It was around the 20-minute mark of my sustained sobbing during last night’s Pose that I realized I may not be able to objectively assess these final few episodes. Certain plot points? Ridiculous. Motivations? At times, nonsensical. Still, I’m so invested in these characters, I’m rooting for them on these journeys, no matter how wild the turns.
It’s a testament to the entire Pose team, but Janet Mock in particular deserves credit for writing and directing this episode and masterfully weaving in character histories that keep the emotions grounded even when the story flies so far off the rails its floating above Mario Kart‘s Rainbow Road.
The long-teased lavish wedding was every bit as over the top as you could imagine Elektra could cook up with unlimited funds. An absolute feast of fabulous, each entrance ratcheted up the ridiculous glamour until the whole affair culminated in a musical number, because, sure, why not?
But all the glitz and glamour was just super sumptuous set dressing for an episode devoted to Angel and Papi and a showcase for both Angel Bismark Curiel and Indya Moore. Both were more than up to the challenge.
Before we get to their much-hyped nuptials, let’s catch up with the rest of the Evangelistas and more in our recap.
After defying doctors’ original prognoses, this time is looking really like the end for Pray. His right eye is milky white, a sign the doctors tell him indicate this is it.
With nothing left to lose, Pray throws himself into sewing Blanca’s mother-of-the-bride dress. He confides in her about his condition and enlists her help creating a square in his honor for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. She creates a simple, but beautiful black square with the words “Live. Werk. Pose. Pray.” with a mirrorball.
The scenes are brief, but of course Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez wipe the floor with them. In an episode absolutely stuffed with gut-wrenching, emotional scenes, it’s a wonder these actors can make every single one pop.
Even Hailie Sahar’s Lulu got a chance to shine. In the mad dash to wrap up everyone’s stories, we see Lulu unpacking Elektra’s upgrade to her apartment when her boyfriend comes in jonesing for a fix. This allows Lulu to introduce Chekhov’s one-month sobriety chip (more on that later, of course), and she declares to him (and the audience) how she’s getting her life together so she doesn’t end up “laying next to Candy.”
Meanwhile, Angel is still torn about life with Papi and Beto. In a striking (but at times meandering) meeting with her father, she realizes she can’t abandon Papi the way her father abandoned her. It’s a bit of a logical leap (or at least a very conveniently timed a-ha moment), but if serving the plot is the cost for a juicy interaction like Angel has with her father (David Zayas), I’ll take it. It’s exactly the kind of messy, predictable, disappointing conversation so many queer people can relate to having with parental figures. The show doesn’t go out of the way to make him too sympathetic, but there’s room to understand what keeps Angel coming back. This is one of those moments where I most feel Mock’s touch; there’s a degree of nuance to this relationship that feels so authentic.
But, the important takeaway here is that Angel is driven back into Papi’s arms. He’s, of course, taking to fatherhood like a total natural. He’s almost comically good at parenting. He’s teaching Beto how to bake, he’s having a serious conversation about healthy masculinity. He’s getting locks for the windows! Angel comes home just as Papi is giving one of the best TedTalks I’ve ever heard about what it means to be a man. Obviously smitten (oh, you weren’t?), Angel enters and introduces herself to Beto, and then we’re off to the altar.
First stop: the marriage license. Angel has some anxiety about applying for a marriage license. Her birth certificate still has the incorrect gender, so she fears the clerk will reject their application. Elektra offers to get the mob’s help (hey, it’s worked for her other problems so far), but Blanca convinces Angel to start her marriage by standing her truth.
When it’s their time at the window, the tension is high. Papi hits it off with the clerk, discussing his Dominican heritage and their planned trip to the Dominican Republic. As he dazzles her with her charm, she shuffles papers, and you can see Angel sweat. The clerk does spot a problem … but it’s just a fake out, a missed signature. There is no twist. There is no catch. They did it.
Things may get a little spotty at this point in my recollection, because I essentially watched the remainder of the episode through non-stop tears.
Arriving for the wedding, Papi meets his groomsmen and officiant Pray Tell for a little cocktail. With everyone gathered, Papi explains how he learned about what it means to be a man from people like Pray Tell, Ricky and Lemar, men who were tough enough to love whomever they wanted, even when the world told them they couldn’t. They’re joined by the impeccably dressed ghost of Cubby as Papi toasts his brothers.
Up in the bridal suite, the lovefest continues. Lulu, Elektra and Blanca present Angel her traditional something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Blanca gave Angel something old: her family cookbook. It was a nice callback to a previous episode in which the cookbook played a central role. Family is everything to Blanca, and this tome can help feed a family. Now, Angel can use it to feed her family.
Elektra is next to gift Angel a “new” fur coat. She presents it with a story about how when she was flat broke, shivering, working the piers, she saved every dollar to buy a fur coat. It’s to remind Angel she is worthy of the best there is in the world.
Remember Lulu’s sobriety chip? It’s back again, for now, for Angel to “borrow.” It makes sense for Lulu to want to share this with Angel, here de facto ride or die in Candy’s absence. In the grander sense, it’s a symbol of hope and resilience.
Finally, they give her something blue: Candy’s hammer, wrapped in Tiffany’s blue. Candy’s spirit arrives to instruct Angel to use that hammer to protect her family … or to pop Papi when he gets too mouthy.
Taken together, these items tell the story of the series: Family, ambition, hope, strength. In an even grander sense, these are the qualities trans women of color have had to rely on to survive. For an episode that indulged in every rom-com wedding cliché, this felt like a uniquely queer spin on the old tradition.
We haven’t even gotten to the actual wedding ceremony yet, and I don’t blame you if you need a Kleenex refill. Of course everyone looks absolutely amazing, from Elektra and Lulu in their bridesmaids dresses, to Blanca wearing a raspberry brocade Pray Tell original, to the whole crowd of gals in full bridal gowns. Tens across the board!
And yet, Angel still manages to make a stunning entrance. The dress we saw her in at the bridal shop was nothing compared to the finished, detailed product.
Angel’s vows are sweet (though it did feel like she had already said everything she could possibly have to say about her and Papi in any number of preceding conversations, toasts and speeches), but it’s Papi who steals the whole damn show. First feigning a bit of cold feet, he slyly tucks his notes away and begins to sing “I Swear” by All-4-One, a song that some readers may recall was truly inescapable in 1994. The performance swells, adding Ricky on backing vocals, strings, the whole crowd starts singing, and, what? Are you not crying? What are you, a monster?
Considering all the roadblocks and potholes they’ve experienced on the way to the altar, maybe doing a little last-minute fake out isn’t the most sensitive romantic gesture, and, look, I HATE flashmobs, but that was just irresistible. (Or maybe that’s just Angel Bismark Curiel’s charm.)
We get one final glimpse of a euphoric Papi later on the beach as Angel and Beto play in the sand. He strikes up a casual conversation with another nearby dad, and their banal small talk takes on a new sense of wonder as Papi and Angel, not too long ago fighting to survive on the streets, are now vacationing with their son, legally married.
That leaves us with just one more episode before Pose shuts down the ballroom for good. Will every character get the happy ending Angel and Papi got?
How do you think the series will end?
Pose Previously on Towleroad