It’s hard, sometimes, to pinpoint exactly when a particularly sweet scene careens into saccharine territory. Making it all the harder still is that, as with culinary tastes, everyone’s mileage will vary. What’s cloying to some may offer just the right amount of sugar high to others; what’s but mildly treacly to you may be too cloying for me. I kept thinking back to this question of how sweet is too sweet while watching Pose’s “Something Borrowed, Something Blue.” At times, the episode felt like an all too indulgent confection that left my teeth aching.
I’ve praised Pose for dreaming up a storybook world for its characters. For gifting them both presents and futures they couldn’t have imagined for themselves. For being a beacon of optimism and joy set in a time period where such glittering possibilities dimmed as quickly as they shone. But with “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” I began to feel like such candy-coated morsels needed to be cut with something, anything, for them to land. Not everything has to be sour and dour, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be honeyed and iced. We all need a meal before we indulge in desserts.
Speaking of meals: It was during that early dinner scene at Blanca’s newly renovated apartment (courtesy of a newly wealthy Elektra; more on that later) when I first began to feel this episode was going to be too much for me. Looking at the fancy furniture her mother has gifted her and the supportive women she sees at her table (“a mogul, a model, an accountant, and a future nurse”), Blanca goes on to tell us what the show should’ve learned by now is best just shown. How rare it is for her to have even conceived of the success of everyone around her. It’s a sweet moment. But then, throughout the episode, we get variations of this speech, moments where Pose’s characters sound almost too didactic. “I’m so glad I got to live through this,” beams Blanca. “I didn’t dare dream that big,” Angel admits. The bridal category, Elektra explains, “was a way to give us a chance to experience what the outside world gets to live.” And, as Blanca puts it: “Everybody else gets to live in a world of ‘maybe.’ But we live in a world of never-gonna-happen.”
At every turn, poignant moments in “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” get undercut by dialogue that spells out character motivations. “Your bride is unlike any other,” Elektra tells Papi. “She will be the first. The first from a community that has been excluded from happily ever after.” She illuminates why the wedding is so important for her, for Blanca — and yes, even for Angel, who initially was all too happy with a City Hall ceremony. But all that bluntness does is dull the emotional impact of the story here being drawn: There’s so much telling, the episode leaves little room for actual showing.
One element that did work perfectly was the confrontation between Elektra and the bridal store owner. “You don’t have to accept us. You just have to take our money” is a heartbreaking line even when it’s delivered with the haughty venom Dominique Jackson infuses it with. Angel may be getting to live out her romcom fantasy (replete with shopping montages and an eventual Pretty Woman–meets–GoodFellas comeuppance for the bridal store) but the show never forgets to sprinkle its world with people eager to embrace their own transphobia to the point where they deny themselves a handsome check.
On that note: Elektra reading the bridal store owner to filth (“I have seen my fair share of real men and I can assure you I am not looking at one right now.”) is further proof that, if there’s any justice, Jackson should be climbing atop everyone’s FYC shortlists in the Supporting Actress Emmy category.
Another great line reading of hers? “I was destined to have more coins than Scrooge McDuck.” Oh, and here’s another: “I have become the McDonald’s of the phone-sex industry.” I love this last one in particular because it sounds like the perfect tagline for an American Hustle–style film all about Elektra’s rise. But, like plenty in Pose’s final season, such a juicy plotline has been compressed to the point where it barely garners enough traction to become truly enjoyable. Perhaps it’s the episode count (seven here, as opposed to season two’s ten), but I keep wishing this third season would slow down. This episode in particular, in between Elektra’s accelerated rags-to-riches story and Papi’s unknown-until-now son reveal, felt too abrupt, like we were forced to fast-forward through a couple of episodes’ worth of story material so we could get to the end of the episode where Angel and Papi have to reassess their commitment — to each other, to the life they’ve built together, and, more to the point, to the sure-to-be lavish wedding Elektra is throwing them.
With two episodes ahead, I hope the show stops racing to the finish line. We want to see you strut, not sprint.
Tens Across the Board
• How do you know Elektra not only has money to spare but the taste to back it up? She has a 1983 Basquiat painting (“Eyes and Eggs”) in her dining room!
• “She looks like a Puerto Rican Lady Diana.” No truer words have been spoken. Indya Moore looked divine in every one of her bridal dresses, even as the entire montage felt lifted straight out of the Sex and the City film, replete with three characters giving her thumbs up/thumbs down for every gown.
• “Don’t give me that Latino machista bullshit” — an imperative we should all follow on any given day. No one has time for that.
• I really hope we get to meet Jerome from the strip club.
• A Prince-scored male-stripper scene? I mean, I may have some problems with the writing this week, but I must give credit where credit’s due: This was divine.