Hey y’all, welcome back to your weekly Pose recaps! How are you doing? This one was rough.
The first ball of the episode is framed by Pray Tell’s dependably hilarious and often hurtful commentary; this time on Madonna, Lofting, and Candy. Candy tries to perform in the Lofting category — she even shows up in a Madonna-inspired, blue striped suit — but Pray Tell shuts her down. He gives a nod to her “nerve” but tells her that neither Voguing nor Lofting are her categories because she’s not a dancer. Then he gets real ugly and insults her body so the crowd “ooh’s” in discontent, and Blanca tells Pray Tell his commentary is fucked up. Candy wants to know why Pray Tell’s always coming for her, and she echoes his words about being seen back at him. He refuses to see or acknowledge her but Candy knows that she has heart and talent “just like Madonna.” Candy walks out to the applause of the crowd and with her head held high despite the judges’ low scores and Pray Tell saying she should “take a hike and don’t ever come back”.
Later, Candy interrupts “The first bi-monthly Masters of Ceremony Council” to pitch her idea for a new category; lip-synching. The MC’s are trying to figure out ways to grow ballroom now that they have some interest from the outside world, and Candy argues that they need categories that allow performers to show off their talents and be seen. Candy thinks lip-synching could do that. The MC’s don’t agree and Pray Tell insults Candy some more causing their conversation to escalate into a fight. Candy pulls a knife on him — she’s so quick with that knife! — but puts it away in favor of pelting foil-wrapped food at Pray Tell and walking out.
At the next ball, Angel interrupts Papi’s adorable conversation with Blanca — he’s asking for a bird — and takes her to Lulu who tells them that she hasn’t heard from Candy in two days. Lulu is worried because that’s not usual for Candy. She’s extra worried because Candy started sex work to help support their house and Lulu figures the last place Candy was at is the motel she works out of. Lulu doesn’t want to go alone so she asks Angel and Blanca to go with her. The guy working at the front desk is super unhelpful, but Blanca leaves her number anyway.
That night she’s in the middle organizing her house to look for Candy when the phone rings and they get the news. The scene shifts to Blanca letting Lulu into her house. Lulu wants to know what the news is, and if they’ve found Candy. Blanca wants to wait for Elektra to arrive because she’s not sure how to say this (and neither am I) but Lulu wants to know as soon as possible, so Blanca tells her, “Candy’s dead” They hug and when Elektra arrives, the three of them take a moment to hold their grief. Blanca is a Mother now, but before that, she was Candy’s sister. She and Lulu lost a sister, and Elektra lost a child.. Lulu asks if there’s any information on the murderer but Elektra tells her that the cops don’t care about murdered trans people, and “Candy’s death isn’t any different.” Angel joins their conversation to say that her death should be different because “11 girls have been killed this year” and Candy would want them to fight.
At least 11 trans women have been murdered this year.
Pose has been my light since I first watched it. It reconnected me to queer media because I was able to see myself in the narrative again. It has brought me so much joy and it has also wrecked me. My pain is because even though this story is narratively grounded in the ’80s and ’90s, so much of it is true today. Too much. Black and brown bodies are ceaselessly policed and brutalized. Black and brown trans women even more so. What kind of future are we fighting for if it’s at the continued expense of some of us?
Before Candy’s funeral, Blanca, Elektra and nurse Judy stop at the hospital to claim her body. The guy in charge puts up some resistance — the second time this episode a “guy in charge” has thrown barriers up — but after an impassioned plea from Judy — the guy is gay and she asks him to envision a future where someone he loves passes away and he isn’t allowed access — he lets them write down their funeral home and says he’ll have Candy sent there. Blanca, Angel and Elektra arrive at the funeral parlor two hours early and it’s a good thing too because Candy looks wack and they need all the time to redo her hair and makeup. Candy’s death was out of their control, but this isn’t. It’s a small comfort but it’s comfort all the same. Then the guests arrive and the seats are packed. Pray Tell MC’s the funeral; he shares Candy’s words about funerals being for the living and he agrees. He says that “unfinished business is the burden of the living” and that it’s our job to fight and “protect our sisters from the hands of men who are weak.”
When Pray Tell takes his seat, he’s visited by Candy’s ghost. Candy tells him that she forgives him, but she wants to know why he was “such an asshole” to her. Pray Tell says that she’s everything he tries to hide about himself in “the real world”; loud, Black, femme. She asks, “what good is everyone’s opinions when you’re gone?” She says she has no regrets and Pray Tell says that’s what he’s jealous of. Her bravery. Candy says she’s never had a choice, but maybe Pray Tell’s just doing what he has to “to stay alive”. She also says that “it’s going to be a sad, lonely life” at the balls without her. And she would have killed it at lip-synch.
The next person Candy visits is Angel. Angel’s having it rough. She knows that Candy’s funeral could easily be her funeral, and when she goes to pay her final respects she asks “why not” her. Candy turns that question around and says, “Why not you, bitch?” Angel isn’t in the coffin; she’s alive and able to open doors for herself and so many people behind her. Candy tells her, “That is [her] duty”.
Candy visits Lulu third. Lulu wasn’t going to show up because she didn’t want to remember Candy “laid in some box with a bad beat” but Angel sees her outside the parlor and tells her that she gets to choose how she remembers Candy and that she’ll regret it tomorrow if she doesn’t show up. So Lulu goes to pay her respect but it quickly turns into her calling Candy a “thieving bitch” and ripping things off her body until people manage to pull her off and she walks out. Candy doesn’t seem bothered by it though; she says she was “dying of boredom” and she knows why Lulu is having a hard time; she didn’t like Candy.
Lulu accepts this easy. She says that they were good at talking shit and teaming up against people but that’s about it. She says Candy resented her for being “light-skinned and thick” and Lulu feels like she was nothing but her accessory. Candy reminds her that isn’t all their story was. She talks about stealing a Bloomingdale’s coat together and using it to steal Thanksgiving meals and cuddling together because their light was out. She talks about winning six trophies in a night and by then Lulu is laughing. Candy’s gift to Lulu is permission to grieve.
Blanca and Candy don’t talk. Instead, they sit together and hum the chorus to “Jesus Loves Me” because sometimes you don’t have to talk. Then, Elektra comes to tell Blanca that “there’s an old couple out there looking like George and Weezy and partaking in our refreshments.” She sends Blanca to “shoo them away” but they turn out to be Candy’s parents.
While her parents pay their respects, Candy visits her mum and they have a heart-to-heart. Her mother wonders why it took her so long to see who Candy was and she responds “you refused to.” Candy talks about trying on her mother’s clothes and feeling like they had “some sort of pact” because her mother never sent her away or smacked her for it but when Candy came out, her mum rejected her. Candy stands straight and tells her mother “this is who I truly am” and finally she’s seen.
With her father, Candy is different — even joking a little. He calls her his “little fighter” and she tells him that he saw her, and that gave her the courage to be herself. He’s not ready to let go but he has to, and he does.
Pray Tell shows them to their seats and thanks them for coming. Then he calls the other MC’s up and they announce that they’ll be adding a lip-synch category called “Candy’s Sweet Refrain.” The pallbearers come to take Candy’s coffin away and — keeping with the metaphysical theme of this episode — the back of the parlor opens up into the ballroom and Candy gets out of her coffin and lip-synchs Stephanie Mills’ “Never Knew Love Like This Before” to the screams of an adoring crowd. The judges give her all 10’s and Candy walks out of the ballroom for the last time.
The other main storyline this episode is Pray Tell’s decision to get on AZT. Before his MC meeting, Blanca and nurse Judy call a meeting with him to try to convince him to take AZT but he refuses. At the end of the episode, after the dinner they host for Candy and the kids leave to go dancing, Pray Tell and Blanca share a moment. He tells her that Candy’s death reminded him that “life is precious” and he has “an obligation to fight for [his] life” so he’s decided to take AZT. He and Blanca make a toast and take their pills together and the screen fades to black.
Like I said, this episode was rough. How are you doing?
There were some choices I wasn’t a huge fan of in this episode. For instance, showing Candy’s body at the scene of the crime – I’m not sure if that was necessary. I haven’t seen the actors specifically comment about it, but it felt like it could have been handled differently. Also, I would have liked to have spent more time with Candy before she died. Like, I would have liked to hear about her parents and stuff before the funeral, in previous episodes, versus it being stuffed all into one episode.
The episode had some good moments though. Like, the lip-synch scene at the end was absolutely gorgeous, and I felt like Angelica Ross really shined in that. They managed to, overall, give a touching send-off to the character and actress – I just wish it just had been given more time. This is a general issue I have with Pose, where I feel like they are trying to cover a lot, so things aren’t really given the space to breathe at times.
Lastly, I went to see the episode at a local bar with a few friends, and after the episode aired we talked for a while, and all of us were upset right then that Angelica Ross was out of a job, so I’m really glad she announced so soon after about being a regular for AHS 1984. I don’t watch AHS, but I’ll definitely be looking out for her character.
I also read critiques about how the show treats its dark-skinned trans women vs its light-skinned ones, and I definitely can see/agree with that pattern. Both Candy and Elektra’s recent storylines were based off of real-life events, but the real trans women they were based off of were both light-skinned. I understand adapting storylines will never be one-to-one, and creative people are not always gonna get things 100%, so I’m curious when they created this show/wrote this episode who the intended audience was.
So, that’s Pose, Gentleman Jack, Vida AND ODAAT that have all made me cry recently.. and I don’t cry at TV programmes. As a white British cis woman 3 out of those 4 programmes are completely out of my experience/culture /direct knowledge etc but it’s impossible to not connect with the characters and the feel and basically everything. There’s something genuinely beautiful about them all, to me anyway, and long may they continue.
Sorry, this is going to be a long post and not just about this episode. I’m old as in they are covering my generation. I have tried to love this show because I think it is important for these voices and stories to be heard but I have had major misgivings…and several ‘throwing popcorn’ at the TV moments.
I really am glad they are addressing the danger and violence trans women face…but…
I kinda want to write an article on the colorism problem on Pose. You have two dark-skinned black trans women and you KILL one and the depth of their characterization is that they are “shady as hell”…really…I mean really. And while I think it is important to show that many trans women have to turn to sex work to survive, people in the ball community had a variety of jobs. Maybe I’m asking too much in wanting a layered portrayal of the ball culture and queer communities of color.
(In response to the person posting about those stories being based on real-life events, the real-life trans women were white and not light-skinned)
I thought the first season was good but was missing some key elements of the scene, and there was a feeling (so hard to put into words) that wasn’t there. I used to spend a lot of time in NYC with my cousin, and I got to go to a bit of the ball scene with him and several friends who have since died from AIDS. I have watched fascinated, but there have been pieces missing and I have wished that those friends were here to watch with me and call out the stuff the show is not capturing and other essences of the community I’m thinking about. Sometimes it’s the music choices…the names of houses…the categories…it just felt a little off. The season 1, “this isn’t quite portraying the scene accurately” feeling has tumbled into WTF territory several times in season 2.
I truly don’t understand the centering of Madonna’s song “Vogue” as a catalyst this season. I did not know one black or latino gay person who liked that song. There were constant complaints from every day queers in the clubs to queer academics that she was appropriating our culture. To see everyone celebrating her and that song in Pose has me scratching my head. Then they name dropped Junior Vasquez. Not Larry Levan or Frankie Knuckles…Vasquez. He didn’t even use his real name the few balls he DJ’d. I feel like this is the continuing erasure of the black queer DJs who created house music and contributed to the ball scene. There is a reason there was black gay clubs/nights, latino gay clubs/nights – the vibe and music were not the same as white gay clubs! Watching Pose you would not understand that. It was not just the racism and the transphobia of the white gay community…the whole vibe/culture was different.
And while I’m happy they are tackling the AIDS crisis and ACT-Up, they really are not showing the struggle in those groups. Lesbians and people of color had to fight to be heard. There is a reason Phil Wilson started the Black AIDS Institute and the Minority AIDS project were started…because ACT-UP was not addressing the needs of communities of color. Hell, there was a walk out of minority staff at GMHC because they were not addressing HIV/AIDS in minority communities sufficiently. The ramifications of white gay men ignoring minority communities in their activisms are felt today with the high HIV infection rates in black and trans communities. The fact that Pray Tell just came into Act Up without any push back and is listened to instantly is bullshit! ACT-UP was hard for you to penetrate if you were black. Because that’s something I remember too– despite the horrible toll on the totality of the Black community, the stories about AIDS activism always seemed to center on white men. Yes, as mentioned in previous articles, there were pretty fierce women and women of color fighting tooth and nail for themselves and their loved ones. If you are going to show Act-Up show the success AND the struggle.
In many ways, this show seems to be patterned after “Paris is Burning” and uses that movie for story ideas. Let’s not forget there is controversy related to that documentary. The filmmaker was sued by participants for a reason! That said, I saw it for the first time at a screening in NYC…Harlem, surrounded, SURROUNDED by Black and Latino ball queens. DRESSED. COIFFED. LOUD. There were many in the audience who’d participated with the filming, but there were many who had not. They critiqued and shouted and disagreed and agreed and mostly cooed over Dorian Corey and Pepper LaBeija. It was incredible to participate in…and so clearly their moment. Not nah one of them felt accurately represented of respectful of “Vogue.” Other than that two of their peers got went on tour with Madonna, who finally got some street crew as a result of Jose and Luis being onstage with her.
I don’t know if the inkling I have is because we lost many of the people from the ’80s and ’90s ballroom scene to AIDS and their stories are not contributing to the narrative or what…but Pose is missing something. Glad it is on, I will continue to watch and throw popcorn at the screen occasionally.
Thanks for the correction about the real-life trans women stories they were adapting. I brought it up without looking it up, had just learned about it through conversation. But, yeah, I definitely agree with the colorism. Both Candy and Elektra have been portrayed as bullies, and it’s really frustrating to watch when they’re the only two dark-skinned women.
For me, I feel like Ryan Murphy’s hand is in a lot of the things I don’t love/find unrealistic (the vogue/Madonna stuff, how white cis gays are portrayed). There was a comment in the last episode about “not all white men”.
I’m 99% certain that the parts of Pose that bother me come from Ryan Murphy. That “not all white men” comment got aloud groan and a handful of popcorn thrown at the screen.
On the bright side, my dogs are benefiting from my frustrations.
as a younger person and fan of pose, *thank you* for this perspective and knowledge.
Y’all can quibble about shit that doesn’t really matter in the end because it’s a TeeVee show. Hear the message my friends loud and clear. All summed up in one part
THE ONE THAT MATTERS.
Where Candy is saying goodbye to her mother and then her father. And those conversations. The pain of too little too late. Of regret, of love, of acceptance but the chapter was already closed. Of loss.
Rip my guts out with a spoon and swirl them on a fork that scene wrecked me. Fucking wrecked me.
Watch and feel it. If you can FEEL it than you already know and my love goes out to all of us because it is something I wish we never had to have known.