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Ryan Murphy Listened to Pose Fans and Cut Evan Peters and Kate Mara

And the show's second season is much better off for it.
  • Kate Mara and Evan Peters in Pose (FX)
    Kate Mara and Evan Peters in Pose (FX)

    Ryan Murphy has a long history of giving fans what they want ... for better or for worse. When fans took to certain couples on Glee — namely Kurt & Blaine and Brittany & Santana  — the creator leaned in hard, and those pairs kept finding their way back to each other, long after it stopped making sense in the story. (Let us not forget that their stories finally converged in a joint wedding.) More recently, Murphy announced that the 10th season of American Horror Story will once again bring back the witches of Coven for their third go-around on the anthology series. Their last appearance, in Apocalypse, required resurrections and time travel (!).

    And now with Pose, Murphy (alongside longtime collaborator Brad Falchuk and writer/producer Steven Canals) has done it yet again. This time, not only giving fans what they want, but also bringing great benefit to the story itself. I'm talking about the decision to listen to eliminate superfluous characters Stan and Patty Bowes (Evan Peters and Kate Mara).

    In the first season, the two characters only connection to the ballroom world that otherwise dominates Pose was Stan’s affair with House of Evangelista member Angel (Indya Moore). Beyond that, their scenes were mostly just a slog through white suburban drama, with a side of gratuitous Trump connection (Stan and Matt both worked in Trump Tower).

    Perhaps it was always the plan to use these bigger stars as bait of sorts: draw viewers in with recognizable names, then let them fall in love with the other characters. I’d be somewhat surprised if that were true, though; the Trump references felt like a clear attempt to make the show capital-R Relevant, and even in the last episodes of Season 1, the show seemed to be building sympathy for long-suffering Patty. Instead, their departure feels like a case of recognizing that fans were bored of their stories, and refocusing for season two.

    As it turns out, the move was a master stroke. With no sign of the Bowes through the four episodes screened for critics, and Mara and Peters absent from the main-cast billing, Season 2 is far more cohesive, with the spotlight focusing on three main characters: up-and-coming model Angel (moore), house mother Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez), and ballroom emcee Pray Tell (breakout star Billy Porter). The extra narrative space also means we get more of Angel Bismarck Curiel’s charming Lil Papi Evangelista, and Angelica Ross’ bitter-but-sweet-inside Candy Ferocity. That’s five characters of color, three of them trans and two queer, each getting renewed focus thanks to the Bowes’ departure.

    There is one new main character in Sandra Bernhard’s Judy Kubrak, but her role is much more connected to the show. As Blanca and Pray’s friend and nurse, she grounds the HIV/AIDS story by assertively pushing new forms of care on our protagonists and drawing Pray (and the show) into the ACT UP activism that was fighting for the LGBT community at that time. The sole white character in the ensemble, it seems she was effectively created to serve black and trans characters’ stories. That’s pretty remarkable.

    In short, listening to viewer response and cutting out the Bowes means more fabulousness at balls, more plots specifically about trans and queer characters, and more time spent with this truly groundbreaking cast. It’s more of what works and less of what doesn’t. So I tip my cap to Ryan Murphy; listening to fans doesn’t always work, but in this case, it was exactly what Pose needed.

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    Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles.

    TOPICS: Pose, FX, Evan Peters, Kate Mara, Ryan Murphy