On Pose Season 1 Episode 8, happiness finds a home with the House of Evangelista as the series delivers a surprising knock out of a finale.
It would be a lie to say that a tragic end wasn't expected during the entire run of "Mother of the Year." Frankly, with TV's history of gay tragedy, too many good things were happening to assume they would stay that way.
But in the show's greatest act yet, it delivered not the heaviest episode of the season, but the most emotional. Even in the face of some less than pretty losses, there was a lot gained.
"Mother of the Year" at times felt like a 180 from episodes past, from tone to character behavior to outcomes. The episode was not perfect, and in fact, exposed a few of the series' weaknesses.
The show has for most of the season juggled the stories of its ensemble well, handing the mic to various characters for fleshed episodic-driven arcs. The audience is given time to not only know but intimately understand each character while the series still moves its larger plot forward.
“Mother of the Year,” however, poked a hole in this achievement. Circling back to Damon after a near half-season shift away from his dance school arc felt somewhat jarring. It also raised questions about what exactly he’s been doing all this time outside of supporting his house.
Meanwhile, the rise of the House of Ferocity was rapid and somewhat unexpected in its manifestation. What Lulu and Candy did – breaking free from Elektra's abusive hold and coming up so quickly on their own –is to be lauded.
Yet, the show was quick to turn the two women into Elektra incarnates, despite them having a positive if not more neutral relationship to Blanca and the House of Evangelista.
In Pose's warmly welcomed reinvention of Elektra, it appears it needed a new villain and turned to two unlikely candidates. If this was to be expected, the groundwork for the development wasn't laid strongly enough.
Still, the episode felt unlike anything to previously air on television. That's partly because the show ditched a chunk of what makes it good to embrace something that makes it great.
So much of this series has been about exploring and exposing the history and realities of both an American community and a time in America. Every character's arc and nearly every struggle they face is linked to this effort.
It's not always tragic, but some of it (rightly) is. A lot of it is serious, though the show embraces its comedic moments. And if nothing else it's always dramatic and sometimes cliche, though never over the top.
In a show that can feel overwhelming (though necessarily) heavy, addressing issues on a mainstream stage that have long been hushed and silenced everywhere from the screen to the dinner table, "Mother of the Year" managed to do the slice of life aspect of its narrative infectiously well.
The small moments, casual encounters, and general celebration of life, family, and friends are clearly where Pose performs the strongest.
From Damon and Ricky’s dance audition and Elektra’s new job to Pray’s date and Blanca’s discussion about Damon’s success and then her very own – these are the everyday moments not so much about the struggles and the history but the people (and cast chemistry) at the heart of this show.
These are not just sad people, people who have lost, who face violence and fear, but people who win, find forgiveness, love, growth, purpose. People who even in the face of all that tragedy still have a lot of life worth living.
In one of Elektra's darkest moments, her true personality showed through. That entire character shift was so pleasing, in fact, that it's a wonder why we settled for the Elektra of old. This episode really lets the power of Dominque Jackson’s range shine.
And while MJ Rodriguez may be playing our typical “good girl,” she regularly proves that good can be just as interesting, complex, and compelling to watch as any gray moral character or antagonist.
Angel moving on from Stan, whose disappointing comeback was proceeded by a rejection from Patty, was a satisfying (even if not romantic) end to her season arc.
Coupled with Angel's choices, Patty's refusal to go back to the way things were with Stan was a long-awaited narrative of agency that highlights just one of the many different ways Pose views and treats its women.
Damon choosing the future and potential of The New School over the immediate satisfaction of a three-month touring gig gave the character who brought us into this world solid development, even if it was rushed.
Not to mention, Pray finding love again was a resoundingly meaningful seasonal send-off.
While The House of Ferocity delivered somewhat weird characterization twists (did anyone see that fight coming?), it paved the way to witnessing some of the best parts of old Elektra, brought Papi back to Blanca, and aided in the addition of two new (former Abundance) house members.
It also gave us the House versus House challenge, which felt like the perfect way to close out Pose.
Faces familiar and new were brought together in one stunning scene that let each characters’ explicit style paint the screen in a series of electric and exciting frames. It was also an enthralling battle.
With how the show started, it felt like the end battle was going to be between Abundance and Evangelista, ideally with the under-queens leaving with the big trophy.
In "Mother of the Year," Evangelista still won, but it wasn’t a battle between old and new. It was a battle between Elektra’s children. It's clear Evangelista is here to stay (for now), but viewers will have to wait and see what becomes of Ferocity.
Most importantly, the ending – on the floor and at the dinner table – was well-deserved, if not entirely subversive.
Throughout "Mother of the Year," characters were genuinely happy with good things happening to them. Of course, it dealt with some tougher or more significant issues, such as Pray revealing his HIV status to his date Keenan. But for the most part, it was just Pose's incredible cast of characters living, working, and posing.
In a TV landscape where characters like this often find their happy endings made into tragedies, nearly everyone got something they wanted. Nearly everyone came out on top.
Now that it’s ended, it seems silly to have held your breath, waiting for something to befall Blanca or any of her family. Pose thankfully, gratefully wrapped a history-making first season with an awing ending.
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Abbey White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.