Pose: Episode One

The year is 1994, and cops are pulling up to The Hellfire Club, where Elektra works, demanding it be shut down due to it being an “AIDs spreader” location. Transition to the ball, where Elektra is walking in with Blanca, talking about this raid and how she now needs to find a new job. Blanca sees Lemar, asking him why he hasn’t gone to see Cubby. Lemar pays no mind, talking about how he’s been building a House, and that he is going to smoke the competition and win the prize money. He attempts to get Blanca get the House of Evangelista and compete against his house, but Blanca turns him and his drama down.

Over on the ballroom floor, Pray Tell is mc’ing, while Angel, Papi, Ricky, and Lulu look on as a House competes. Pray then introduces House of Khan onto the floor, and we see the first girl strut down towards the stage. Pray highlights her beauty, saying that they haven’t seen a beauty like that since Angel (who looks visibly annoyed when this is mentioned). Lemar, the Father of the House of Khan, comes onto the floor and absolutely works it, which has the House of Evangelista looking a bit bothered that another House has taken their spotlight. The House of Khan end up winning the trophy and prize money, the latter which is not given that night.

The next morning, the council is at their local diner spot, counting the money they have to give the House of Khan—they don’t have enough. It quickly becomes a problem when Lemar and his posse storm in demanding their money, and when they are told they don’t have all of it, they proceed to do some damage to the members of the council and the diner. 

In a much calmer setting, Blanca wakes up in the bed of her new boyfriend, Christopher. He has the tv on, and it’s showing that OJ Simpson’s wife was killed the day before. Blanca doesn’t think much of it, and leaves the apartment to head to her house to check on Damon.

After the diner fiasco, we find Pray Tell at his daytime job at Macy’s Chanel perfume counter. In between spritzing customers with Chanel No 5, he takes a flask out from his jacket pocket and takes a swig from it. He seemingly does this throughout his shift, as he shows up to a funeral completely drunk. His fellow council members are there as well and see that he isn’t doing well, especially when Pray takes out his flask on the pew too. As they leave the funeral, Pray Tell tells them that he wants to retire from mc’ing, citing the reasoning as the ballroom scene not being like it used to be.

We then see Blanca at the hospital, where she now works (RIP the nail salon). She goes in to see Cubby, who is on his deathbed from AIDs. She lets him know that she contacted his mom to come see him so she could make things right, since she didn’t react in the best way when he had come out to her. Blanca wants Cubby to have that closure before he can’t any more. Blanca then goes to have lunch with the nurse Judy, and she’s talking passionately about what she’s done at the hospital. She mentions that in another life, she would’ve gone to school to become a nurse. But, as Judy so poignantly mentions, “It’s never too late to go after what you want.” There’s still time for Blanca to do what her heart wants, and Judy’s support has given her the inspiration to follow her heart. She then goes home after her shift, an empty home at that (Damon is off somewhere), and turns on the TV. She lets out an “Oh shit,” but we don’t know what’s going on.

Pray Tell returns home from the funeral, drunk, and pours himself a drink, not registering that Ricky had just made them dinner. Ricky is upset that Pray hasn’t been taking their relationship or him seriously lately. He tries to do things for Pray, but gets ignored and unappreciated. A phone call interrupts their bickering, and it turns out to be Blanca. She yells at him to turn on the TV, that OJ might kill himself—the infamous car chase is being televised—and the two of them better get over to her house for a watch party. When Ricky and Pray arrive over there, they’re divided on whether OJ did it or not. 

Meanwhile, Angel and Lulu are hanging out at Angel and Papi’s place. Lulu is looking through a magazine and sees a photo from a shoot that Angel had tried for, but didn’t get. Angel seems to be at a low point in her career, and is feeling the confidence she once had slipping away. Lulu takes out a cigarette that Angel then grabs, not knowing that it’s pot laced with cocaine. Even though she is at first hesitant, she continues smoking it. As she passes the cigarette back to Lulu, the phone rings, and Blanca is on the line, telling her to come over for her OJ watch party. “Orange juice?” Angel asks, in a hilarious moment. She hangs up the phone, not interested in whatever is going on, and takes the cigarette once more.

Blanca’s watch party has now grown, with Damon and Judy now sucked into the drama being televised for the world to see. Pray Tell is completely drunk, spilling his drink. He goes to get another, but Damon grabs him and has a one-on-one conversation to try to make the case of a sober life. He tells him he needs to reframe how he lives by “not escaping death, but living on life’s terms.” Pray Tell gets agitated by this, and before Damon can continue, the doorbell rings, and there stands Elektra. Pray Tell brings her down the hall to the living room to join the watch party. Judy is done watching the chase and tries to turn the television off, but gets a chorus of yells from the others to keep it on, so she decides to leave.

As she’s on her way out, Angel and Lulu show up, but don’t join the watch party, instead going to smoke in Damon’s room. Pray Tell joins them, but when they pass him the cigarette and tell him its laced with crack, he quickly pushes it away, not wanting to mess with that. Blanca, being the mother she is, comes and checks on them, suspicious about

what they’re smoking. She lets Papi in, who has boxes of pizza with him to liven up the party. They all return to the living room, where the TV is showing that OJ has ended the car chase back home. As they debate on what’s going to happen now, Blanca turns the TV off and calls for dinner. They all gather around the dinner table and dig into the pizza, and it’s a beautiful sight to see. These characters have been doing their own thing, and here they are, all together. It inspires Blanca to tell them she wants to bring the House of Evangelista back to compete in the Summer Solstice. It doesn’t take much convincing for everyone to agree to revive their House. Just like that, the family is back together.

Blanca returns to her boyfriend’s place, who is on the couch reading medical journals. She tells him how she’s dyslexic but wants to go back to school. Christopher is supportive, telling her he will help her study, and lets an “I love you” slip out. She says it back, and he mentions how he wants her to meet his parents. She’s nervous to because she thinks she’ll be judged, but she agrees to take that next step.

Later in the night, the two lovebirds are getting ready to go to dinner when Blanca gets a phone call—Cubby is about to pass away. She immediately goes to the hospital, where the whole House of Evangelista is, and they sit by his bedside, sharing good memories. Cubby’s mother is showing regret for not treating him with love when he first came out, and how she wishes she could change how she acted, and be there for him. Cubby then passes away, with his friends and family by his side.

Lemar shows up afterwards, and when he is told that Cubby has already died, he lashes out at Blanca for not telling him how bad he was. She retorts by saying, yes, she did, he just decided to prioritize other things instead of what mattered. They all begin to get into it with each other, with Lemar making some crude and disrespectful statements that angers Pray Tell and Elektra. She then decides they need to battle it out between houses, and settle this dispute on the ballroom floor. As they all leave, Lemar goes into Cubby’s room and lays down beside him, beginning to cry.

Back on the ballroom floor, it is the House of Khan versus the House of Evangelista. Angel struts out first, followed by Lulu, Ricky, and Damon. Then, Elektra comes out, absolutely destroying any chance of the House of Khan winning. The House of Evangelista wins, and Blanca makes a speech. She thanks her competitors, dedicates the win to Cubby, and says they will be donating the money they won for this walk. Post-win, the Evangelistas go out to a Chinese restaurant, and are joined by Blanca’s boyfriend Christopher. The second to last scene of the first episode of the final season has them all together, with nothing but love to go around, and reminding us that the television landscape will never be the same without them. But we are left with Blanca, walking triumphantly and confidently into Manhattan Technical College to fill out an application for nursing school. The future is looking bright.

Isabel Maina

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