Never Let You Go: 5 Key Takeaways From Episode 4 of 'Pose' Season 2
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for season 2, episode 4 of Pose (“Never Knew Love Like This Before”)
Pose has never been afraid to “go there.” Whether it was paying tribute to the ACT UP movement, Blanca’s struggle with transphobia in housing or even Electra’s recent run-in with a dead body, the show has always strived to paint an accurate picture of life for these characters in early ’90s New York.
But in “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” Pose held up a mirror to the continued violence perpetrated against transgender women of color in our society and asked us not to look away. While we have seen characters die of AIDS on the show, never have we seen anything quite as brutal as the death of Candy Ferocity (played with perfection by Angelica Ross).
From the tragedy of Candy’s ultimate fate, to the implications it left behind, here are our five key takeaways from episode 4 of Pose season 2:
The Madonna effect: Before the true tragedy strikes, Pose spends the opening moments of the episode once again examining the repercussions of Madonna’s “Vogue” among the ballroom community. Some are loving it -- Candy even dresses up as the Material Girl in the show’s opening moments to “pay tribute” to the song. Others are concerned -- Pray Tell is happy to see the exposure of the culture to the masses, but doesn’t want to sacrifice integrity for popularity. “Remember who this is for: us,” Pray reminds his fellow emcees over breakfast. “Our community. We are not a tourist attraction. Our greatest asset is our authenticity."
That difference between Candy and Pray comes to a head in the opening moments of the show; when the mother of House Ferocity attempts to impersonate Madonna in the ball, Pray once again reads her for filth in front of the crowd. While Candy is calmly defiant in front of the crowd, she angrily confronts Pray later on during his meeting with the other emcees. When the committee refuses to hear Candy’s idea about adding a lip-sync category to the balls, she goes for Pray’s throat, literally, brandishing a knife and threatening him, seething, “You ain’t seen the last of me.”
“Candy’s not coming home”: Within a matter of minutes, the episode goes from fun to bone-chillingly tragic. A distraught Lulu Ferocity turns to Blanca for help when Candy doesn’t come home after spending a night turning tricks at a motel. After a short investigation and a brief phone call, the reality sets in, and Blanca is forced to break the bad news to her fellow mother: Candy’s body was found at the motel, stuffed in a closet. Complications arise when dealing with how to get her body out of the morgue for a proper funeral service and are only exacerbated by the rising emotion from each of the show’s principal characters.
Real-life implications: In one particular line of dialogue, Pose reminds us that the problems being faced by these characters are still present today. After hearing the news of Candy’s death, Angel is indignant and angry at the world. “What is it, May?” she yells. “And 11 girls have been killed this year. We just keep sitting around here, looking all sad -- we’re letting it happen!” That number is chilling, and not just for the world of the show; the Human Rights Campaign has also counted 11 transgender women of color who have been murdered thus far in 2019. The end card of the episode also reminds us of this fact, with text stating that since 2016, more than 1,000 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been murdered around the world.
Touching goodbyes: If we’ve learned anything about Candy throughout this series, it is that she’s not leaving without saying her piece. And that’s exactly what she does: After a touching eulogy from Pray Tell, Candy’s spirit visits each of the attendees at her funeral, delivering them each a message they need to learn. For Pray, Candy forgives him for being hard on her, while reminding him to stop hiding behind his insecurities. She uplifts Angel, telling her that her work as a trans model is going to change the lives of those looking up to her. She comforts an angry Lulu, telling her that their bond was more than she assumed it was.
But Candy’s most poignant farewell was for her birth parents. Even in death, her mother still misgenders her, referring to her as “my son.” But in an emotional reconciliation, Candy forces her mother to look at her choices and reflect on how she acted. “This is me, Ma. This is who I truly am,” she reminds her, through tears, ultimately receiving the acceptance she always wanted. She took a moment to thank her father for always being supportive despite their separation. “Having my daddy see me, it gave me all the courage I needed to become who I am,” she said.
One last dance: For once, Candy finally gets what she always wanted at the end of the episode -- Pray Tell closes out the service by announcing that the balls would be adding a new lip-syncing category in Candy’s honor, titled “Candy’s Sweet Refrain.” And in the show’s final act of love for Angelica Ross’ character, Candy’s spirit delivers a stunning performance in the ballroom to Stephanie Mills’ “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” complete with backup dancers, a cheering audience of her friends and family, and her long-awaited 10s-across-the-board score. We’ll miss Candy, and this was the perfect way to bid her character a fond farewell.