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Episode 6: Perestroika: Heaven, I’m in Heaven
HBO  ·  76 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: December 14, 2003

Directed by: Mike Nichols  |  Written by: Tony Kushner

Official synopsis: A fight with Joe leaves Louis badly scarred; Roy plays a final practical joke on Ethel; Prior wrestles the Angel and then addresses a review board in Heaven; Harper heads out West; Prior, outliving his diagnosis, pays a visit to his favorite angel and vows to keep living–free of secrets.

Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by The Paley Center for Media

Nurse Emily scolds Prior for taking poor care of himself, telling him to “stop moving.” Prior blurts out to Hannah that he has seen an angel, and Hannah tells him about Joseph Smith’s similar vision many years ago, explaining the power of desire combined with prayer. He asks her about prophets and what would happen if he were to refuse his charge, requesting that she stay with him, as he finds her comforting. Louis returns to his apartment late at night and, finding Joe there. He angrily confronts him about his questionable “sense of decency,” saying that he has researched Joe’s work with the conservative, vindictive Roy and his many immoral and anti-gay legislation. Louis says that he is furious at Joe’s deception. Joe tries to defend himself, but the argument escalates into a fight and Joe strikes Louis and runs out, shocked at himself. Roy takes a turn for the worse and Ethel arrives, happily informing him that the panel, made up of lawyers who hate him and know of his true sexuality, have ruled against him and disbarred him. She admits that she cannot forgive him for his actions against her and is taking pleasure in his suffering; he seemingly mistakes her for his mother and admits that he is scared and sorry. Ethel softens and comforts him as he dies, but he then triumphantly declares that he has tricked her and merely wanted to make her “sing.” He then dies for real, witnessed by Belize, who quickly confiscates all of his ill-gotten AZT.

Hannah sits at Prior’s bedside and is terrified when the angel appears again. Prior tries to reject the holy text she has given him, and Hannah tells him that, according to scripture, he must wrestle her and demand her blessing. He does so, and they struggle furiously before a flaming ladder descends from above and the angel declares that he has won and must return the text to heaven itself. The angel adds that he will have the choice to return to Earth or not. He climbs, and Hannah falls to her knees before the angel, who soundly kisses her before departing. Belize brings Louis to Roy’s hotel room and asks him to smuggle the AZT out of the hospital, then saying that they must “thank” Roy by saying the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. Louis is appalled, as he finds the heartless Roy to be beyond reproach. Belize convinces him and Louis haltingly says the prayer, aided by Ethel. Prior explores heaven and comes across a group of seven casually-dressed angels, representing the world’s seven continents, and he returns the text to them, telling them that humanity cannot cease its progress and that God is not coming back. They urge him to stay in heaven and avoid further suffering; he declares that he “wants more life” and will find hope despite everything. Prior returns to Earth and his hospital bed.

Later, Prior awakens to find Belize, Nurse Emily, and Hannah by his side, saying that he has had a “remarkable dream.” Louis arrives, bearing the bruises that Prior sarcastically requested, and gives Prior a bottle of Roy’s AZT. The others leave, and Louis admits that he “failed at love” but still cares for him; Prior says that he loves Louis as well, but that they cannot be together. Harper leaves Joe, demanding his credit card and saying that he can track her through her purchases. Though he begs her to stay, she tells him to “go exploring.” Hannah encounters a Mennonite choir on the street and then finds Joe, suggesting that she is beginning to accept him. Harper boards a plane and excitedly talks about observing the ozone and departed souls in the sky, relieved to be starting over. Five years later, in January 1990, Belize, Louis, and Prior meet with Hannah at Bethesda Fountain, all discussing politics. Prior talks about his love of the park in all its seasons, and Louis and Belize chime in on the story of the Bethesda angel and its meaning. Prior then declares that he intends to survive his illness and that those living with HIV/AIDS will soon be seen as true “citizens,” offering his blessing and his wishes for “more life.”

Guest Cast: Brian Markinson (Martin Heller), Robin Weigert (Mormon Mother), James Cromwell (Roy’s Doctor), Melissa Wilder (Louis’s Sister), David Zayas (Super), Fatima Da Silva (Cousin Doris), Flotilla Debarge (Singer in Church), Sterling Brown (Orderly), Florence Kastriner (Louis’ Mother), Lisa LeGuillou (Nurse), Howard Pinhasik (Louis’ Father), Shawn Bartels, Brian Dougherty, Mary Esbjornson, Barbara Fusco, Serafina Martino, Steven Edward Moore, Christopher Schuman, Reldalee Wagner, Matthew Yohn (Mennonite Choir Members)