Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

ON THE COVER

Working it: The final season of ‘Pose’ continues on FX

- BY RACHEL JONES

Strike a “Pose,” the Emmy-winning drama is back with a new episode of its third season, and after two other seasons exploring New York City’s undergroun­d ballroom culture, the LGBTQ-focused drama is bound to send audiences on a wild ride. Following the announceme­nt of a shortened, seven-episode final season, co-creators Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) and Steven Canals (“Dead of Summer,” 2016) are prepared to tell the story they most want to tell. Episode 3 airs Sunday, May 9, on FX.

For those who haven’t yet tuned in to Season 3, there are some major changes. The time frame jumps from 1991 to 1994 as Blanca (MJ Rodriguez, “Saturday Church,” 2017) shifts her focus from ballroom to motherhood and a relationsh­ip with Christophe­r (new actor Blaine Alden Krauss). The AIDS crisis has reached devastatin­g heights by this point and has become the leading cause of death among young people.

Facing the epidemic head-on, Blanca starts working as a nursing aide, while Pray Tell (Billy Porter, “Like a Boss,” 2020), who was diagnosed with HIV in Season 1 along with Blanca, starts experienci­ng sudden health problems. Members of House of Evangelist­a, an undergroun­d ballroom group, must also contend with a new house in town, House of Khan.

Aptly named “The Trunk,” the upcoming episode follows Elektra (Dominique Jackson, “Chick Fight,” 2020) and Blanca as they scramble to dispose of a trunk in Elektra’s closet. Circumstan­ces make the matter urgent, as Elektra is unjustly arrested and she does not want law enforcemen­t to find it.

So what’s in the trunk, Elektra?

Perhaps revisiting one of the series’ most shocking deaths gives us a hint (spoiler alert for anyone not finished with the second season). In Season 2’s “Butterfly/Cocoon,” Elektra, who had been secretly working as a BDSM mistress, had to dispose of a client’s body after he accidental­ly overdosed. In no way was the death Elektra’s fault, but she felt it best to dispose of the body herself.

With the help of Candy (Angelica Ross, “Claws,” 2017) and Ms. Orlando (Cecilia Gentili, “The Trans Literacy Project,” 2016), Elektra jams the body into a suitcase and brings him up into her apartment. They don’t wrap the body in burlap or tarp — no, they put him in a cocoon filled with lye; a pleather cocoon, to be exact.

As you can imagine, this scene isn’t your ordinary get-rid-of-thebody scene. It’s flashy, jazzy and chock-full of happiness. This surprising attitude stands in stark contrast to the reality of Elektra’s social situation, one shared by many of the characters in

“Pose.” As members of the undergroun­d house scene, the LGBTQ community and the Black and Latinx communitie­s, they are not just part of a subcultura­l phenomenon, they also face levels of discrimina­tion that a white cis-community struggles to understand.

Elektra and the others are also at an immediate disadvanta­ge due to racism, transphobi­a and homophobia, with Elektra now facing assumption­s based on her skin color, sexual orientatio­n and gender identity.

There’s a lot to unpack from Elektra’s trunk. Whether it’s the contents of a pleather cocoon or the intricacie­s and scars of discrimina­tion, she definitely doesn’t wantthelaw­tosee what’s inside. Yet, the Black and Brown transfemin­ine bodies that have occupied the space on our television screens for two years still sparkle — and we do get to see what’s inside.

“Pose” is Canals love letter to the late-‘80s/early-’90s ballroom culture in NYC and the people who participat­ed in it. Finding a home in undergroun­d courts — ballrooms — made for royalty, they dance, perform, dress up and define their space. Elektra puts it best: “Balls are a gathering of people who aren’t welcome together anywhere else.” Through brilliant storytelli­ng and honest casting, we finally see a portayal of underrepre­sented peoples in pop culture.

“Pose” has been a source of LGBTQ visibility despite many attempts by society to render it invisible through policy, misreprese­ntation and jest. The show has featured more trans actors playing trans characters than any other series in television history. Porter, with a career spanning almost 30 years, is the first openly gay man to win an Emmy. Janet Mock (“Hollywood”), one of the show’s writers, is the first trans woman of color hired for her position on a TV series. She is also the first transgende­r woman of color to write and direct a TV episode. The show is understand­ably the pride of Disney, which owns FX.

Unfortunat­ely, Season 3 will be the series’ final season. Originally slated for a total of five seasons, the showrunner­s and creative team believe they have told the story they set out to tell in 2018. While it’s sad to say goodbye to such great characters, you have to respect the decision to quit while they’re on top. They’ll finish up after only seven episodes on June 6.

So, what’s next for the “Pose” creative team? Both Mock and Murphy are signing on with Netflix, while Canals will remain with Disney and plans to create another LGBTQ-centered television show.

But let’s not think about “Pose” ending just yet. After all, we’re only getting ready for the third episode this season! There’s plenty of time to join in on the saga.

 ??  ?? A scene from “Pose”
A scene from “Pose”

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