In more ways than one, loss befalls every House in Pose Season 1 Episode 7.
Something about “Pink Slip” felt different from episodes past. Maybe it was the actors, who appeared to embody their characters more comfortably and firmly.
Perhaps it was the shifting focus to supporting characters like Papi, whose storyline served as a link to the broader issues of the world that Pose exists within. Or maybe it was the tangible explorations of parenthood, family, and abandonment.
Either way, the show felt like it finally found its rhythm.
“Pink Slip” spent less time expounding on who characters are and what their existence says, and more time seeing them grapple with immediate, life-impacting matters that showed us just that.
“Pink Slip” wasn’t speaking in metaphors, but in realities, using characters like Elektra, Papi, Ricky, and Stan to illustrate the stakes and struggles for everyone in the world of Pose.
In short, it felt like the most cohesive and engaging episode written yet, and we’ve only got one more to go.
The decision to focus on plot moving action over a more character-study approach to storytelling made “Pink Slip” the show’s most confident and fleshed episode yet, despite it being the shortest in run-time.
It starts with three significant fall-outs: Elektra’s gender confirmation surgery reveal, Papi being discovered as a drug dealer by Blanca, and Stan moving out of his house and into an apartment with Angel.
All the reveals find the characters physically being and feeling alone, their storylines somewhat inverse implosions of each other.
Papi is forced back onto the streets, alone, and in greater danger selling harder drugs for a family member who runs a ring.
At one point, he even finds himself in direct conflict with the law, spending time in jail after resisting arrest in a deal gone south.
Without a family, and with Angel now his partner, Stan attends a ball, only to find he’s seen not as her partner.
Instead, he’s compared to Elektra’s former man – a privileged outsider with a penchant for using and abusing people like Angel and lacking real interest in her.
Elektra also finds herself put out and replaced, without any cushion savings to help keep the lights on.
The rejection from her “sugar daddy” also reminds her of how her position with him protected her from the violence and vitriol that was always simmering around her. And because she can’t put her ego aside, her family ends up leaving her to fend for herself.
As a result of all of this, the episode becomes a character involved and at times emotionally moving examination of the cultural pressures surrounding the LGBTQ community, whether physically, financially, or emotionally.
The emotional explosions of this episode in particular not only changed the show’s pacing but upped the emotional ante for the characters, without over-dramatizing or being cliche.
This episode felt real, and so did the characters. People were hurt, they were angry, they were forced to reckon with their limited worldviews. More interestingly, the show acknowledged the sort of “bubble” it has placed its characters in.
One of the greatest parts of Pose is how deeply embedded the audience is in the ball scene. Typically TV treats a cast like this like the "others," the outsiders. However, here, they are the lens through which we see everything.
It normalizes them and their experiences, which is excellent, but in its way, makes their realities, their desires sometimes seem too glossy.
This episode didn’t just look good and have great messages. It grounded everything.
All the fall-out also ends up being a family affair on both fronts. While other episodes have seen character choices mostly impact the individuals who make them, in “Pink Slip” decisions had a ripple effect.
That writing decision helped the show feel more like a real ensemble piece, even as Elektra and Blanca served as dramatic ring-leaders of sorts.
The series conversations about the ways Elektra and Blanca mother differently and the same were utterly engrossing and as we see by episode’s end, have significant plot impact.
Both are stern, but Elektra tears down her children to maintain her iron fist control over her house, whereas Blanca uses subtle manipulation (obviously mixed with genuine care) to corral her own house.
Neither method is advantageous as both houses end up torn apart, as Stan’s own home is torn apart.
Papi getting to explain his backstory was a long-awaited, and emotional development and a great way of exploring the educational and economic position young men often find in poor communities of color.
Stan’s conversation with Angel on the steps of their apartment just made it in the top five scenes of Pose Season 1.
The chemistry and vulnerability both Indya Moore and Evan Peters exude together on screen is electric.
And the conversation that's had as a result of their relationship adds a genuineness the show – in all its bright and fierce glory – that it sometimes misses with other characters.
Because of that, it feels tough to villainize either one of them, despite their weird and continuous push-pull. Instead, the show effectively forces audiences to empathize with the realities of their situation.
Blanca’s decision to kick Papi out did more for his character (and Ricky’s) than it did for hers, but it also helped illustrate what sets her apart from the other mothers, up-and-coming and former, on the show.
Blanca isn’t just using her children for her image or status or power.
Despite her harsh treatment of Papi, she did it because she cares about him and the rest of her children. Unfortunately, Papi (understandably) isn’t interested in her motivations.
Lulu and Candy’s come-up and steal of Papi was perhaps the most unexpected turn of the entire series.
It’s nice to see the show can deliver a solid twist or two, and it will be interesting to see how committed the show is to the development of Lulu and Candy’s new house.
Finally, Elektra’s turn back to the peep-show is sure to cause some head turns.
Who will be the first to find out? And what will her friends, enemies, and former children have to say about her new job?
If you have thoughts about the latest episode, 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.