The parallels presented in Pose’s “Mother’s Day” create moving, layered moments of symmetry and juxtaposition. Much of the story centers Blanca, giving Mj Rodriguez more opportunities to showcase her vast range of skills as she delivers yet another stellar performance (at this point, it almost feels redundant to point out how good she is, but in ball terms, she simply scores perfect 10s week after week). “Mother’s Day” looks at Blanca’s relationship with her house mother Elektra as well as her relationship with her birth mother. Both are complicated relationships. But Blanca finds healing and catharsis in both.
The more Blanca and Elektra’s relationship has been developed, the stronger the stakes are for their house rivalry. It’s not just a rivalry for rivalry’s sake. They mean something to one another, and they’re not sworn enemies so much as people who constantly challenge and push one another. That’s much more compelling than just a competitive dynamic. It’s refreshing to see Elektra take Blanca under her wing in the flashback at the top of the episode, and it also makes it more convincing later when Elektra decides to make good with her children and admits to being a selfish mother.
Much of the episode’s emotional weight hinges on the ripple effects of Blanca learning that her birth mother has died. Suddenly, Blanca has to face the family that cast her away, the family that continues to misgender her and, in the case of her brother, do even worse than that. Blanca’s sister misunderstand’s Blanca’s entire existence, and her brother is violently transphobic and homophobic, spitting out fear and accusations. It’s disheartening that none of them will ever know—or even care—how good of a mother Blanca is to her chosen children.
But because Pose never lets itself become mired in doom and gloom, there are glimmers of hope and love even within this devastating Blanca storyline. She has a tía who sees her, who indeed deadnames her at first but then calls her by her name as soon as Blanca corrects her. She makes sure Blanca gets an invite to the reception after the funeral. Pray Tell and all of Blanca’s children are there for her at the funeral, too. They have her backs in their own little ways, Pray Tell preaching kindness, and Papi offering to have his buddy jump someone on her behalf. Blanca even finds a moment of catharsis with her sister, who comes around at the end of the episode to hint at the beginning of acceptance and a way forward for them.
Pray Tell’s scene with Blanca as he talks about his own relationship with his father who has passed away rather powerfully captures the deep-rooted complexity of messed up parent-child relationships with his simple confession that it depends on the day whether he feels he has found forgiveness or not. Pose wrestles with a lot of messy relationship dynamics in this episode, and it does so in a way that is meaningful and convincing without making the mistake of suggesting that everything can be solved. Blanca will likely be working through her feelings about her mother and their relationship for the rest of her life.
Blanca’s memories of cooking with her mother anchor this story by giving specificity to the relationship, by grounding Blanca’s love for her mother. On a surface level, it’s difficult to understand how Blanca could love someone who rejected her, but it’s obviously so much more complicated than that and Pose honors and interrogates those complications. There’s lots of well crafted symmetry in “Mother’s Day,” and the back-to-back scenes of a flashback to baby Blanca cooking in the kitchen with her mother and then Damon and Blanca cooking together in the present interplay in a lovely way. It’s on-the-nose, sure, but that directness doesn’t take away from the parallel’s power. It just drives home Blanca’s love for her mother and for her children, highlighting a really beautiful and intimate side of motherhood. Pose finds moments of kindness, joy, and celebration even in its darkest corners.
Another powerful use of symmetry can be found in the sequence that interweaves Pray Tell waxing poetic on across-the-board passing during a ball with Elektra in the moments leading up to her surgery. This is a monumental step for Elektra to take as she does what she feels she needs to do to really be comfortable in her body and with the way that the world perceives her. The way Blanca shows up for Elektra in this huge personal moment is also a nice little parallel to the way that Elektra showed up for her back when she needed a mother. These two women might be competition for each other on the ball floor, but they need each other.
Meanwhile, self-proclaimed New Jersey housewife-by-choice Patty finally gets a storyline of her own...sort of. Matt doubles down on his attempts to fuck with Stan’s life after Stan starts having too much success at work, which of course makes Matt feel threatened. He tells Patty about Angel and also tries to get Patty to cheat with him again, which she solidly rejects. For a show that’s so strong across the board with character development, it’s still not quite clear who Patty is and what drives her. The way she pushes back against Matt hints at some of her layers, but there’s something off and inorganic. Stan and Patty don’t quite fit into this episode, especially since Stan doesn’t even have any scenes with Angel, who has decided to play hard to get because she wants him to commit to her.
Part of that out-of-place feeling does seem intentional though. At the end of the episode, Patty unexpectedly walks right into a ball with the intent of confronting Angel, led into this world by an unsuspecting Papi. It’s a world Patty likely never even knew existed, a world where she’s the outsider for once. But nothing much comes out of this, and Patty confronting Angel as the episode’s cliffhanger comes off as a bit overwrought and doesn’t really have the same level of emotional complexity as the rest of the episode. It’s flashy melodrama, and it doesn’t even let Patty transcend the limiting role of the cheated on housewife. Hopefully Pose finds a way to dig deeper soon.
- Wow House Of Abundance truly killed it at the Mother’s Day ball. That reveal! High tea realness! I shrieked!
- All Pray Tell/Blanca scenes are always great. Rodriguez and Billy Porter have excellent chemistry, and the characters have a rich, convincing dynamic.
- Rodriguez also does an excellent job bringing a slightly different energy to her portrayal of a younger Blanca. Blanca has come so far since that very first ball, and yet there were little glimmers there of the fierce mother she would go on to be.