Let’s cut to the quick: Trick is a bad movie.
Let’s cut to the quick: Trick is a bad movie.
Each week Joe (@bstolemyremote) and Terry (@gaylydreadful) discuss the most recent episode of FX’s American Horror Story, alternating between our respective sites – gaylydreadful.com and queerhorrormovies.com.
Episode 9.04 “True Killers”: Mr. Jingles closes in on the one who got away as the counselors rally to escape Camp Redwood.
Each week Joe (@bstolemyremote) and Terry (@gaylydreadful) discuss the most recent episode of FX’s American Horror Story, alternating between our respective sites — gaylydreadful.com and queerhorrormovies.com.
Missed our recap of the first episode? Click here.
Episode 9.02 “Mr. Jingles”: Darkness descends upon the camp. Although it’s lights out, evil knows no curfew.
Oh Terry, I’m already regretting our decision to cover AHS this season!
After only one episode, the wheels are already coming off 1984 as “Mr. Jingles” proves to be a rushed, ineptly plotted mess (Tim Minear – I expected much, MUCH more from you, sir).
I sensed trouble from the opening pre-title scene as Dr. Karen Hopple (Orla Brady) from the Red Meadows Asylum arrives at Camp Redwood to chat with Margaret Woods (Leslie Grossman). I love Grossman as much as the next gay, but what the hell is going on with her acting choices in this scene?!
I get that an inherent premise of slasher texts is to create a bunch of red herrings, but there is so much overacting in this exchange. Hopple acts like a normal person and Margaret acts like she’s being inconvenienced that a stranger has arrived in the middle of the night warning of imminent death. It doesn’t make any sense and immediately disavows any of the work done in the premiere to ground these characters, this setting and this plot in reality. This is firmly Ryan Murphy coo-coo bananas territory; schlock for the sake of schlock.
Unfortunately it doesn’t get much better from there. Hopple is unceremoniously killed, the Night Stalker (Zach Villa) actually does turn out to be real and he kinda/sorta gets adopted by Margaret, who isn’t the least bit surprised or scared when he turns up in her cabin to talk about Satan and MURDERING people. Like…WTF?!
Obviously we can comment on the gratuitous (and incredibly welcome) partial nudity of the boys in the shower, or how Montana (Billie Lourd) describes fat camp as learning how to “nom and vom”, or thank Jesus that Rita (Angelica Ross) wasn’t killed in the infirmary, but I feel like I should end my first section by addressing the ghost in the room: Jonas (Lou Taylor Pucci).
So last week’s we speculated that AHS: 1984 takes place in some kind of simulation where the camp doesn’t exist and now we have some kind of confirmation that there is a supernatural component at work. Whether the camp is the site of a time loop, or the people who die there are stuck in purgatory there (shades of Murder House) is unclear, but there is obviously more going on to the story than meets the eye.
I’ll confess that I’m unsure if that’s enough to justify all of the other ridiculous shenanigans, though it’s the one element that really piqued my interest in this otherwise lacklustre episode. I dunno, Terry, am I just griping about an episode that is clearly still working at setting this season up…or was it kind of a disaster? Were you surprised to learn that Xavier (Cody Fern) isn’t gay, but merely gay for pay? And which of the two cabins will get broken into first after this week’s cliffhanger?
Oh man, Joe. I’m really disappointed in hearing your analysis of this episode…not because I disagree but because I *don’t* disagree. I was hoping we’d be on the opposite ends of a discussion for once. But, to quote Jack Donaghy, “Good God, Lemon!” Halfway through the episode, I wrote in my notes “typically AHS waits until the mid-season to go so freaking off the rails insane.” And here we are, in episode two, and already the writers feel like they are throwing noodles against the wall to see what sticks.
The moment I wanted to throw my hands up in the air was Brooke (Emma Roberts)’s over-the-top flashback/memory/lie (?) about her past. We see her at her wedding ceremony, but the groom doesn’t look happy. He looks even less happy when he accuses her of not only not saving herself for marriage, but also cheating on him. He then pulls out a gun, offs the best man, her father (Steven Culp) and then himself.
All while Billy Idol sings “White Wedding.”
I don’t know what to think about this. Part of me is hoping against hope that Brooke’s naïve, virginal girl act is a façade and we get to see Emma Roberts go full bitch mode. Maybe she’s actively playing against type…but she’s boring.
Piggybacking off your discussion about Jonas, you mention time loops. Margaret calls him a ghost. It sounds suspect to me, but let’s consider that Jonas is a ghost and not some glitch in the
Matri simulation (“You’re not supposed to be here” is his favorite line). Or that he’s not some Happy Death Day rip-off where he’s just in some time loop, destined to die over and over again. If we take it literally, as Margaret says, and he is a ghost, then I could see the entire cast dying only to haunt the place Murder House-style (as you mentioned) for a future group of people. Or maybe the kids will arrive and the counsellors will be ghosts.
Again I’m spitballing and trying to give the show more credit than it probably deserves. I just don’t know how they’re going to keep the pacing up for another 8 episodes. This feels like the finale of a slasher movie, except more people have made it to the climax than usual. On one hand, this is par for the course with this show, but the fact it’s happening so quickly reminds me of the pacing of Roanoke (a season I actually really liked). And Roanoke’s season was split in two different stories and formats (Docu-Series vs. Found Footage). I’m still holding onto my simulation theory, but even if I’m wrong I gotta think that we’re either going to have a vastly different second half of the season or we’re going to get a different timeline.
As for Xavier…oof. Outside of it giving us a reason to ogle Gus Kenworthy’s nice ass or give more Trevor (Matthew Morrison) innuendos like “an act of God,” this whole side plot just seems pointless and lacking any form of nuance. Yes, I know. Nuance and AHS rarely mix. But really? So far the only LGBTQ content is a lecherous porn producer and the unwanted kiss attempt from Montana. I think the Infirmary will be broken into. But I also think the other one is merely a ruse to create a cliffhanger.
Why? Well, why not.
But over to you, Joe. What do you think about the villain(s) so far this season? Mr. Jingles jingle-jangling across camp doesn’t really hold a candle to some of the more creative monsters from previous seasons, but I’m curious what you think. And speaking of villains, are you as concerned about the cringey way the writers seemingly want to portray The Night Stalker as a hero and repurpose a very real and disgusting killer as some sort of avenging angel?
As with all things AHS, my concern is that this may be the first time that some members of the audience hear about The Night Stalker/Richard Ramirez, which means that the cavalier way that the show is handling his particular storyline borders on obnoxious. Far be it for me to suggest that Murphy and Brad Falchuk have a responsibility to help educate viewers (though we have seen them do it on Pose), but this particular interpretation smacks of bad taste at the very least. Perhaps they’ll pull the rug out with some kind of nice twist, but for now, I’m not impressed with that particular killer.
As for Mr. Jingles…you’re absolutely right that he feels like a subpar slasher villain. This is the kind of lazy characterization that I would expect from a direct-to-video sequel (I’m thinking fourth or maybe even fifth entry in a tired franchise, here, Terry). There’s just nothing compelling about him as a character and his modus operandi is nothing that horror fans haven’t seen a million times.
Overall, I was underwhelmed by the first episode, but at least there was potential. Here, it just feels like the same old issues that I have with AHS. And you’re right, usually we don’t get to this level of ennui until much later in the season. Will things change next week when we learn more about Jingles? Maybe. Or perhaps some twist with Jonas will prove worth the wait? Who can say? But two episodes in, I’m definitely not picking up what AHS is putting down.
One other big reason for that is because I don’t feel like the kills are well done. While porn kingpin Blake (Todd Stashwick)’s death – pipe through the back of the head – is arguably the best of the season thus far, it doesn’t have any kind of oomph or kick. There’s a glossy veneer on AHS, like everything is being shot on a pristine soundstage with brand new equipment, that doesn’t ring true, which is particularly problematic in a season set in the 1980s. It’s all too polished: the blood, the sound effects and the ease with which the violence is inflicted. I’ve never stabbed someone in the head, but one imagines it would take a ton of brute force to get through a skull, but here it’s as easy as a warm knife going through butter. It’s a small complaint, but nothing on AHS ever looks like it hurts, which just makes the show feel like a half-assed effort.
Terry, what are your thoughts on the way the series executes its kills? Aside from the tired use of “White Wedding” (so.on.the.nose), do you have any other thoughts on the music (I double checked and all of these singles had, in fact, been released before 1984)? And finally, whose back arch do you think that was in the shower? <slurp>
I don’t know whose arch that was, Joe, but the shampoo down the crack made me quiver. Too much? Too thirsty? Eh. It was a shower full of good-looking dudes, checking each other out. I’m here for it.
The kills this season have been pretty boring. The biggest problem facing this season is that Ryan Murphy already did Scream Queens, which I dug (well, the first season, at least). But more importantly, we’re now three seasons deep into Slasher (available on Netflix), which has set the bar for outrageous and outrageously gory kills. And while that show lacks the over-the-top humor and ridiculousness that AHS has become known for, it does manage to make a slasher television series work. So, 1984 already has its work cut out for it on a purely technical level.
As for the music…I don’t know if I’ve admitted this or not, but I am not a fan of 80s-era music. Even bands (NIN) and artists (Janet Jackson) that I absolutely adore, I’d take their 90s albums in a heartbeat. I even had to look up who sang “White Wedding” for this recap because I just don’t know…and I couldn’t tell you another song Billy Idol sings. 80s music is a blindspot for me…but it’s one I don’t mind having.
Enough about me. I sincerely hope that this season has more up-its-sleeve to make-up for the off-kilter and bad WTFery we’ve witnessed so far.
There’s always episode 3!
Next Week: We get more backstory on Mr Jingles and someone – Chet? – falls in a pit full of spikes. Oh, and we’re back over at gaylydreadful.com!
In 2019, my (non-genre) Toronto International Film Festival coverage included reviews at The Spool and Consequence of Sound. [Read more…]
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Each week Terry (@gaylydreadful) and Joe (@bstolemyremote) discuss the most recent episode of FX’s Pose, alternating between their respective sites – gaylydreadful.com and queerhorrormovies.com. If you need to catch up with last week’s recap, it’s available here.
Pose 2×09: “With Blanca reeling from an unexpected loss, Elektra organizes a girls trip to the shore.”
Well Terry, I hope you’ve packed your most sensational bathing suit – be it Elektra (Dominique Jackson)’s flower petal v-cut, Angel (Indya Moore)’s shiny asymmetrical wedgie monstrosity or a pair of simple green speedos – because we are fleeing the heat of the city for a girl’s weekend!
I’ll confess that I spent the majority of “Life’s A Beach” believing it was a trifle of an episode. It’s escapist entertainment, and aside from a few meaningful exchanges about trans women passing in the summer and Angel’s rationale for fearing the water, it’s fairly surface-level stuff. Heavy on Elektra’s quips and light on substance.
But then, as the episode closed, I realized that this episode is doing something really important. Not only does it offer a glimpse of these women out of the contextual framing of both men and the Ball scene, it gives them a win. Sure, “Life’s A Beach” trafficks in plenty of outlandish situations and doesn’t come with a ton of heavy handed messaging, but it let’s Elektra, Lulu (Hailie Sahar), Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Angel take a few days off, let their metaphorical hair down and just have a good time.
This is especially valuable considering the circumstances that open the episode, namely Frederica (Patti LuPone)’s out of the blue decision to reap the rewards of insurance fraud after she blows up Blanca’s nail salon. Now we’ve talked often – and at length – about how frequently Pose has dropped audiences into the aftermath of (frequently off-screen) actions, so we should probably be used to it…but I’m not. Frankly I’m tired of the series cutting narrative corners because the pay-off never feels earned and the timelines are jumbled.
Thankfully, while this would be a HUGE blow in Blanca’s life were she a real person, in the world of the series, it’s merely the impetus for an escape from her problems and the oppressive NY city heat. So sure, let’s roll with it, but I’m still not ready to forgive, mmmkay Pose?
With that said, as soon as the inane logistics involving Elektra’s John (or is it her “Joe”?), his summer home and the bodega-purchased driver’s license were out of the way, we got not one, but two (!) car ride karaoke montages (A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie” on the way up and En Vogue’s “Hold On” on the way back), so…I was a happy man.
Terry, what was your first impression of the episode? Was this too much Elektra for you or just enough? Did the explanation of a rich man willingly letting his dominatrix isolate him in a sweltering garage for the weekend satisfy you? And, if you feel up to it, where do we begin with Lifeguard Adrian (Austin Scott), a seemingly perfect man?
I don’t know about you, Joe, but I could FEEL the heat of the city. It was a three fan sitch for Blanca and a weird kink for Joe that you could almost smell. Speaking of smell, I wondered after seeing the promo for this episode if they were going to address the body in the closet (that can’t be pleasant). So I did get a couple chuckles at the way Elektra would swat it away and at the naiveté of the girls that they would believe that that funk was pine scented candles.
You’re absolutely right, though, this is a very slight episode. I definitely didn’t hate it, but I did dislike its placement as the penultimate episode this season. I appreciated Blanca’s vulnerability with the other women who were able to pass a bit more than she can. And, like you, I did enjoy the contextual changes and allowing the women to just be themselves and free. But, man, the way Pose has been handling dramatic moments by showing the aftermath feels a lot like Game of Thrones Season 1.
Onto fun things: I loved Elektra this episode. I know I’ve been a bit harsh on the amount of screen time she’s gotten this season and the constant way the show has reframed her character (she’s cold and heartless! But not! But yes! But no!), but I loved her this episode. Her read at the rich white people club was legendary. Status Update: Dead. The way she finagled this weekend trip was hilarious to me…even if it didn’t feel realistic. Like, at all.
It did give us a great line about rich people having the luxury of pursuing loneliness as an option because other people don’t have that ability. I thought that line was heartfelt and meaningful, particularly when coupled with Blanca’s life this season. It was kind of a throw-away line (just another Elektra stinger), but Blanca has become increasingly isolated over the last few episodes in ways that she has absolutely no power over. Plus: there’s the more intimate level of loneliness that she feels because she’s trans, so the line hit the right notes for me.
Speaking of intimacy, I’m glad that Blanca was saved by that tall drink of water. Black Hasselhoff AKA Adrian was a fantastic summer lovin’ moment and I kind of wish they had just left it at that, instead of apparently continuing it with that phone call at the end of the episode. “Life’s a Beach” had such a fun, dreamy feel to it; it felt divorced from the real life drama awaiting them back in NYC that I kinda would have preferred it to stay that way. There’s no way a man that perfect exists, right?
But what do you think, Joe? Did Adrian tick the right boxes for you? And what are your thoughts of Angel’s apparent sobriety? Was the nose candy just a bit to add drama and now that it’s not needed it’s gone?
I’m sorry, did you say nose Candy or on-the-nose Candy (Angelica Ross)? Because I’m experiencing diminishing returns each time Ghost Candy pops up. Perhaps I’m just being a cruel bitch, but each time she returns, I groan because it’s exactly what I was worried was going to happen when Candy was killed off (Murphy and co., if you like a character so much that you feel continually inclined to bring them back, perhaps don’t kill them off?). My sole concession, aside from the fact that it’s great to see Ross on screen again – and belting out En Vogue no less! – is that this had an air of closure to the proceedings as Elektra is the last member of the family to say a goodbye to the dearly departed character.
But back to Adrian…
Look, he’s no Ricky, who has stolen his way into my dreams, but yes, Scott is a very attractive man. I’m probably as wary as Elektra, Lulu and you are about his intentions because while Pose is very often a fairytale, it can get quite dark and there’s always a nagging doubt in the back of my mind when TV characters encounter a Prince (or Princess) who seems to be too good to be true. Was I waiting for the rug to get pulled out? Yes. Am I glad it didn’t happen? Yes. Am I still worried? Maybe.
Still, as I think I mentioned last week, there’s only so much pity/grief porn that the show can heap on Blanca, so if this means that she gets an arc with a nice gentleman caller (who the writers can ship back to the beach whenever it suits their needs), then by all means, I’m down. And if we get to see more of that lime green, beach-mandated wardrobe, so much the better!
Sidebar: Gosh we’re thirsty, aren’t we? It must be this August heat.
As for Angel’s drug addiction..oof. The storyline that has never worked for me continues to not work for me. The way that writer Janet Mock (who co-wrote “Blow” and this episode), as well as co-creator Steven Canals (who wrote last week’s “Revelations“) have handled drug addiction is both lazy and aggravatingly unrealistic. It truly feels as though Pose wants to use the trappings of the storyline without putting in the hard work of setting it up or seeing it through. Again, I’m not particularly interested in doing a whole big “after school special” in which Angel spirals and crashes, but it feels particularly disingenuous to suggest that Angel has gone cold turkey simply because Blanca is keeping an eye on her from afar.
It’s almost as unrealistic as Joe surviving in a latex body suit in a sweltering hot garage! <shakes head>
Anyways…Terry we’ve almost reached the end of the season, so in addition to anything else from the episode you want to raise, what are your predictions for next week’s finale? I’ll just be over in the corner, taking a drink of water in between practicing my Elektra reads.
Joe, I’m frankly over Ghost Candy. I’ve been vocal of that ever since they started using her as a narrative crutch. I find it annoying mostly because she’s been the joker character for the last two seasons and now the writers want to give her character a narrative significance that she never enjoyed in life. I find that disingenuous.
They also made the strong and powerful decision to off her (and it ‘s not like this is the last time we’ll see Angelica Ross in a Murphy production since she’s joining American Horror Story), so just… let it go. That said, I agree, I did enjoy her (hopefully final?) appearance, making amends with Elektra.
I wish I had more to talk about with this episode. It was fine and fun, but it doesn’t really lend itself much in the way of analysis.
My predictions for the finale…well after watching the promo I wouldn’t be surprised if we say goodbye to a character or have a health scare at the very least, what with Damon running through a hospital and Pray Tell embracing a crying Blanca. The obvious answer would be Ricky, who is more or less a carbon copy of Damon and hasn’t really been given much to do this season. Even though I know you’ll miss him, his time seems up, yeah? Or will Papi be put in the hospital for defending Angel’s honor, since the promo also hinted that she might be clocked?
I guess we’ll find out next week!
Next week: we jump back over to Gayly Dreadful for the finale. Here’s a look!
*GIFs courtesy of New.Now.Next
Pose 2×07: “The House of Evangelista plan a large prank to antagonize Frederica. Meanwhile, Angel is introduced to the unsavory side of modeling.”
Ok, Terry, this is a bit more like it. After a few weeks of duds, “Blow” surprisingly manages to NOT blow it…for the most part (we’ll get to a certain storyline in a moment).
Let’s focus on the positives first. This episode marked the return of the Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) & Pray Tell (Billy Porter) doing what they do best: putting their heads together to scheme and control the lives of their children. It’s facetious to suggest that this is when the show is at their best, but Rodriguez and Porter have a delightful chemistry that really does evoke parents, so when the characters see that House Evangelista is slipping into ennui, they spring into action with…a caper?
Like numerous plot points on the series this season, time seems to be passing randomly so the idea that the “lookie loos” have all abandoned the Balls and Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain)’s classes at the Y feels exceedingly abrupt. As “Blow” opens, we’re told that the days of ‘Vogue’ are over; now the dark days of MC Hammer are upon us and the time for action is here.
I love the idea of a heist, so the plot to wrap Frederica (Patti LuPone)’s upstate house in a giant condom is an inspired bit, as well as a great source of comedy. Where, Pray Tell, can I procure a giant inflatable phallus for all of my wacky children’s birthday party needs? (For real, though, I really do wonder how many gays were Googling if a slightly smaller version exists in anticipation of their next birthday party).
Jokes aside, the caper reintroduces ACT UP to Pose after a lengthy absence, which is most welcome. Like a fair amount on the series, the Condom Wrap (as I refer to it in my notes) is based on a real historical event, which occurred in 1991 when ACT UP activist Peter Baley wrapped Senator Jesse Helms’ house up to protest his contributions to the stigmatization of HIV. As a plot point, it’s a great one because the caper reminds viewers of the political nature of the disease (something that has been absent among the personal storylines this season), but also because it is a galvanizing event that allows nearly all of the show’s main characters to get involved in.
That means we get Lulu (Hailie Sahar) confessing during planning that she used to be an accounting major (!). That means we get some sexual tension between Damon and Ricky (Dyllón Burnside) as they try to resist the allure of starting their relationship back up again. That means we get Elektra (Dominique Jackson) holding a fucking parasol and martini and barking Wizard of Oz insults at Frederica’s neighbours. It’s glorious!
But Terry I’ve hogged the mic long enough. How did you feel about the Condom Wrap? Do you want more scenes of Blanca and Pray Tell acting like parents (but not “Daddy” in the latter’s case)? And dare we broach the awful storyline about Angel (Indya Moore) and a frequently shirtless Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel)?
We seem to be on the same page again, Joe. Blanca and Pray Tell assuming the role of the Found Family parental unit is something season two has toyed with, but never fully dug into or embraced. The season began with Blanca’s desire to ensure her house was in order in case she passed away suddenly but like so many storylines this season, it got sidelined. This season has also mentioned the importance of keeping your history and remembering where you came from and now we have that represented in two characters and tied directly to the story. It’s what this very bumpy season has needed.
I’ll be honest, though, when Pray Tell first said that the children needed a caper, I rolled my eyes. “Oh great,” I thought, “Here we go again.” Luckily, it brought all of the characters together in such a fun and funny way. I’m also glad you brought up the real inspiration for the “caper” because it’s become a trend this season and I immediately went to Janet Mock’s Twitter feed to find out if it was based on something real. This one worked a whole lot better than the body in the closet. And yassss, Elektra with that parasol had me gag-ging. This sequence was, for me, the most delightful thing Pose has done this season.
What wasn’t delightful is the storyline you alluded to. I do not for a moment believe that Angel and Papi would take that cocaine. We’ve established that these characters are hustlers and street smart and that they know how to survive in this world. Yes, they are out of their element in the high-end club, but there’s no way they didn’t know that that white substance would be bad for them. The comment “pharmaceuticals being like what a doctor would prescribe so how could it be bad” just rang so completely false. It was too convenient to add drama to a storyline that…already had drama (which we’ll get to).
The fact that the crack leads to a night of bumpin’ and grindin’ and a Papi ass shot made me extremely happy. You know that I dig Papi (excuse me, Esteban Lil Papi Evangelista Martinez) and – this is my kink showing – but that armpit hair was really sexy. I haven’t really bought into their relationship from the very beginning, but if it’s going to happen, I’m here for the fruits of their loins.
Whatever, gimme that sex. Gimme that dancin’. Gimme that bushy armpit hair. Papi’s had such a glow up this season; I am here for it.
On a more serious note, though. I haven’t enjoyed being so negative about a show that’s fully about queer POCs at a time when being both was quite literally a death sentence in a lot of very real ways. The one thing I have loved about this season as I look back is how it presents the challenge that queer POC and WOC deal with. It’s been a thematic uphill battle and the season has continually shown how simultaneously easy and merciless it can be. By using real life events for inspiration, Pose has done a great job of fictionalizing important events, from the church die-in to the queen with the body in the closet to this episode’s phallic revenge. All pulled from real life events and tragedies that illustrate how desperate life can be.
Which brings me to the photographer. Angel has been zooming along so smoothly as a model that I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. So has Angel, apparently; she’s been fearful of someone discovering that she’s a transwoman. Enter the photographer who forced her to take nude photos (and who wound up having his face rearranged by sweet Lil Papi) in the season two premiere .
The photographer is the one person with the ability, the means and the motive to fuck Angel’s life up. His entrance is a mic drop moment…that took me a moment to realize just how much of a mic drop it is. Mostly because he hasn’t been seen since we first started recapping the show and so much has happened that, like Patti, I completely forgot about him.
I’m talking too much so what about you, Joe? How did you feel about the Angel/Papi storyline? Were you surprised with the photographer’s return? And we haven’t even broached the subject of Ricky’s traumatic revelation or Pray Tell’s daddy status.
LEAN INTO THOSE KINKS, TERRY! Who the hell am I to yuck your yum?
Alright, confession time: I think that I’m so dense that I didn’t even realize who the photographer was until I read your response! That’s how infrequently these story lines seem to connect this season.
Yes, that “mic drop” moment could be a significant turning point for this subplot, which is a nice bait-and-switch development considering only seconds earlier it seems like Angel’s career is going to get derailed because she can’t control her impulses.
The whole Angel/Papi subplot didn’t work for me, either. Just as you suggest, Terry, this didn’t feel earned. Sure we’ve seen characters on Pose make rash, impulsive decisions, but Angel and Papi have never been *stupid* and that’s what the scene in the bar is (BTW: is it just me, or was the club the same repurposed set from the Ball scenes? I get saving money and all, but…maybe the set decorator can do a little more?). Sorry – back on track! This really irked me because it’s such a cheap ploy to stir the pot and it doesn’t for a second feel like a believable character moment; perhaps if we had seen more of Angel’s career feeling pressured or excluded by other models or important folks it might have landed differently. What we have instead is two characters who normally make “ok” decisions become confoundingly stupid.
Now, before I kick it back to you, let’s tackle Ricky’s subplot. While I liked the fun stuff around the Condom Wrap caper, this was the meatiest, most meaningful part of the episode. This was Pray Tell walking the talk and stepping up to truly act as the Elder he proclaimed himself to be. I particularly appreciated his refusal to “bottom” shame when Ricky confessed his dalliance with ex-BF Chris in the hotel room (something a lot of gay men could stand to hear more often) and their moment in the hospital – both before and after the results of Ricky’s test – provided that extra oomph of emotional weight that Pose is so good at delivering.
Now, as a lady who doesn’t work, I’m off to brunch, so I’ll leave it to you to take us home, Terry. How did you respond to Ricky’s diagnosis? Do you think Blanca should be more worried about Frederica’s violent threat now that she <sigh> magically got her salon back? And what’s the over/under on Papi beating up the photographer again?
Joe, you’re definitely not being dense. It took more digging and reading through recaps than I care to admit before I realized who the photographer was and why Angel was making such a face. And yes, I think there’s a good possibility the photographer’s face is going to meet Papi’s fist again.
As for the Ballroom/Club situation, I didn’t think about it but I’m pretty sure you’re right that it’s the same set. See? Not dense; just understandably expecting more from Pose than we’ve been getting. That was probably too catty towards Pose, especially when I’m trying to turn a new leaf, but unlike those other alcoholic bitches, I haven’t been able to get brunch this week and I’m growly.
Turning our attention to Blanca, she definitely seems incredibly blasé about Frederica’s threats. And not even like fake bravado blasé; actually naïvely blasé. That’s definitely going to bite back this season. The less we talk about how quickly Blanca got her nail salon back, the better. It basically reappeared as magically as Frederica appeared in the customer chair, like the homophobic racist witch she is.
Onto a more successful narrative: Ricky’s diagnosis hit me hard. Even though the entire episode telegraphs that he is going to be positive, the reaction is what broke my heart.
“I’m gonna die,” Ricky says.
“No you’re not,” Pray replies. Then Ricky breaks down and Pray holds him.
Billy Porter and Dyllón Burnside sell this moment SO WELL. It actually made me teary-eyed. The way the episode leads to this moment ias also incredibly well conceived. It begins with Pray saying that they are just an endangered species (the implication is that they’re all dying so there’s no one to look up to). This is followed by Pray telling Ricky, “This is our life now. Remember this feeling. It’ll keep you responsible.” And then the very casual diagnosis from the doctor. It all comes together perfectly to sell this incredibly traumatic interaction. Even when Pose has flailed about this season, it still knows how to structure an intensely personal moment and Janet Mock really brought it home.
And speaking of home, we’re now in the home stretch of season two. The are three more episodes left and, judging from the promo for next week, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Until then, it’s time to inflate some condoms and eat some Wonder Bread.
Next week: we’re back at Gayly Dreadful for 2×08 ‘Revelations’
Episode 2.05 “What Would Candy Do?”: Competition gets the best of Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) and Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) as they audition for a spot on Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour.
Well Terry, I’m not going to lie: I found this week’s episode of Pose, “What Would Candy Do?” to be a complete and utter snooze fest. Perhaps it’s that my cultural connection to Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour and Solid Gold are nearly non-existent, but this felt like a series of dance videos in search of a plot.
Let’s back up: the episode opens with the context that Queen Madge’s “Vogue” is now in its third week at #1 and she’s casting authentic Ball dancers to go on tour. Naturally both Ricky and Damon want it and naturally both of their house mothers think that they’re a shoo-in. “What Would Candy Do?” tries to get a lot of mileage out of the contrasting approaches to motherhood that Elektra (Dominique Jackson) and Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) employ, but we’ve always known that Blanca is supportive and inspirational whereas Elektra is a tough bitch who refuses to coddle. That’s not new, in spite of what the writers seem to think (and repeatedly try to hammer home here).
My biggest issue with the episode, though, is the structure is all over the place. Nearly half of the runtime is dedicated to the preparation for the first audition, then there’s a brief Ballroom showdown (involving a fucking Tonya Harding-like attempt to take Damon out of contention?!?!) and then we don’t even see the callback audition, and then we’re literally on the set of Solid Gold with an exteeeeeeeeended (read: boring) dance sequence as the week’s top 10 songs are counted down. I honestly fast-forwarded when we got to song eight because it started to feel like Pose was padding the run time!
Yes, I’m obviously being a bitch, but this was a 25 minute episode wrapped in a 45 minute shell and I. WAS. BORED. Terry, what did you think of all of this dancing? Were you invested in the “will they/won’t they” antics as Damon and Ricky kept circling each other romantically? And what evokes stronger memories for you: the Blonde Ambition Tour or Solid Gold?
I don’t know, Joe. This episode made me jump for joy. Like I literally gave a surprised…well, squeal doesn’t sound very flattering…but I made a happy noise and laughed because my two loves collided: queer programming and off-the-wall movies!
Yes, I’m talking about the fact that Pose name-dropped one of the more bonkers movies I’ve seen. It turns out that one of the solid gold dancers would go on to star in Ninja III: The Domination. This is a true story! Her name is Lucinda Dickey and she had a brief stint on Solid Gold. Ninja III was about a telephone line woman/aerobics instructor who gets possessed by the evil spirit of a ninja after she comes to his aid. It’s pretty bonkers and a great movie to watch with a group of friends.
Unlike this episode of Pose, which I found to be the most boring episode of TV I’ve seen since that episode of Stranger Things where Eleven goes to Chicago and completely killed S2’s momentum. The only positive that I can really come up with, outside of name-dropping a bad cult flick, is that it was only an hour long.
But oof, what a long hour that was. I also found the dancing at the end to really be padding. And it’s not as if this is going to go anywhere. I hate to break it to Ricky and Damon, but unless Pose is set in a different multiverse, Solid Gold ain’t getting picked up for another season. The show petered out in 1988.
I know you mentioned this, but it deserves repeating: what threw me for a complete loop is that there’s all this build up, dancing, auditions and drama and then there’s no callback audition! Joe, that’d be like cutting your favorite movie Jaws right as they’re about to go into The Orca to hunt the shark and then cut to them swimming home. How you going to cut out the climax of the episode?! Who does this?
I’m also completely over the Damon/Ricky sitch. Like this episode, it has gone on too long. Though I will say that I’m officially in your camp that Ricky could “get it” (It being me, though I still hold a candle for Angel Bismark Curiel’s new and improved Papi).
I’m glad you mentioned the Blanca/Elektra comparisons. We get it. They’re different people. But then Elektra brings out Candy’s hammer?? Dominique Jackson already chews the scenery, we don’t need her swinging a hammer around, as well! Her de-evolution into a campy cartoon has already been more pronounced this season. At this rate, I’m waiting for her to bring out a vat of dip and a shivering shoe.
But, Joe, I’m just going to say it: the most egregious moment of this episode is that Janet Jackson’s fantastic “Alright” was fourth place. I got nothing else, Joe. This episode didn’t give me anything to think about. Are you a Madonna fan? I know this season is all about the idea of the mainstream appropriating ball room culture, but are you still on board with the constant Madonna-ness of it all?
And…I don’t know, do you like pancakes? I seriously got nothing here.
AHHHH I’m so glad that you brought up Ninja 3 because that bizarro little cult film is a goddamn gem! Ugh, if only we had of got to see clips of that film instead of what we ended up with!
As for hurting for things to say, it’s a serious problem isn’t it?! There was just no reprieve in this episode for folks who aren’t completely fascinated with the Ricky/Damon drama. Typically in a drama series, and especially one with a bench as deep as Pose, you’ll have at least a B-plot to distract you if you’re not on board with the main storyline. Here the closest thing we get is that throwaway scene between Angel (Indya Moore) and Papi where she mentions that she’s successfully booking other modelling gigs and he compliments her look
Sidebar: show, don’t tell, Pose! Take 5 minutes out of this 60 minute fiasco to give us a montage of Angel running around town, taking meetings.
But yes, I’m still kind of on board for Madonna, though I don’t really know how much further the writers can take this now that there are no more spots on the tour. You’ve got to imagine that all of this talk about the Ball going mainstream has now been squashed so it’s unclear whether Pose will pivot back to its other residual storylines – AIDS drama and Blanca’s battle with Patti LuPone – or introduce something else for its few remaining episodes.
At this point though, something has to happen. Two out of five episodes this season have been flat out disasters, which is a pretty miserable batting average for a series that just picked up a bunch of Emmy nominations (for last season obviously).
But yes, at least we’ll always have pancakes (Preferably banana chocolate in the shape of dinosaurs)
Back to you, Terry: do you think the Madonna stuff is dunzo? Do you think there was enough reference to Candy (considering the episode literally includes her name in it)? Are you eager to get back to a particular lingering plot line? And whose lewk was best in the episode: Ricky’s lime green striped pants or the Solid Gold outfits?
Omg. I completely forgot about Patti! My immediate thought was “who???” But you’re right, WTF happened to that story?
I think you hit on the biggest problems of this season. It’s lacking a strong episodic through line. Narrative threads pop up and then vanish. We’re halfway through this season and I don’t even know what this season is about. Pose is struggling to find its voice and the result is starting to feel like a bunch of sitcom episodes. Here, we have two characters who are apart, get together and then end the episode basically where they started it.
And yes! Same thing with Angel. Her story just feels blasé, now. She’s getting everything she wants and it’s all off screen. Where’s the conflict? Where’s the drama? I’ve never been a Madonna fan. She’s fine. Got a couple bangers but she’s just not for me. And while I hope we move on from this, I just don’t think we will. I think she’s coded in this season’s DNA. I guess that’s it for this week. Let’s hope next week is better.
Oh, and Joe? Lime green striped pants all the way.
Next week: “Love’s in Need of Love Today” looks to bring both AIDS and Patti in a big way. We’ll hop back over to Terry’s site, Gayly Dreadful for episode six!
A beautifully maintained island full of young women that need to be “fixed.” A rebellious princess with a tragic past. A fantasy world with a mildly dystopian undercurrent, complete with a financial caste system. This is the world of Paradise Hills, the feature film debut of Alice Waddington. [Read more…]