WARNING: Spoilers ahead for the season 2 premiere of Pose
Despite the glitz, glamor and gaggery of the balls, Ryan Murphy’s Pose has always been a show about activism. No episode of the show has better displayed that fact than Tuesday night’s (June 11) season 2 premiere, “Acting Up.”
Whether it was in the show’s depictions of real-life protests, or through simple yet meaningful conversations about the reality of living with HIV and AIDS, “Acting Up” brought audiences everywhere face-to-face with the true meaning of LGBTQ advocacy. Plus, we got quite a few excellent ballroom runways.
Here are the 5 key moments from the season 2 premiere of Pose:
New year, new mood: While the first season of Pose took place in 1987 and 1988, the second season jumps forward to 1990, immediately updating the audience on what’s been happening. Sadly, Pray Tell’s (Billy Porter) new love interest from last season, Keenan, has died after the rapid progression of his AIDS diagnosis. Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) is still leading up the House of Evangelista, Angel (Indya Moore) is making moves towards a new career, Ricky (Dyllón Burnside) is finishing up his tour with Al B. Sure, and most importantly, Madonna’s “Vogue” has begun to take over the mainstream. “That’s the most famous woman in the world singing about us,” Blanca remarks while giving a customer a manicure.
Silence = Death: The main focus of the latest episode revolves around Pray Tell’s newfound desire to protest. When Nurse Judy (Sandra Bernhard) takes Pray to his first ACT UP rally following his 210th memorial service for a victim of AIDS, Pray is filled with an activist spirit, wanting to change the world through action. This culminates in a die-in held at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, based on ACT UP’s real “Stop the Church” demonstration from December 1989 where over 4,000 protesters descended on the church to protest against cardinal John O’Connor’s statements regarding the spread of HIV and AIDS. “Prayer won’t cure AIDS,” Angel screams during the protest. “Abstinence is the erasure of our sexuality.”
Strike a (scary) pose: Speaking of Angel, the loveable rogue of the House of Evangelista has kept true to her word and ditched Stan completely — Evan Peters’ season 1 character makes no appearance in the premiere. Instead, the premiere sees Angel attempting to make it in the world of modeling, as she auditions for a competition hosted by Eileen Ford. But things take a turn for the bad when the young woman goes to a professional photoshoot; after being clocked by her photographer, Angel is forced to pose nude for the man’s private collection. It’s gross, it’s demeaning, and it only adds to our growing sympathy for the budding star. As for what happens after … well, we’ll get to that.
Vive la Révolution: As in the last season, Elektra Abundance-But-Now-Evangelista (Dominique Jackson) is having none of this “emotions” nonsense; when asked to attend the St. Patrick’s protest by Pray, Elektra gives a half-hearted excuse about having to work. But that all comes to a head when the ball star walks in the French Revolution category in a truly stunning Marie Antoinette getup, complete with cakes, a carousel hoop-skirt and a guillotine. Pray Tell calls out her similarities to “the queen who cares nothing for her kingdom,” before Elektra repeats why she couldn’t attend the protest. “You worked the night shift, the protest was in the morning, don’t gimme that bullshit,” Pray screams back at her, before smashing her grand prize trophy on the ground and storming out. “Wake the fuck up,” he seethes.
Actions, meet consequences: “Acting Up” shows the audience that no one gets off scot-free on Pose. That photographer that exploited Angel? He gets a faceful of fists from Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel), along with getting his photos of Angel stolen back. As for Pray Tell, his tirade against Elektra costs the House of Evangelista their reigning champion, as the former mother flips a table, tells Pray Tell where he can stick his speeches and quits the house, joining her former daughters Candy and Lulu (Hailie Sahar & Angelica Ross) in the House of Ferocity. Looks like we’re in for a serious showdown between these two budding houses, and we can’t wait to see how it turns out