Just like its title, episode 3 of Pose’s second season, “Butterfly/Cocoon,” is a story of duality and how two very different stories can ultimately be rooted in the same issues. Directed by Janet Mock and written by Our Lady J, “Butterfly/Cocoon” takes the focus off of glittering balls (save for one short scene), instead offering a behind-the-scenes picture of life for trans women in New York in the early 1990s.
This week’s episode primarily follows two of our beloved heroes, Angel and Elektra, as both deal with the peaks and valleys of life as someone qualified as “other” by society. Here are our five key takeaways from season 2, episode 3 of Pose:
¡Ay, Papi!: While Angel has quite a lot to do in this episode (which we address below), one character who truly stood out was the lovable Lil Papi, who steps out to try and win the heart of Indya Moore’s stunning character after she suffers a major loss. But when Angel ditches Papi for a career opportunity, he makes it clear to her that he is far from finished chasing after her. “Angel, I am a prize, too, and I need you to know that,” he confidently tells her, assuring the aspiring model that she will soon feel what he feels. In the words of our dear mother Blanca, “Who needs The Young and the Restless when you got this?”
Going belly-up: If you wanted to see Elektra Abundance-Then-Evangelista-Then-Ferocity-Now-Wintour (thank god she didn’t start another house this episode) get cut down to size after her behavior in last week’s episode, then sadly, you got your wish. While offering her services as a dominatrix at the Hellfire Club, Elektra finds herself trapped in a sticky situation; her client, a frequent drug user getting high in a gas mask, overdoses while tied up in chains and dies. Not knowing what to do, the mother runs to her children Blanca and Candy for advice. Blanca does what she always does and tells her to do the right thing by calling the cops. Candy makes it clear that Elektra will go to prison for life if she calls the police. Elektra has no idea what to do, until a new face offers her personal take (we’re getting there, I promise).
Model behavior: The reason Angel runs to Papi seeking comfort is because after all her hard work, the young star was not chosen as one of Eileen Ford’s “Fresh Faces of 1990.” She’s heartbroken and pissed off… that is, until Ford brings her back in to offer her a position as the new face for Wet n Wild’s summer makeup collection. After a look-turning photo shoot, and lots of fear that something will go horribly wrong, Pose finally gives Angel what she wants, as she sees her face on the new makeup campaign in a Duane Reade. We love a happy ending!
A taste of Peppermint: No, your eyes did not deceive you — that was, in fact, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Peppermint in this episode! The season 9 superstar plays Euphoria, a prostitute who educates Elektra in the ways of the world by telling her about her time in prison after a john beat her up and got her arrested. She convinces Elektra to take matters into her own hands and to do whatever it takes to stay out of a place where she will almost surely be killed.
And Elektra, for once, listens; she and Candy visit Miss Orlando (played hilariously by Cecilia Gentili), who helps them take care of the body in a very… specific way. The “doctor” helps them disguise the smell, wrap the body up in pleather, sew it into a large suitcase and shove it into the back of her closet, never to be found. As shocking as the story may be, director Janet Mock revealed it is based on an all-too-true story about drag legend Dorian Corey.
Thicker than water: As with almost every episode of Pose, “Butterfly/Cocoon” revolves around the idea of chosen family. In episode 3, the concept is given a new edge by testing the limits of that bond. Angel nearly ruins her bond with Papi by rebuffing him, and Elektra is forced to face the consequences of rejecting those who love you. But the episode makes it clear that once made, those family ties are nearly unbreakable; Papi is unwavering in his support of Angel’s dreams, and Elektra, perhaps for the first time in the show’s history, actually shows sincere gratitude and love for her children, at one point even protecting Blanca from being implicated in her plot to stay free. Elektra best sums it up when thanking Blanca for being there for her when she needed her: “We may cut each other up like a pack of alley cats, but when the outside world tries to tear us down, this army closes ranks.”