Sunday, May 16, 2021

REVIEW: 'Pose' - Pray Tell Reflects on His Past While Trying to Make Peace with His Family in 'Take Me to Church'

FX's Pose - Episode 3.04 "Take Me to Church"

After a startling health update, Pray Tell returns home to reconnect with his birth family.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of FX's Pose.

"Take Me to Church" was written by Janet Mock, Steven Canals & Brad Falchuk and directed by Janet Mock

Pray Tell has been HIV positive for six years. He has been living with this disease. He has always understood it to be a death sentence. He has attended countless funerals. His community is being struck down by this disease and the world has done nothing to change that. People are willing to condemn the community by believing this disease is justice for their sinful ways. It's despicable. It's why so many in this community leave home in search of families who better understand them. Pray's story is similar in that way. And now, he knows that the end is imminent. All it takes are night sweats and a mysterious lump to confirm that diagnosis. Blanca and Judy are willing to fight on his behalf. They are his family. They are there for him every step of the way. This isn't the first health setback he has encountered. It won't be the last either. It's the one that puts in stark terms how much life he has left to live. He is accepting of that. He has had time to process this diagnosis. HIV doesn't necessarily have to be seen as a death sentence. Advances have been made. That's not the future Pray envisioned for himself. Blanca and the other members of his chosen family have been able to convince him to fight for the best life he could live. He shouldn't settle for wallowing in self pity. He has accepted that as well. He is no longer drinking his cares away. He got the treatment necessary for him to walk around this world and be completely present. This diagnosis serves as a wake-up call to everything that he still has left to do. That includes returning home to Pittsburgh and confronting all the dynamics he left behind all those years ago. People's lives in this community have changed. However, their views on sexual orientation and gender expression are still just as bigoted as ever. The Black church is inspired by and praises Pray's musical talents. That was true when he was a teenager. It's true in the present as well. He moves everyone in the crowd. It's a stirring performance. But it also comes as a stamp of approval for everything the church embodies. Pray was betrayed by his community. He was cast out because he was gay. His family didn't deliver that ultimatum. His church signaled that he was no longer welcome. He had to repent and change his ways. That was the only way he would be guaranteed salvation. That's all that everyone is concerned about. They care about his soul. They don't believe he will be protected and loved in the next life if he doesn't conform to their religion now. Everyone is so strong in their beliefs as well. Pray coming out to his family was perceived as a personal betrayal. One that didn't symbolize vitriol in the same way that other stories have portrayed. And yet, it was enough for Pray to know that he wasn't free and happy in this place.

Pray still reflects on the past. He sees all the beautiful memories here. He returns wanting to forgive his family for everything that happened. In order for that to happen, they have to admit to their own personal failings. It takes so much effort for that to happen. Charlene breaks down and grows isolated. Pray is concerned for his mother. He doesn't want to shy away from his identity or what the future holds for him. He wants to feel loved. He wants to be accepted. He wants to forgive for the actions taken in the past. He understands that everyone was just trying their best. They are only human. They made mistakes. Some people still desperately want to rewrite the past. Pray can't live in that ignorance. He has seen the happiness that can come from true acceptance. He has that in New York with his chosen family. He prays and is thankful for a loving and kind God. In Pittsburgh, everyone is still grappling with what it means to accept one's differences and celebrate them. Ebony is still trying to convince herself that there is something she can do to make her husband aroused by her. Their marriage is troubled because he's gay. Seeing Pray again is all it takes to stir up these feelings for Pastor Vernon. He falls in love with the fantasy. They could run away together and have a happy bookend to the love story they have. Pray sees it all for what it truly is. Vernon is a man providing false hope because he doesn't truly love and accept himself. He hides behind what the world pressures him to be. He is confined by these societal pressures. He has formed a family. No one is happy though. They are simply putting on a show. One that seems loving. It's not genuine though. Pray still holds onto that hope and love in the end. Vernon doesn't go to New York with him. He stays behind in this life. This is the end for Pray's chapter in Pittsburgh. He does everything necessary to ensure his final wishes are known and accepted. Jada gives him that peace and clarity. He had to make this return. He couldn't die without having these conversations and seeing the life he escaped. He gets to perform. People are amazed by him. He is incredible. He is deserving of love and compassion. He has his own understanding of a higher power. That gives him purpose and meaning too. That should be respected. That understanding is found even though these triumphant moments may be short-lived. Pray sees that coming. As such, he appreciates them as they occur right now while planing for everyone to always carry around a little piece of him. That inspires him even though he is still terrified of the end coming. He knows he'll be just another number of those who died from this disease that so many are still too willing to ignore. His life matters and deserves to be seen. It can be grueling at times. It can be joyful too. All of that is on display during this trip as well as the peace of when he returns home to New York and his chosen family.