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TV TATTLE

Pose's series finale showed why it will forever remain a towering achievement

  • "Co-written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals, Janet Mock, and Our Lady J, the two-part 'Series Finale' is a portrait of a community, an urgent historical chronicle, and a love letter to its characters, gifting them a dignity that’s always been theirs but that’s been absent on our small screens for far too long," says Manuel Betancourt. "Pose’s greatest strength (and arguably its biggest burden) has been the way it planted itself and knew itself as more than a television show. This was a statement about what television could be. About whose stories can be told. About who gets to tell said stories. And, more importantly, about what viewers and critics and the industry alike get to learn when a Black, Latina trans woman is the gravitational center of a cable drama. Likewise, this final episode delivered on its promise to illuminate the kinds of narratives that become central when women like Blanca and men like Pray are the heart of your storytelling. Covering everything from medical racism and ACT UP’s (belated) rainbow coalition to survivor’s guilt and government inaction ('A pile of dead Black people is bad optics. A pile of dead white people is a national tragedy.'), this final episode didn’t let its characters be singular figures spared from the grief and the anger that’s still rampant in their own communities. As Pray notes early in the episode, what good is knowing you’ll survive when that means plenty of others are left to die?"

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    • Pose knows happy endings are a sham: "Instead, it provides an ending that has its happy moments but also its moments of despair, and neither outweighs the other," says Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya. "Grief and joy intersect in surprising ways. Ending a series is never easy, but Pose manages to do it in a way that feels earnest and satisfying, letting its characters say actual goodbyes to each other while also nodding toward their futures. Spectacle and melodrama interplay with grounded character work and compelling relationship dynamics in the finale. In other words, Pose plays to all its strengths in its farewell."
    • In its final season, Pose exposed the heavy toll of religious stigma for countless queer people: "As the series neared its end, it used Pray Tell’s story to address the hypocrisy of Christians who discriminate against queer and trans people, while showing how communities like the one he found in New York can be a sustaining force in the face of bigotry," says Hannah Giorgis. "For a new generation of young LGBTQ people, Pose has served as a pathway to understand—and draw strength from—chapters of queer history that are often overlooked or characterized only as periods of loss. The show has sometimes struggled to reconcile its more outlandish impulses with the mandate to represent queer life authentically. (It’s also attracted backlash from viewers over another onscreen death, the murder of Candy, the young trans sex worker played by Angelica Ross.) But Season 3, in particular, insists on the importance of community, especially as contrasted with the pitfalls of religious communion. Among one another, the characters can do what elders in the series—and many in real life—haven’t been able to in the Church or around loved ones who have rejected them: mourn in public, without shame."
    • Pose told the hilarious hard truths about trans life: "There’s a mirrored quality to how Pose lands with cisgender and transgender audiences," says Evan Urquhart. "For mainstream viewers, the show humanizes the type of people who have been robbed of their humanity, allowing cisgender people the epiphany that, ah yes, these to are recognizable human beings with human foibles, failings, sorrows, and strivings. For trans viewers who already knew that we were human beings, it elevates our lives, showing us that our struggles and triumphs too are worthy of being on screen. This affirming feeling comes through the strongest with the more flawed and imperfect characters, which is why the second season is the high point of the series, and the final season represents somewhat of a diminishment from those heights, even if it’s satisfying to see the characters we’ve grown to love find happiness, wealth, and/or love. On Pose, an irresponsible crack-smoking stripper (Hailie Sahar’s Lulu) can aspire to go back to school and become an accountant, instead of being just a cautionary tale or a punchline. It rings true to trans people’s lives, which are full of weird juxtapositions, seeming contradictions, and fatal (or near-fatal) flaws in our plans. The absurd and hilarious is another inescapable aspect of trans life that in Pose is given its due, especially in the scenes and subplots that revolve around ballroom culture."
    • Elton John made a surprise appearance at Pose's Rose Bowl Emmy event on Saturday night: “I lived the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s,” said John, who revealed how profoundly taken he’s been by the authenticity of the show’s storylines and characters. “This series touched me more than any other series because of the journey that these people are on…They’re real people, and they’re trans people who’ve made their life possible, but by god, they had to fight for it — and they still have to fight for it. And they shouldn’t have to fight for it. They should never have to fight for it.”
    • Billy Porter discusses Pose's series finale with co-creator Steven Canals -- whom he revealed his HIV status to while filming the pilot: "Having done the work on myself, that was the self-care component of being an actor that we don’t always get the opportunity to understand that we need," says Porter. "I’m grateful for the trauma therapy because I was able to already have my mind in the right space and understand that Pray Tell has been, and continues to be down to the very end, a proxy for my healing. When that is the conscious objective, you can hold on to your sanity. How does that bear out in real time? What does that mean? Well, Steven can tell you that for episode two of season three — when we were shooting the break-up scene with Ricky, I pulled him aside and said, 'I don’t have more than two takes in me.' In seasons one and two, I would have done it however many times somebody asked me to do it." Porter also recalls telling Canals about being HIV positive. "We were shooting the pilot and I knew that we were going to be talking about this. I wanted the creator to have the information," says Porter. "I wasn’t telling a lot of people. You may have been one of the only people who knew, but I felt like the creator of the show needed to know, because I felt like subconsciously it would inform where Pray Tell’s storyline went." Canals adds of Porter's HIV status: "We never talked about it again until we were going into shoot the series finale. It wasn’t anything I ever brought up in the writers’ room. I never talked about it with Ryan Murphy or the other producers. I knew that it wasn’t anything that Billy had ever talked about and it’s never come up in any interviews for the show. That’s private information. It made the process of working on the show sensitive to me because I was always hyper aware. It’s similar to the experience with the ladies as well that I never want to be re-traumatizing one of our actors. I never want you to feel like you have to go to these scary to places and not feel like you’re not supported. The benefit of over the past three seasons, building a rapport and a relationship with Billy specifically, is that he’s never not advocated for himself. If there was ever going to be a moment where Billy was going to feel uncomfortable — or was not going to want to go there — that he would say, 'We need to have a conversation.'"
    • Canals on coming the decision to end Pose with Season 3: "We knew from the onset of the series, so quite literally in that first 45-minute meeting that I had with Ryan (Murphy), when I pitched the series to him, we knew that the show would end with the release of the cocktail and HIV/AIDS no longer being a death sentence," says Canals. "That was always what the story, what the show was about. That was really what was grounding our narrative, then we just populated the show with queer and trans people who happened to also be members of the ballroom community. But the truth is that the show for me was always an investigation into the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the lens of these black, brown, queer, and trans people. So coming into the third season, once we knew that we were going to time jump to 1994–we’ve always been very intentional about the year that we’re placing our season in. It felt to me like, 'Oh, are we already there? Are we at the end?' And Ryan and I had a really honest and open conversation about it. The biggest concern for me was, it feels like we’re there. We’re at the end. I don’t know if it makes sense for us to find a way to stretch the narrative out when the end is so clearly in sight. At that point it was like, 'Nope, I think you’re right.' And so we very quickly knew exactly what that final episode was going to be and where we were going to leave all of our characters. Then it just was us mapping out how we would get there."
    • Canals wanted Pose's finale to re-center the story away from trauma: "The show, from its inception, was always aspirational, and hopeful," he says. "What was so important to me with the show, and maybe more specifically with the finale, was to position all of our characters in a place where they’re no longer solely surviving, but they’re now thriving. That was intentional on my part. I’m tired of seeing Black and Latin and Asian characters where their narratives are rooted in their traumas, and Pose was an opportunity to not solely rewrite the narrative, but just to recenter it, and to say that we also have happy lives, and we also have joy, and those parts of our experiences should be centered as well."
    • Canals on Pose's legacy: "Pose was not just a movement; Pose is a movement: "The reality is Pose was created (and) born out of a need," says Canals. "Now with Pose ending, I would hope that all the content creators of the world would say, ‘OK, you know, this show is ending, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t get to have our stories anymore.' There are so many narratives within our community that need to be told. And now is the time to start telling them.”

    TOPICS: Pose, FX, Billy Porter, Brad Falchuck, Elton John, Janet Mock, Our Lady J, Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals, LGBTQ, Series Finales




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