Someone has to say it: last week’s episode of Pose got it wrong. As a die-hard fan of the show, this is difficult to write. In the episode, “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” the Pose community-at-large experienced the tragic murder of our beloved Candy Ferocity (Angelica Ross). While earned plot twists can be gratifying and serve the storyline, this one felt hasty and too convenient at times, and Candy’s final departure felt unfinished and unearned.
Fifteen minutes into the episode, we find out about the situation the House of Ferocity mother found herself in which led to her murder in a seedy motel: she was a sex worker in the streets. While we were briefly introduced to Candy’s gig at a strip club during Elektra’s (Dominique Jackson) stint there last season and during an exchange between Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) and Lulu (Hailie Sahar) in this episode, there was never any previous mention of her doing other kinds of sex work. In contrast, Indya Moore’s Angel was often seen on the piers waiting to be picked up by tricks last season. But as shocking as Candy’s sex work would have been on its own, we also find out she’s now missing as a result of the job we had only found out that she had just seconds before.
Blanca and Lulu’s exchange with the hotel agent where Candy was killed also doesn’t seem to add up. When Blanca and Lulu arrive at the hotel, Blanca reminds Lulu to mention how Candy loved hotel room 44, because the room came furnished with a vanity. Upon realizing that hotel room 44, where Candy frequented, was currently occupied, the ladies simply ask the hotel agent if they could go to the room to knock. When the agent refuses, there’s no pushback from anyone. It’s natural to think that the anecdote of Candy’s obsession with this room for its vanity would have introduced more of an urge for Lulu and Blanca to go back and check it out, but it doesn’t. Instead, they leave a name and number for the agent to call if something turned up about Candy. This begs the question of why hotel room 44 was mentioned in the first place. The show has already established the lengths the community (and Blanca especially) will go to support each other. Surely someone sitting behind the counter of a hotel desk could have been convinced to allow the ladies to knock on the door. It didn’t add up to have Blanca, who in prior episodes spent time plotting a way to dispose of a dead body to keep Elektra out of jail, somehow lose her gumption to press into someone to achieve something she needs for a friend. Why would Blanca leave the hotel knowing this much information?
Moments later, Blanca gets the call we expected. The hotel attendant, who was vehemently opposed to the ladies walking back to knock on the door, explains that he got “curious” after they left the hotel. Where did this curiosity come from? We saw no indication that the man had any interest in what Blanca and Lulu had to say during their request to knock. But suddenly he is interested enough to check and thus lets us know Candy’s body was indeed found in the hotel room. This leaves the question of why even have the ladies go to the hotel in the first place? This was a convenient way to tell the story but lacks a complete story arc that is expected in the departure of a fan favorite. What if Blanca didn’t take no for an answer? The story could have been told in a more dramatic way and viewers would have been more engaged in the story’s progression.
During her memorial service, more new information is presented about Candy’s relationships and presence in the community. As everyone finishes saying their goodbyes, Candy’s ghost (or what appears to be) attends the service and greets Pray Tell (Billy Porter). During their exchange, we begin to understand why he reacted to her the way he did at the balls. Whenever Candy walked a category, she always managed to square-off with Pray Tell. Whether it would be for her outfits, hair, or simply her audacity to walk in a category, their reads always seemed to be a normal part of the ball scene banter. It is surprising to hear Pray Tell share real issues he had with Candy. The confusing aspect of the telling of this story is how little distinction there is between Candy’s physical presence and her spiritual presence. We don’t see her appear, only walk into the scene with the person she is speaking to at the moment. It is unclear if everyone else in the room can see Candy’s spirit, the person she’s speaking to, or a combination of the two, but maybe we’re supposed to look over that. Not only is the coming and going of her spirit as she interacts with her peers distracting at times, but we are left without any real closure between Candy and Elektra. And where were Cubby and Lamar during the funeral?
Lulu’s breakdown at the casket uncovers yet another piece of information–Candy and Lulu’s issues with one another. Since day one, the two were presented as thick as thieves and started their house together. There was no indication the sisters were secretly at odds with one another. While all friendships have their own issues, Lulu’s meltdown in front of the casket seems more like comedic relief than mourning a loss. She narrates her meltdown mentally and goes to snatch Candy’s wig in what looks like an attempt to gag the audience. Lil Papi’s one-liner following Lulu’s exit confirms the comedic objective, but this doesn’t feel funny. We have been shown no indication of Lulu’s contention with Candy, and I have never taken Pose to be a comedy. Throughout this exchange, we are still left wondering what is physically happening versus what is occurring in some undisclosed spiritual realm.
Candy’s memorial continues with the entrance of her parents in what proves to be one of the most touching parts of the episode. We immediately understand it had been years since she last spoke them. During their tearful goodbyes, her spirit seems fully integrated. Her exchange with her parents evoked the connection widely felt in season 1 with beautifully written dialogue. As her spirit leaves and Pray Tell calls up the pallbearers, we notice Candy’s attire has changed and she rises out of the casket to perform a lipsync number in the ballroom. While I understand and appreciate the significance of having Candy take a final walk, the leap to watch her deceased body (or spirit) rising out of the casket receiving cheers and applause by the living members of the community is confusing to process. Candy’s final scenes appear to exist beyond space and time.
Killing off one of the two dark-skinned women in the cast will present a unique void that will be difficult to fill. Or, perhaps this will leave room for another mother to enter the crew (Hi, Peppermint!) to give us the fiery aura of Candy. It would also be great to see Candy be replaced by another dark-skinned transwoman, one who would be championed in the story in the likes of Blanca or Angel. To have the only dark-skinned characters foiled against the light-skinned characters is colorism that doesn’t belong on such a progressive and revolutionary show.
This season, we’ve seen Pose depart from its flowy sense of storytelling and move towards more brash presentations of dangers facing the Black queer community. While this formula leaves room to tackle multiple storylines, and takes viewers on a unique journey every episode, it is easy to leave gaps and to expose characters like Candy to a dehumanizing brutality in order to raise awareness about important issues. This decision to highlight the tragic injustices facing Black trans women by causing viewers to experience it firsthand removes the possibility of fictional art being used to reimagine something better and normalize healing and healthy experiences for Black queer people. The bold decision to have Candy killed and her body shown seems to have led the hand of the story as the episode feels more like a means to an end. Candy Ferocity held a special place in our hearts but it was difficult to process her passing while learning so much more about her all too late.