[Pose Recap w/t Joe Lipsett] We Say Goodbye in "Never Knew Love Like This Before"
Episode 2.04 “Never Knew Love Like This Before”: The Ballroom community is shaken to its core when a valued member is brutally attacked.
Oooh, Joe. I do not know where to start with this episode. You told me that this episode would make up for the shit show that was “Butterfly/Cocoon” and you were right. Both episodes dealt with the plight of trans women and how dangerous and careless society is for them, but this time it actually felt meaningful and tied to the story. But before we get all serious (and because I literally do not know where to dive in) “Never Knew Love Like This Before” was an episode about solving mysteries before it got all serious.
We learn where the trophies come from (dues!). We learn how the categories are determined (The Counsel of MCs!). We learn why there are no lip sync categories (not on Pray Tell’s watch!). But most importantly...we get an answer to the most looming question of them all: the name of one of those house-hopping twinks. His name...is Lemar. Lemar Wintour née Evangelista née Ferocity.
Levity aside, we find our heroes dealing with the thought of mortality. Nurse Judy and Blanca make another plea to Pray Tell to start AZT, but his “holistic” approach to healing involves eating a pound of butter and essential minerals a day to raise his T cells. I don’t think that works and neither do Judy and Blanca - who call his choices voodoo. He needs a wake up call, but this episode was not the phone I wanted to pick up.
Which brings us to the meat of the episode. Our poor Candy girl. The proud, overly confident and ready-to-stab-a-bitch Candy goes missing and unfortunately ends up dead. I’ll be honest, Joe: until we saw the inside of the coffin, I thought for sure it wouldn’t be her. That it was a mistake. But Pose had other plans. What did you think of the way the episode sent her off? Were you surprised? How do we dissect such an important episode?
I won’t lie: before this heart wrenching episode descended into terrible sadness, fantastic monologues and emotional performances, I was really happy to get some closure about so many of my outstanding Ball questions! Oh, if only the episode had stayed there!
Regarding Candy…it’s very strange, isn’t it? I had the exact same reaction as you.
I had myself convinced that there was absolutely, positively no way that Candy was dead. I was sure that it was a case of mistaken identity, or that the series was pulling a bait and switch on viewers. And then that dawning moment of realization when you realize what writer Janet Mock and Pose have committed to...it’s quite the gut punch.
Part of it is that Candy is in the first part of the episode, and then suddenly she’s just gone. It’s abrupt. It’s a little surreal. And then we’re at her funeral and it feels otherworldly...not least of all because Ghost Candy is there giving out heartfelt advice, accepting condolences and generally making amends. It’s a very tricky/odd balance and while Mock mostly manages to strike the right tone, I’ll confess that for a hot second I was very concerned that we had entered into “Very Special Episode” territory.
In some ways, we have. This is, as you point out, the second episode in a row to deal with the dangers of living while trans, and in a way it’s nearly strategic for Pose to follow through on the threat of violence that was introduced in the last episode.
Am I beyond disappointed that human firecracker Caaaaaaandy (please read in extreme Pray Tell voice) is the one we’ve lost? Absolutely...but it’s what Pose needed to do to make the hurt real. Obviously the writers would never get rid of Elektra or Blanca or Angel, so in a way, it could only have been Candy. Who else was left?
This echoes back to the way that the season opened: with an extremely political, pointed critique of how deeply the AIDS crisis affected the community. This is a stark reminder that life wasn’t all Balls and modelling contracts. What’s most upsetting about Candy’s violent death is that the situation hasn’t actually gotten any better; trans people are still the most vulnerable and at-risk and they continue to be murdered at exponentially higher rates. Candy’s arc is a narrative for the show to explore, but this is also an unflinching reality for trans people in 2019. And that’s fucking scary.
Terry, which part of the aftermath hit you the hardest? Did you like getting the chance to say goodbye to Candy onscreen one last time? And how does Pose recover any kind of lightness or spectacle in the wake of such a dark episode?
It seems like we had a lot of the same thoughts and fears as the episode started to unfold. At first, when I realized that the rest of the episode was going to be the funeral, I was kind of annoyed, to be honest. I was afraid that we’d get a Murphy trademark Special Episode. It was those episodes that ruined Glee for me and I didn’t want to see a story about a very real problem turn into schmaltz.
So I think it’s to Janet Mock’s credit that the story managed to balance melodrama with humor and actual tenderness. A couple moments dip their toes a little too far; I’m thinking the mom’s willful misgendering and Lulu’s funny-but-a-bit-too-much attack of the body. These two characters felt like “characters” at that moment and not real people, even though I understand that they are rooted in very real reactions. It’s a weird balancing act, as you mention. But every time I thought things were going in a direction that would make me roll my eyes, it pivoted and instead hit me. It takes a lot to get me to cry at a television show, but the moment when Ghost Candy talks to her father and has a very real moment, it broke my heart and had me teary-eyed. I loved the way it was centered on a single item: a dollhouse that meant too much to young Candy and signified a father’s acceptance.
I do think that Candy’s death will leave a pall over the show for at least another episode. The title of the next episode appears to be “What Would Candy Do?” and I sincerely hope that the show doesn’t just drop her importance. I’ll be curious to see how the resulting episodes handle this transition because while this show is a drama about the realities of living as a queer person in the 80s/90s, it needs to have that lightness or else it will just devolve into Sadness Porn.
But lest we get too dark ourselves, what did you think of the Ball’s acceptance of lip syncing and Candy’s final send-off? How did you feel about the ghostly conversations? And did you see the teaser for next week’s episode that finally might put the spotlight back on the recently sidelined Ricky?
We are very firmly in agreement about how Ghost Candy was used. I was very worried when she initially showed up because it just seemed so ridiculous, so kudos to Angelica Ross for grounding this performance and finding the humanity in Candy’s final interactions. I quite liked her conversation with Lulu outside after things had cooled down because it acknowledged something that has always bothered/worried me about funerals: people become martyrs and saints, when the reality is that we’re all flawed human beings. We don’t have to all get along to deserve life, love and happiness and that’s ok!
As for the introduction of “Candy’s Sweet Refrain”, the name given to the newly integrated lip synch category of the Ball, I think it’s on the nose, but ultimately very sweet. The Ball sequences on this show have always been ostentatious and a little ridiculous, so it’s quite fitting to see stripper-esque pallbearers carry Candy, dressed like Diana Ross, in for a glamourous final rendition of Stephanie Mills’ titular “Never Knew Love Like This.” It’s very much the right note for an episode so weighed down in tragedy to end on. 10s across the board to you, Candy!
The teaser for next week is...intriguing? This will be the first episode this season that I’ve seen live (we’ve caught up with the pre-air episodes that FX made available), so I don’t know how much plot will be dedicated to recent events compared to the rivalry between Damon and Ricky. But the return of those muscles and that face does have me excited. Of this, I cannot lie!
Next week: “What Would Candy Do?” looks to bring back Joe’s fave with a vengeance. We’ll hop back over to Joe’s site to continue the drama.