‘Pose’ tackles inequity in the AIDS fight in an emotional series finale

(CNN) — Anger and activism, life and death, and finally hope defined the third and final season of FX’s “Pose,” the Ryan Murphy-produced drama devoted to New York’s underground ball culture in the 1980s and ’90s. Having created an unprecedented showcase for transgender performers, the show — whose final episode focused on leaving a legacy — left its own in terms of its symbolic significance and standout cast.After a wedding in the penultimate episode, the extra-long finale turned back to the AIDS diagnosis of Pray Tell (Billy Porter), who was told his condition had reached “the beginning of the end” before his friend Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), a nurse, learned about clinical trials of protease inhibitors from another patient.Those life-prolonging treatments, however, were overwhelmingly being earmarked for White patients, prompting Blanca to fight back against the discrimination toward people of color

After visiting his estranged family earlier in the season, Pray Tell spent much of the finale dealing with his ball family, telling Blanca, “I want to be remembered as a representation of all that the balls can be.”

Their triumphant joint Diana Ross routine essentially served as his last hurrah, sacrificing himself to save another, followed by Blanca’s emotional meeting with Pray Tell’s mother (Anna Maria Horsford) in a touching collision of those two worlds.

The narrative then jumped forward two years, providing both an opportunity to riff (amusingly) about “Sex and the City” and to underscore that Pray Tell’s memory — his legacy — had indeed survived, with Blanca flashing back to a first-season encounter as she counseled a new house trying to make its way in the ball scene.

“Pose” was at its best back then, earning Porter an Emmy for best actor in a drama. The final season — a slightly disjointed seven episodes, several of them super-sized — derived much of its strength from the Pray Tell plot, and the campaign surrounding the hospital’s inequity (“Healthcare is a right!” the protesters chanted) connected the ACT UP movement to concerns that remain prominent today.

Created by Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals, “Pose” represented an admirable effort to highlight stories of LGBTQ life and history, something Murphy has emphasized under his Netflix deal in various genres, including his remake of the movie “The Boys and the Band,” the limited series “Hollywood” and “Halston,” and the documentaries “A Secret Love” and “Circus of Books.”

During a press conference before the season began, the producers stressed that the show was ending on their terms, with Canals saying about the decision, “I could see the ending … and it made sense to land the plane comfortably.”In an era where the usual tendency is for shows to stick around beyond their expiration date, credit “Pose” with recognizing the right time to make an exit.

‘Atlanta Skips A Grade

What is “Atlanta,” exactly? It’s a fair but limiting question.

Fair, because, look, if one week you were watching a show about a couple who might have br28oken up at a German-culture festival, and then the next week they’re gone and you’re watching a road comedy about an exasperated rapper and his pathologically distractible barber, and the episode after that is a mini horror film built around a different character trapped in the mansion of a kooky human mannequin, the changeups might feel destabilizing. But the question is limiting since so much TV in general right now resembles no TV that’s come before it.

“Atlanta,” whose second season wrapped up on FX on Thursday night, proudly embodies that development. No episode looked or felt the same as the one before it.

[Read our recap of the Season 2 finale of “Atlanta”]

The show has four central characters — Earn; Alfred; Darius; and Earn’s sometimes ex-girlfriend, Van — who veer in and out of friendship, selfhood, personal clarity and, often, the show itself. In a classic television sense, “Atlanta” is about them. But it’s also increasingly about itself: what its makers can do with the medium, yes, and also what’s possible for the twinned comedies of race and status. It knows the assorted bars a half-hour “sitcom” faces and sets out to raise, vault over and demolish them, to prioritize “sit” over “com.” “Atlanta” is like a rapper obsessed with his own brilliance. You want to see if the show can top itself because that self-regard is part of the hook. But loving this show means worrying that it might be devoured by its own genius, that it’s too great to last, that, eventually, conceit will cannibalize concept. This second batch of episodes was more obviously, aggressively ambitious. The show became cinema (one ominous aerial shot of a vegetal forest canopy made me want vinaigrette) and appeared to have on its mind the ideas in “Get Out,” the moods of “Moonlight,” the hypnotic ambiguities of David Lynch. Some of that reach toward movie-ness nudged the show into self-conscious precocity, the equivalent of skipping a grade.