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.
Episode 2.03 “Butterfly/Cocoon”: A fatal mishap with a client leads Elektra (Dominique Jackson) to seek out the counsel of Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Candy (Angelica Ross). Meanwhile, moving from friends to lovers proves to be a challenge for Angel (Indya Moore) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel).
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Well Terry, much like House Ferocity, they can’t all be winners, can they?
‘Butterfly/Cocoon’ is easily the worst episode of Pose’s second season and by far my least favourite of the four that I’ve seen.
This is the third episode of the series written by Our Lady J (after 1.03’s ‘Giving and Receiving’ and 1.07’s ‘Pink Slip’), but there’s something demonstrably off about it. It’s as though Lady J is struggling to capture the tone or spirit of the series, so that even while there are fascinating elements about how the queer, and more specifically the transgender community, is treated by the police, ‘Butterfly/Cocoon’ never quite comes together.
Part of this may have to do with the episode’s focus on Elektra. As much as I love Dominique Jackson’s performance as the brash and bossy Mother, Elektra has never been the series’ main character…for good reason. Elektra is that key utility player that you sprinkle into scenes to liven them up. Here she’s the MAIN EVENT and while I would argue that it’s the plot that she’s surrounded by that ultimately dooms the episode, it is challenging to suddenly thrust a supporting character into the spotlight for 50+ minutes out of the blue.
Ultimately, though, it’s a lamentable plot that sinks the episode. We’ve seen accidental murders that require covering up a billion times on TV and it requires a deft touch and a certain amount of finesse to pull off. ‘Butterfly/Cocoon’s handling of the material is most reminiscent of the ill-fated (and extremely ill-advised) plot of Friday Night Lights S2 when Landry murders a man who tries to sexually assault Tyra and they spend the rest of the season in a completely different show.
Everything about Pose‘s attempt at the same story line – from Candy’s casual dismissal to the reintroduction of the odd back alley silicone injection woman to the montage of covering the body in lye and packing him up in the closet – just…doesn’t feel like Pose.
Terry, what – if anything – worked for you about this plot line?
Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe. Nothing about this episode worked for me, I’m sad to say.
Skimming through my notes from last night, there’s just a lot of “this is a filler episode” and “what is happening right now.” I think you deftly hit the mark with the major problem with this. I know Elektra is a fan favorite and, like you, I enjoy her brash quips…but she reminds me of Coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, whose withering bon mots could tear even the thickest skinned person down. Seeing her meteoric rise in fan popularity, they leaned hard into her character to the detriment of the main storylines.
I hinted at this before, but I’m afraid this is what they’re doing with Elektra. Like you, I enjoy Dominique Jackson’s performance…but she kind of operates only at one level, as if she’s shouting to the people in the cheap seats at a theatre. So an entire episode of that was a bit much for me.
But my biggest issue was also something you touched on, Joe. It feels weirdly disconnected from the rest of the series, as if we were dropped into the middle of a (long) melodramatic sitcom. It was kooky character hour with the back alley plastic surgeon and the always reliable Candy. But then it gives the usually villainous Elektra a “pet the dog” scene…where Dead Paul is the dog. Her suddenly praying over the body and then making metaphoric comments about how his body will always be with her feels disingenuous. I’m no expert, but I’ve watched a lot of horror movies and I just kept thinking that there has to be a better way of getting rid of him than their very elaborate scheme, right?
Continuing the sitcom theme, Angel is (again!) on the apparent fast track to modelling stardom…except then she’s not…and then she ultimately is by the end of the episode. Everything is back to the status quo. Her brief relationship with Papi also came out of nowhere for me. The only chemistry they’ve had between them involved him shooting photos of her earlier this season. Their final scene this episode confused me because it felt like the actors were in two completely different scenes. Angel Bismark Curiel’s Papi is tearfully ripping his heart out while Indya Moore’s Angel is just sort of…smiling brightly? Did we even get a resolution with their relationship? I’m not even sure.
I don’t know, Joe. It’s too early in the season for a filler episode of this magnitude. Do you think this is the last we’ll see of Paul or will he become Chekhov’s body and cause more drama for Elektra later this season? And what about the explosive break-up last episode of a series-long relationship that didn’t get any resolution or fallout?
Oh the show is FOR SURE doing Ryan Jamaal Swain’s Damon (and to a lesser extent, Ricky) dirty. It’s the most substantial “fall from attention” plummet for a main character I’ve seen in quite some time and while Damon has never been my favourite character, it’s still very odd to see him essentially disappear from the narrative.
As for Chekov’s Body (née Paul), I would be happy never to revisit this story line. The minute Elektra left the room to file her nails and chill in the break room I knew where this was going and it played out exactly the way I feared, so if we never had to address the chest in the closet again, it would still be too soon!
Then there’s that Angel/Papi storyline. UGH. I’ll confess that I never bought this relationship (it simply feels shoehorned in, as though characters circling each other in close quarters must invariably fall in love or sleep together). There’s a legitimate lack of chemistry between Bismark Curiel and Moore and their romance feels like it was constructed out of thin air. When he tells her early in the episode “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you”, I may have literally exclaimed aloud “Since when?!”
I haven’t loved the Angel/modelling stuff, but I did think that the montage of her photoshoot set to Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” was a bit of fun and the entire House Evangelista’s reaction to her Duane Reade campaign (which apparently IMMEDIATELY happened?!) is very cute. With that said, we’re now 2/2 for modern references in a 90s-set series, following Mrs. Ford use of “Consider it handled” to end her phone call.
I don’t need Olivia Pope/Scandal references in my Pose, Terry!
Since we’re at confessional, I’ll mention that I didn’t pick up on the “Consider it handled” line because *whispers quietly* I’ve never seen Scandal. But for a show that’s lauded as an examination of queer culture in 1980s/90s NYC, the anachronisms are a bit much.
The only positive thing I can say about The Bizarre Case of the Mummified Body (née Paul) is that they at least pulled from a real life incident. The episode wraps with a quote from Dorian Corey, a famous drag performer and fashion designer who also, coincidentally, had more than just clothes in her closet. I don’t want to beat a dead mummy, but the way it was brusquely handled this episode just felt so out of character for the show.
Oh well. It looks like we’re taking a break next week, Joe. But when Pose returns in two weeks, I’m hopeful the show course corrects and returns us to more of what makes Pose so interesting.
In two weeks: Pose returns with “Never Knew Love Like This Before” as Pray Tell and Candy escalate their feud and we jump back to Gayly Dreadful for episode four, “Never Knew Love Like This Before.”