The complicated relationships – both healing and harmful – between parents and their children take center stage on the ball floor and in real life during Pose Season 1 Episode 5.
Similar to every other episode, the ball competition reflects the broader conversation and themes of "Mother's Day." But perhaps better than episodes past, this wasn't just emotionally resonant or acutely honest. It was also touchingly universal.
This one mainly revolves around Blanca, giving us a glimpse into how she became a child of the House of Abundance and her frayed relationship with her family.
The opening scene is one of the series' best so far. Staged as a flashback, viewers learn how a warm, supportive, and compassionate Elektra took Blanca under her wing when everyone else – both her biological and trans community families – rejected her.
While the show has a lot of really captivating characters, MJ Rodriguez solidified Blanca as the heart of this show, breathing fresh air into a TV landscape full of morally ambiguous, fallible-to-a-fault protagonists.
Elektra: So what's your story? Let me guess. Mommy kicked you out after catching you in a dress. Where are you staying?
Blanca: Usually at Washington Square. Some nights I get a bed at the youth shelter.
Elektra: What possessed you tonight?
Blanca: I wanted to be pretty. To be seen. To belong, I guess. I thought this community would see me and want me. I know I wasn't great, and I know I don't have my look all the way put together, but it felt warm under those lights.
Elektra: You do have potential. We just have to work on your look before you ever step foot in front of those shady bitches.
Blanca: Can I be honest with you? I don't think I'll ever be as real as you. No one questions you or looks at you the way they do me. It's not that I give a fuck about what people think, but I do want to be seen and respected as a woman. That's who I see myself to be.
Elektra: You think I just woke up one day and poof I looked like this? No. It takes work, drive, sacrifice to be a woman. You have something rarer than beauty though. You have heart, and you're not afraid to lead with it. That quality will get you everything. Now, what is it you want, my child.
Blanca: I don't want to be cold again. And I don't want to be laughed at again. I want to be real.
Elektra: You're coming home with mother.
Blanca: Wait, you want to be my mother?
Elektra: No, I am your mother.
An authentic, genuine and relatable heroine, Blanca stays admirably strong and confident in the face of ridicule and outright denials of her humanity and womanhood.
The hate and rejection Blanca faces are particularly heinous considering who they're coming from – the people whose love should, ultimately, be unconditional. Blanca laments not being real enough to be pretty, to be accepted by her family, to pass.
She's rightfully upset at the gated and guarded nature of her existence. But Elektra sees it: Blanca is one of the most real women out there. Viewers get the chance to see it, too.
When her sister disrespects her, Blanca refuses to be pitied or made to feel guilty. And when her brother tries to demean her, even physically assaulting her after the funeral, Blanca is quick to blast his poor character.
And most of all, Blanca finds a way to forgive the one person whose love seemingly mattered the most to her, but for all she knew up until the funeral, wouldn't love her back.
Yes, "Mother's Day" is about the trans experience of being received into the circle of womanhood, and the hate often aimed at those who don't fit a specific mold.
But it's also about the universal experience of how our parents – regardless of gender or sexual orientation – can both lift us up and let us down. It's about, as Pray points out, how we pick up the pieces and make our own persons from the rubble of our familial relationships.
Blanca's relationship with her first and second mother (Elektra) reveals precisely why Blanca wanted to become a mother.
Beyond Blanca, that flashback and Elektra's entire episodic arc set her apart as a "villain," and solidified her status as one of the series most complex and continually surprising characters.
Blanca: I miss her.
Pray: You'll always have the memories.
Blanca: Yeah, the good and the bad.
Pray: Yes, ma'am. That's the burden of having a parent. They haven't a clue what they're doing, and every mistake they make chips away at us. As we get older, we gotta glue the pieces back together. We can blame them, but here's the thing. They're human. They make mistakes. When my daddy died, I went through it. I blamed myself for all the black eyes and lost time.
Blanca: Have you found forgiveness?
Pray: Oh... it depends on the day.
Blanca: I feel you. I don't know Pray. It don't feel right attending a funeral of a woman who rejected me.
Later we see Stan's lies begin to unravel after Matt tells Patty about the affair. At this point, it feels impossibly hard to like Stan's boss. Not only is he visually the polar opposite of Pose's protagonists, but Matt represents and embraces his ability to manipulate, use, and hurt people freely to get ahead.
In short, he's a well-oiled gear in the worship culture of straight, cis, able-bodied upper-class white masculinity. Elektra, however, is not as unsympathetic.
The series has shown us how Elektra uses her passing privilege to perpetuate the same dehumanizing and demoralizing social hierarchy that Matt benefits from. But in the flashback, we see that she was not always tearing down Blanca for not having curvy hips, jutting cheekbones, and florist money.
Once upon a time, she took Blanca under her wing for her dreams, her hope, and the irresistible pull of Blanca's goodness. In fact, she encouraged her to let go of some of that desire to be "real," and embrace what made her different from everyone.
Blanca: I'm here because in this life I've had two mothers. The one that brought me into this world and... you. The first one -- the first one died just this week. Before she could forgive me, before I could forgive her. You and I, we got our problems. Enough water under the bridge to drown this whole city. The world may have destroyed the version of you who saved me that night outside the ball and took me under your wing, but you're the only mother I have left. You may be a terrible mother, but that don't mean I can't be the loving daughter I want to be.
Elektra: I'll call a nurse to get a vase for those flowers, even though they're from a deli.
Blanca: So how does it feel?
Elektra: It hurts worse than I ever imagined, but it also feels better than I've ever dreamed.
Though we weren't exactly told how Elektra transformed from that woman to the woman we typically see episode to episode, Blanca's hospital visit following Elektra's surgery gives viewers a clue.
Elektra's berating and belittling nature left her children resentful, so instead of visiting their mother, they walked and won without her. But following her gender reassignment surgery, when Elektra tells Blanca how she feels, you see the same light in the Abundance matriarch that you did during the flashback.
Like Blanca, Elektra has also been held back. Passing or not, she's been gate-kept from what she believes she needs to be her true self. Now she has it, and it offers her a sense of peace she's been denied for years.
In a different note regarding the affair reveal, Pose does an incredible job of making Patty empathetic.
Stan's arc is about his own identity and acceptance within a cis, straight, male-dominated world. His struggle is different, but it's there and represents one lens of the series' overall themes.
Because he's so much more obviously embedded in the show's more extensive conversations, it would be incredibly easy for Patty to become an afterthought in Stan's story.
Or worse, be villainized as the antithesis of the experience Angel represents.
Instead, Patty's vulnerable but steadfast, open but not easily manipulated. The series makes clear she is her own person with her own developmental path.
When Matt attempts to play the good guy, Patty sees right through him, and she lets him know it. She's given a lot to the man in her life, but that doesn't mean she's going to let him take advantage of her, whether that be by Stan or his crude, detestable boss.
Patty ultimately got the least favorable resolution making it hard to know what she might do now that she's tracked down Angel.
I will also say I'm a bit surprised that Damon didn't play a bigger role in this episode considering how the series introduced him.
But overall, "Mother's Day" was well-executed with some really sharp writing and performances. It's hard to understand why people wouldn't be watching.
If you have thoughts about this hour, comment below. And if you haven't caught it yet, you can watch Pose online
Abbey White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.