WARNING: Spoilers ahead for season 2, episode 5 of Pose (“What Would Candy Do?")
After the emotional gut-punch that was last week’s episode, Pose had a difficult balance to strike with this week’s new episode. Following the death of our beloved Candy, seeing an episode titled “What Would Candy Do?” arrive in your feed is a tough pill to swallow.
But, as always, the show delivered -- instead of continuing to sit in the tragedy of last week’s death, the show puts a magnifying glass on Damon and Ricky, two characters who have been critically underused thus far in the season. Throughout this laser-focused episode, the attention is almost never drawn away from our two dancing queens, making for one of the show’s more happy, heartwarming hours of television.
From the continued countenance of “Vogue” to the questionable fate of Ricky and Damon’s relationship, here are our five key takeaways from episode 5 of Pose season 2:
Come on, “Vogue”: If it seems like you can’t last for one episode of Pose without hearing about Madonna’s “Vogue,” that’s for a good reason -- “Vogue” was one of the most ubiquitous songs of 1990, dominating the pop culture conversation and becoming Madonna’s biggest hit of all time. Episode 5 reminds us of that fact, as the demand for voguing classes reaches a fever pitch in New York City, while Damon continues his hard work as both an instructor and a student. But episode 5’s focus on Madge comes into clear view when, after a class, Damon is approached by a talent scout, who promises to bring him to the “front of the line” at an upcoming dance audition for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition world tour.
A tale of two houses: Turns out, Damon’s not the only one getting special treatment at this upcoming audition -- in a hilarious series of back-and-forth sequences, Ricky also reveals to the house of Wintour that he is being given the same opportunity. Ready to make a point about good and bad parenting, director Tina Mabry puts the focus on each of the two respective mothers: Blanca Evangelista celebrates Damon’s accomplishment, gassing him up and giving him the inspiring pep talk he deserves. Elektra Abundance-Then-Evangelista-Then-Ferocity-Now-Wintour (she didn’t change houses this episode! The madness may finally come to an end!) takes a different approach, celebrating herself for creating a successful house… and for the opportunity to become friends with Madonna. She makes it perfectly clear to Ricky that success is the only option when she tells him to “don’t bother coming back” if he fails at the audition.
Bringing down the hammer: Let’s all take a moment here to celebrate Dominique Jackson and her iconic performance as Elektra. As if her tirades about success weren’t enough high-camp humor for one episode, the show finally reveals the purpose of the episode’s title when Mother Wintour delivers a fiery speech about how Candy was a woman willing to take what she wants. So, what would Candy do if she were Ricky? According to Elektra, she would go full Tonya Harding and break Damon’s foot. “It’s the only way to ensure Ricky’s victory, and my topless sunbathing vacation in Capri with Miss M,” she says, before producing Candy’s famous hammer, ordering her children to carry out the deed. Of course, word gets out about Elektra’s hit, and of course Blanca delivers an impassioned speech about the importance of family, representation, “you are one of us,” etc. But before giving up her plot, Elektra slips in one final line, seething “You ruin all of my plans, you mongrel” before snapping her fingers and exiting with her house.
Going for the gold: Despite all the handwringing and sabotage plots, it turns out that neither Ricky nor Damon make it onto Madonna’s tour. It’s sad, but also good -- that means we get to keep seeing them this season. But just as the two fear that all hope is lost, the talent agent from the episode’s opener stops them to tip them off about an audition for a reboot of the hit television show Solid Gold. The two audition and become the new Solid Gold Dancers for a reboot that they posit could be “the biggest show in the world,” despite a showrunner who is clearly only interested in making the show as cheap as possible. But still, we get treated to a massive montage as the duo dances their way through all the day’s hits, including, you guessed it, “Vogue.” Even if the plot seems a bit strange, at least we get some truly stunning choreography.
Sparks are flying: The subplot driving this entire episode is the palpable sexual tension between Ricky and Damon. After their messy breakup and Ricky’s bitter eviction from the House of Evangelista, “What Would Candy Do?” goes out of its way to repair the damage done. Ricky and Chris (the guy Ricky cheated with) call it quits when Ricky announces he was better off with Damon. Damon reassures everyone that he’s not still hung up on Ricky, even though his eyes say otherwise. And as the two move forward together, Ricky attempts to get things back to the way they were, only to be rebuffed by Damon, who wants their focus to be on their careers. But even in the final moments of the episode, Murphy and Mabry make it clear that there is still a future for Ricky and Damon. Does it all feel a little tidy? Sure. Does make complete sense? Not really. Are we still excited at the prospect of a reunion? Absolutely.