Lulu (Hailie Sahar) and Ricky (Dyllon Burnside). The later two end up getting let go by Blanca, but after her bender Angel is able to convince Blanca that she can stay and once again she is her best self both on and off the dance floor.
Angel was partially driven to her first bender because of a straight man on the surface from Wall Street named Stan Bowes (Evan Peters). Stan is married and a closet gay who said he would run away with Angel. That is, until he was confronted by what the gay community really looks like during a ball. Stan chooses the standard PC rich white people life instead.
Once she is on point again, Angel finds true love with Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel). A fellow member of Evangelista, Papi and Angel turn a friendship into a romance as great as any. The two become the power couple in this world. Angel becoming one of the first Transgender supermodels for multiple magazines and Papi eventually becoming the first national fashion moguls for LGBTQ models. Only one nagging thing stands in the way.
The snow comes back in force to the couple once they move out of House Evangelista. The culmination coming when fellow house member Damon (Ryan Jamaal) comes back from touring as a dancer in Europe. Damon is back because Blanca is deathly ill, but we’ll get there.
At a celebratory dinner hosted at house Evangelista, Damon accuses the couple of doing cocaine in the bathroom. This causes an enormous blow up with all of the main characters hating one another in an unbelievable dramatic sequence. Everything seems broken. Don’t worry, this is the happy ending of this show.
I will allow you to witness how Angel and Papi end up. Let me just say that in the wrong hands this climactic episode featuring the All-4-One song “I Swear” would be so cheesy. In the right hands, it is a total tear jerker. Of the four main leads, Angel is not the one who can lead. She is instead the perfect diamond in the rough who can inspire by the example of her life..
Best Quote: “I’m tired of being humiliated. I deserve more. I’m worthy of better. I just need to know somebody has my back.”
4. M.J. Rodriguez as “Blanca Rodriguez”:
If Pray Tell is the heart and soul, Blanca Rodriguez is the ultimate mother and moral compass keeping this amazing group of unique individuals together. Originally a new young member of the community with The House Abundance, Blanca works hard to bring together some of the most troubled and forgotten kids in the community, once she has the courage to break away. The kids she focuses on have no direction with several of them dealing drugs on the New York streets or tricking themselves at the docks. Blanca is not perfect, but her journey tells the story of the most kind-hearted member this world could ever ask for.
Very early on, Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) is a conflicted dichotomy of a mother. Blanca is stubborn, harsh, and unforgiving to her children in her house. At the same time, no one could ask for a more loving parent. A mother that sacrifices her personal and professional life for her kids. She does not always make the correct choice, but it is never a selfish one.
Similar to her previous mother Elektra trained her when she joined House Abundance as a confused backwards hat wearing teen, Blanca has had an epiphany to help the up-and-coming “confused” kids in New York as she starts her own house. Blanca is Elektra’s upside-down doppelgänger, despite the fact that Blanca would never admit it. Both are tough in different ways yet both are completely supportive of their children.
Once House Evangelista is established, the ballroom scene has no shot. The biggest star is Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain). His performance at the Madonna inspired “VOUGE” is so ridiculously good that it catapults him towards an international tour. Blanca doesn’t just push Damon by forcing a top level dance instructor early on to start his career. the woman also is able to support and create the careers of everyone in her house. It does leave her eventually alone, but that is just the next chapter in life.
Seeing everyone dying of AIDS, Blanca decides to focus her amazing compassion towards the medical field. After her own wheelchair level near death experience, Blanca starts off working in the HIV ward at the NY hospitals. An area most doctors do not want to be around because most ignorant straight white men do not understand the disease. On her journey towards becoming a nurse that can be allowed to go beyond simply the HIV ward, Blanca meets and falls in love with Christopher (Jeremy Pope).
Christopher is not deep in the community, but yes he is gay. He is also not stupid, and understands Blanca is not the biblical definition of a woman. The doctor doesn’t care because he loves Blanca for who she is. This is the one time Blanca has truly found personal happiness. Her kids have all thrived.. Christopher is her ultimate happiness.
Nothing replaces a mother, good or bad. I was fortunate myself. Others are not in the mother game. No doubt, Blanca is one of the most amazing mothers ever placed on screen. In her commitment to and love for her children, she not only gives them the life they deserve but finds for herself the purpose she seeks. The scene where she is crying when the kids are gone says it all.
Best Quote: “You’ve got a lot to hate yourself for, but needing help ain’t one of them.”
Television programs this complex and special rarely come along in my experience. “Pose” will rip your heart out while at the same time make you feel like being at the best concert ever once the jams get going. The show at its core is about the human experience all of us will go through. Even if you cannot do it on stage, don’t be afraid to rock out to the “VOUGE” or Disney Princess dances, just to name a few. This is undeniable happiness for anyone north of White Nationalists wankers afraid of something different. “Pose” is not about stereotypes, it is about loving thy neighbor. That one is in the Bible correct?
Suck Factor: 0 out of 7 (7 Means Your Movie Really SUCKS!):
The SUCK FACTOR! How it works. We have flipped the script on the standard ratings system. If your film is a masterpiece (say for example “The Godfather”) your movie receives 0 SUCKS! If you make total garbage (perhaps a Michael Bay movie per say) you receive 7 SUCKS!