[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale episode of Pose, “In My Heels.” Read at your own risk!]
Pose concluded Season 2 not with a fingernail-biting cliffhanger, but with a sweet resolution for its characters, who walked through fire in a sophomore season that explored the early days of the AIDS crisis and the ballroom scene going mainstream. Directed by producer/writer Janet Mock, the finale bookended a season that opened with Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Pray Tell (Billy Porter) literally knee-deep in despair as they traversed Hart Island, a dumping ground for people with AIDS, and then came close to death themselves as the season progressed. By the final moments, Blanca and Pray Tell — who endured the brutal murder of a loved one, children growing up and moving on, and a huge fight — experienced a full-circle moment as Blanca found new children to raise and Pray Tell continued to heal and learn to be comfortable with his full self.
“It’s always hard for us striking the balance between presenting the stark reality, these moments of tragedy, and then [presenting] something triumphant,” Mock told TV Guide via phone. “We knew the finale would be about Blanca’s journey, coming to terms with her mortality. We knew it had to be about her getting new children because, from the pilot, it’s always been clear these kids will keep on coming in a world where there is no homeless shelter for queer youth. We need queer people, trans people, people of color to take care of it for themselves.”
Blanca was at the lowest point viewers had ever seen her at the start of the Season 2 finale: she’d lost her nail care business to the unscrupulous Frederica Norman (Patti LuPone); she’d seen her children Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), Angel (Indya Moore) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) move away; she’d lost her best friend Pray Tell and her health was in rapid decline. Rather than have Blanca succumb to AIDS, Pose lifted her up, reuniting her with her friend and her children, and then giving her a rousing tribute at the Mother of the Year ceremony that ended with her lip-synching to Whitney Houston‘s show stopping rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” which Whitney sung at the 1991 Super Bowl. “We knew it wasn’t her time yet,” Mock said. “Blanca still has a lot more to do.”
Conversations about Season 3 haven’t fully started to take shape yet; Mock said they’ll probably start organizing thoughts after the Emmys, where Pose is nominated for Outstanding Drama. She said it’s too soon to say if the children Blanca takes in at the end will be back, but discussions will include talk about new characters, as well as what Lil Papi and Angel’s life looks like going forward. Pose’s most wholesome storyline, Lil Papi and Angel’s love story is feat for both characters, she said. “[Their love story] serves both of them. He’s not some cis, white, suburban guy who keeps Angel holed up in secret. It’s a story where the man has no shame telling people who he loves. We’re telling this story to show that it does exist. I want more of our girls to have that feeling so if they watch, so that they can believe they’re worthy of that kind of love too.”
Pray Tell ended the season with his own triumph and a renewed sense of self-worth also. Even after an affirming episode that that broke barriers with a landmark love scene showcasing two HIV positive black men, Pray Tell still has baggage to rid himself of. In the finale, Pray Tell finally began embracing his femininity. On the heels of Elektra’s (Dominique Jackson) challenge for the men of the ballroom to walk a “Butch Queen First Time at a Ball” category (which is a real thing, by the way), Pray Tell had to confront his own toxic beliefs about a natural part of himself, instilled by society and his own family. “Early on in the season, it’s clear Pray has a problem expressing his feminine side in public. He tries to hide it, so it’s nice to see his journey and him getting called on it,” said Porter. By the end, Pray Tell sashays down the ballroom runway in heels and a Diana Ross-inspired look, but it took some introspection and growth for him to get there.
That story stands in near direct opposition to what viewers have seen from Porter off-screen, who has made it his business to help shatter old-school notions of masculinity and femininity with break-the-Internet red carpet appearances. “I know for myself,” he told TV Guide, “it was embracing that [feminine] side of myself that got Billy Porter to where he is now. I will never not be myself again.” Back when he was in acting school, he had three archetypes to model himself after: sexy Denzel Washington, a wise James Earl Jones and Eddie Murphy, the genius clown. Now, he’s going into Season 3 — where Porter would love for Pray Tell to take on homophobia within the black church — playing a bona fide LGBTQ hero, a man who’s more accepting of others, himself, and not afraid to put on a pair of heels. He’s a new archetype, Porter said, who could only be described in one word: “Fabulous. That’s it — fabulous.”
Pose concluded Season 2 on Aug. 20; it has been renewed for Season 3 on FX.