“Wake the f**k up,” Pray Tell (Billy Porter) urges one of the bright lights of the ballroom scene, after they skipped an ACT UP die-in protesting the role the Catholic Church was playing in the AIDS crisis to rehearse a big performance. His message is not a subtle one: Like ACT UP, the organization he begins working with in “Pose’”s strong second season, he wants to make clear that Silence = Death, that the joyful, beautiful things in life won’t mean anything if the community in which they exist dies out. Who has time for subtlety or playing nice?
Like Pray Tell, “Pose” has no interest in softening its messaging—though it remains an undeniably gentle series, the capital-I Issues it addresses are approached even more directly than in its already direct, earnest first season. In my review of that season, I wrote, “’Pose’ tries, and tries fervently, to be the most honest and responsible version of itself that it could be. If it sometimes tries just a little too hard, then those missteps are both understandable and forgivable—and maybe even a little endearing.” That’s all still true. This season of “Pose” is more assured, just as engaging,