The transgender community has faced a predominantly higher rate of violence and violent death for decades. Even now, in 2019, you can find numerous headlines and statistics that point to this epidemic faced by trans people of color. Till now, we’ve seen some of this mentioned on Pose. But episode 4 faces this grim reality head on.
The episode starts with a face-off between Pray Tell and Candy Ferocity — the latter of whom continues to push her way into categories that she…well, may not be exactly suited for. Still, the woman has tenacity. Even after Pray reads her like a used book, she snaps back, “You’ll be sorry.” She later has another encounter with Pray at the Master of Ceremonies Council meeting. She suggests they open a Lip Sync category that she’s sure she’ll shine in. The Masters mostly shrug it off, but your girl Candy is determined.
But not every dream can come true. During the next ball, Lulu informs Blanca that Candy’s been missing for days. Apparently, she’d started turning tricks at a nearby motel. Lulu and Blanca make their way to the hotel to inquire, but the manager doesn’t care to help. Blanca leaves him her number in the event he finds anything out. Moments later, we see Blanca get a call. The manager sent a maid to clean the room Candy had been at, only to find her dead body beaten bloody on the closet floor.
It’s a hard moment to witness, but what’s harder is knowing that this is a reality for so many in the trans community — even today. In a later scene, Pray notes the distinction between seeing so many of his sisters fall to AIDS, and how very different it is when one’s life is taken from them at the hands of another. While AIDS is still a very real issue today, it is no longer the death sentence it once was. Murder, however, continues to be as rampant a problem as ever against the transgender community. Just last year, 26 transgender women were killed (that we know of). At least seven lives claimed this year. While Candy is a fictional character, she’s symbolic of all the other trans women of color whose lives are cut way too short.
Blanca and Elektra take charge of Candy’s funeral. They assign Angel to reach out to Candy’s biological parents while they get Nurse Judy to help them obtain Candy’s body. Pose writers use this opportunity to remind us of another lousy reality: in the eyes of the law, chosen family have no rights. Only Candy’s biological relatives could legally obtain her body. But in the end, Judy pleads with the only employee at the morgue who might be sympathetic and makes it happen.
At Candy’s wake, we find Pray and Lulu and Angel all having their own individual moments with Candy (or Candy’s ghost, anyway). Pray feels guilt over being so hard on Candy. He confesses she reminds him too much of himself. Angel’s guilt stems from knowing she could’ve easily been in Candy’s shoes. Candy’s ghost reminds her to keep chasing her dreams — off the pier. Lulu simply grieves in every way for her fallen sister and co-House Mother, but Candy reminds her to think of the good times they had.
The most difficult moment comes when Candy’s parents show up. At first, her mother refuses to acknowledge her as a woman. But once both parents make it over to the casket, you witness a change. They end up having the talk that so many trans and queer children would love to have with their parents, the one that often comes much too late. While Candy’s parents could not learn to accept their child in life, it seems that now in death, they can.
The wake ends with a musical number: one final song and dance for Miss Candy Ferocity. They open the doors behind her casket to reveal a ball in all its glory, with Candy finally getting her chance to shine in the lip sync category. It’s bittersweet because we want to see Candy go on. It’s too soon to say goodbye. It’s also much too soon to close the door on the multi-talented actress, activist, and founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, Angelica Ross. Hopefully, we see her do more great things soon.
Lastly, there was a scene early on in the episode where Blanca and Nurse Judy try to get Pray to begin taking his AZT medicine, and he blows up and refuses. But by the end, he finally recognizes how quickly life comes and goes, and takes a pill. Here’s to life, Pray. Here’s to life.