One thing we should never take for granted with a show as singularly spectacular and loaded with vital representation as Pose is its ability to intersperse small moments of joy and triumph. Last night’s episode, “Life’s a Beach,” was the perfect sort of complement to a summer where “roséwave” has replaced the usual bops and bangers with something lighter, sunnier.
The framework felt like your typical summer getaway episode that’s been done for ages in television. (Remember when Saved By the Bell worked at the beach club or when the Tanner clan would visit Disney on Full House?) It’s a chance to get characters out of their typical element and see how they allow themselves to grow and expand in a new setting.
Plus, let’s not forget the beach fashions, darling.
This being Pose, of course they’ve put a unique spin on classic. The summer lewks alone are worth the watch, but, more importantly, it provided a new lens to examine how these tropes look through the prism of the trans woman of color experience.
And, I know, sometimes discussing Pose feels like a sophomore sociology class at one of those liberal colleges in the woods of New Hampshire where no one get grades. However, so much of what Pose provides is done with such care and purpose (especially on an episode written by Janet Mock and Our Lady J), it warrants immediate and careful study.
The framework of the episode is built around an impromptu beach getaway. Blanca, now an empty-nester after last week’s powerful episode, gets a call about her salon burning down. Of course it did. It’s suggested that Frederica is behind the arson, which shouldn’t be surprising after she reveals she recently took out a large insurance policy on the space.
Devastated emotionally as well as financially, she could use the pick me up. Conveniently, one of Elektra’s clients has a beach house, but would rather pay her to lock him up in a sort of hybrid sensory-depravation/pup-play setup. Never one to pass up an opportunity to indulge in the finer things, Elektra convinces him to take their routine on the road: She’ll keep him contained (and cared for) in the garage, while she and the girls live it up.
Everything that follows feels familiar and revolutionary at once. Getting ready to depart, Blanca reveals she’s self-conscious in a swimsuit, because she feels she doesn’t pass as well as the other girls. They go to the beach, but Angel reveals she never learned how to swim due to lack of access and the history of racial discrimination at public pools. Those are just two small examples of how Pose explores the intersection of these identities in ways big and often small, resulting in some of the most fully lived-in representations of queer people.
At the beach, Blanca gets swept up in the tide and needs to be rescued by the lifeguard. And, boy, is he sexy as hell. A little mouth-to-mouth later, and Blanca is back living her full Baywatch fantasy.
Later in the evening, the ladies don their fineries and hit the bougie restaurant. They’re getting lit on Long Island Iced Teas, cutting loose, living it up on Elektra’s client’s dime. Blanca excuses herself and runs into lifeguard hunk.
Meanwhile, the other ladies are approached by a neighboring (white) woman giving strong “speak to the manager” vibes. Not only is she mad they’re being loud, she also clocks them as trans. She picked the wrong girls to mess with, though, and Elektra unleashes a series of reads so hot she had to pause midway to take a sip of water. It’s one of Elektra’s absolute top moments in the show’s history.
When Blanca arrives at the table, she tells the girls the lifeguard wants to take her for a walk on the beach. Of course, Elektra panics. Especially after what happened to Candy, they can never be too safe. Elektra hands her a switchblade, Angel forks over some brass knuckles and Lulu gives her a taser. There’s a touch of comedy here, but, like much of last night’s episode, there’s an awful lot of truth, too.
Their worries wind up being unfounded. The lifeguard, Adrian, is sweet and gentlemanly. Blanca tells the girls that he knew she was trans, and it wasn’t an issue. It’s a side of Blanca we haven’t seen yet, and I’m so eager to see her care for herself the way she’s served as a caretaker to so many others. When she arrives home, she has a message waiting from Adrian wanting to see her again.
Mj Rodriquez is dependably superb in every scene, of course. She recently made history as the first trans actress to win an Imagen Award, and she could not be more deserving. However, last night’s episode belonged to Elektra. Before they departed the house, Elektra schools her client about privilege, particularly how he is able to pay for isolation when there are people like them who want nothing more than to be embraced by society as their full, authentic selves.
On the ride back, all the girls are singing along to the radio. Elektra glances in the rearview mirror and has a vision of Candy singing along with them. I had noticed she didn’t have a moment with Candy’s spirit at the funeral a few weeks ago, and Elektra alluded to not having a moment with the casket at the services. It was nice to see that addressed so beautifully. This episode got to show us the best of Dominique Jackson, and I think she really nailed every single scene.
It wasn’t too crazy of a departure tonally, but overall this episode was a confident, cohesive change of pace. I’m excited to see what awaits in next week’s finale.
What did you think of last night’s episode?
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