Warning: Spoilers for episode 1 of Pose season 1 ahead.
Tens! Tens! Tens across the board! Close enough, anyway; with a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Ryan’s Murphy’s latest series, dance musical Pose, is off to a fine start.
Set in the late 1980s, the FX show explores the juxtaposition of the alternative world of ball culture and the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe. The show also makes television history, featuring the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles ever, including Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar and Angelica Ross.
With an inclusive cast (the show also stars Billy Porter, Evan Peters, Kate Mara, James Van Der Beek and Charlayne Woodard, as well as newcomers Ryan Jamaal Swain and Angel Bismark Curiel), the show was bound to be filled with inspiring moments for the LGBTQ community and the show’s audience at large.
Here were the six most empowering moments from the pilot episode of Pose.
Thieves on the runway. “The category is: bring it like royalty,” announces Pray Tell (Porter). Led by scene-stealer Elektra (Jackson), the House of Abundance stomps the ballroom runway in elaborate garments, stolen from a museum exhibit. The crew takes home the evening’s grand prize just moments before the police arrive to arrest them. But rather than putting up a fight, Elektra and her motley crew continue to serve glamour as they strut to the officers, arms out, ready to be cuffed. It’s later revealed that charges weren’t pressed because “if word gets out that a bunch of queens broke and stole all that historic finery, they ain’t never giving anyone else anything to exhibit ever again.” Werk!
Dance for your life. We meet 17-year-old Damon (Swain) in a dance studio in Allentown, Pa., living his best life as he freestyles to Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” followed by his own routine to Donna Summer’s “On the Radio” in the privacy of his bedroom. While the rest of the scene takes a sour turn — his father whips him with a belt and kicks him out of the house after Damon reveals that he’s gay — it is clear that dancing provides a creative escape to this now-homeless character.
Keep on livin’. Blanca (Rodriguez) is diagnosed with HIV, but after a pep talk from Pray Tell — “Keep livin’! Put on your tallest pump and go on and get back out into the world. You ain’t dead yet. There is nothing more tragic than a sad queen” — the starlet pursues her dream of leaving the House of Abundance and becoming a mother of her own house. While Elektra doesn’t take the news well (“you are not on my level!”), Blanca is determined to make a name for herself.
A hotel love affair. After landing a job under Donald Trump, Stan (Peters) celebrates by picking up a sex worker, Angel (Moore), at the pier. The two head to a hotel where Stan pays Angel to undress. It’s unclear whether he knew Angel was trans, but as she removes her panties, she discloses, “I’m saving up to have my little friend removed. It’s not cheap if you want to do it right.” Rather than engaging in intercourse, Stan asks Angel what she wants out of life, to which she responds, “I want to be treated like any other woman. That’s my dream.” Though it’s revealed that Stan has a wife and children, the pair share a passionate kiss as Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” plays on the radio. Angel declares that the song “is gonna be our song from now on,” before the two part ways.
A House is a home. Blanca recruits Damon and Angel to join her house, the House of Evangelista (“inspired by the up and coming legendary supermodel Linda Evangelista, who stole my look and I pay tribute to in return,” Blanca explains). They challenge the House of Abundance to a ballroom battle. Both crews pose, strut and duck walk to Diana Ross’ “Swept Away” with Elektra’s legendary house sweeping the competition. While the House of Evangelista is sulking on the street, a scrappy new character, Papi (Curiel), approaches them and asks to join their house. “You want a reason to keep going on after tonight? There is goes right there,” Pray Tell says, referring to Blanca’s latest recruit. “Houses are homes to little boys and girls that never had one.”
So you think you can dance? Though he missed the application deadline, Blanca insists that Damon follow his dream and audition for the New School for Dance company. She convinces the school’s head of dance, Helena St. Rogers (Woodard), to allow him to try-out. Damon stuns with a triumphant, impromptu routine to Whitney Houston’s classic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” He leaves the audition filled with tears of joy, as he reveals to his Evangelista crew that he got in.