[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the latest episode of Pose. Read at your own risk!]
The Pose family is fractured. With just two episodes left in a second season that turned Pray Tell (Billy Porter), Angel (Indya Moore), Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), and Elektra (Dominique Jackson) into bona fide LGBTQ heroes, Pose delivered some serious heartbreak in Episode 8. The entire family is fractured now after the reveal that Pray Tell (Billy Porter) and Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) started a sexual relationship — a move that broke a cardinal rule of the community given that relationships between ballroom father figures like Pray Tell and younger boys like Ricky violate ballroom taboos. While their actions have a ripple effect throughout the entire community, Pose producers wanted it to also be a watershed moment of intimacy between two black, gay, HIV positive men who could find beauty and affection for one another in a world that constantly reminds them that everything about them is wrong.
For Billy Porter, who spoke to reporters at the Television Critics Press tour on Tuesday, the juicy sex scene between Pray Tell and Ricky was much more than a character triumph; being seen as sexual and desirable on screen was a big moment for him too. “I have spent my entire career not being the object of anyone’s affection,” Porter said, adding that the rare moments of queer sexualization are usually between white men. “They cut our dicks off. So to be turning 50 on September 21, and having a very loving, connected sex scene is sort of blowing my mind.”
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As hot and pioneering as the moment was, it had its consequences as well. The revelation of their tryst sparked a blowout argument between besties Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Pray Tell, and ignited tension with Ricky’s ex Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), who in turn spilled the tea on Angel’s (Indya Moore) newfound affection for cocaine — a habit she picked up now that she’s a full-time model hanging out with the fashion crowd. Damon, angered by Blanca’s refusal to enforce her rule against drugs, moves out and jumps on the opportunity to dance in Europe with real-life pioneer Malcolm McLaren. Angel (Indya Moore) moves out too, now financially secure enough to afford her own place. By the end of the episode, the aftermath of Pray Tell and Ricky’s fling pushed everyone in disparate directions, leaving Blanca bawling alone in her kitchen as she reckoned with the new reality that her bestie, her daughter and her son gone. Pose co-creator Steven Canals directed the episode and told TV Guide, “We really do see a choice create a ripple effect for everyone in the community. That’s what that graduation scene was about. Everyone is going to have their opinion, something to say about it. And that’s real life.” But the primary point of the episode, he said, was that Pray Tell and Ricky’s intimacy was about love and validation above all. “The choice to sleep with Ricky, [Pray Tell] is not regretting,” Canals said. “He’s sad about losing the friendship with Blanca. What we are trying to say as storytellers through that arc is that gay men who happen to be black and living with HIV are absolutely deserving of love.”
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As for what’s next, Canals said the effects of this episode will continue to be explored. But with the family moving in several new directions, everything’s up in the air as the drama approaches its Season 2 finale. “We see a lot of endings,” Canals said, “and we see some really exciting new beginnings.”
Pose airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.