Television

P-Valley Episode 1

PVE01
P-Valley just kicked off its first season. Photosource: Starz

Right now there are a lot of unflattering reviews of the new show P-Valley that might tell you it’s not worth watching, ignore them. They’re what we like to call, haters. 

If you were hoping P-Valley would be some extended version of Hustlers, then no this show is not for you. Other than the fact that they’re both about strippers they’re aiming for two different places here. While Hustlers was about dancers banding together to redistribute the ill-gotten wealth of wall street, P-Valley demonstrates the deeply multidimensional, messy, and plain fun world of southern strippers. Since it’s a show instead of a movie, they just make you work for it a little more. 

Case in point, we open on a natural disaster that has flooded a town, a woman we don’t know finds a suitcase full of expensive shoes and clothes, not to mention a wallet and ID that probably is not hers. On the bus, we can see she has bruises as if she’s been in a fight, and for some reason she gets off at a random stop and just leaves, eventually making it to the town strip-club, the Pynk. 

Since she can’t afford the cover charge, she enters as a dancer for the Booty Challenge going on that night. Giving her name as “Autumn Night” she comes out on top, winning the challenge much to the annoyance of the veteran strippers of the club. But when she asks for a full-time job from Uncle Clifford, the club owner, the resident club star, Mercedes, makes it clear she is not welcome here and she will not last long. 

We, of course, can’t fight in Autumn’s corner on this one since everything about her is still a mystery. Using her profits, she rents out an empty apartment where she day drinks and stares at a picture of a little girl on her phone until she sadly spills liquor on the phone, losing the photo forever, and screaming in rage. This is still day one. 

Day two is not an improvement. 

Mr. Clifford is having some financial trouble keeping the bar afloat, meaning the dancers will have to tip out more from now on. But that’s not even the worst part. Besides showing up to the staff meeting late, Keyshawn, aka Miss Mississippi, shows up with a baby, a go-bag, and some telling bruises. In a tender moment, Clifford excuses the dancers to get ready and tends to her wounds while sharing his own story of domestic abuse and encouraging Keyshawn to go get her money and get away from this man. 

Yes! We love to see survivors of abuse banding together and supporting each other! Really, what more can you want?

Clifford even watches the baby for Keyshawn while she’s working. Naturally, that means he can’t babysit Autumn and show her the ropes, which leaves the task to the one and only Mercedes. Besides not being able to tell when a man is worth spending your time on, Autumn looks like a deer in the headlights next to Mercedes’ effortless knowledge of men and clearly has a lot to learn. 

When a punk rapper, Lil Murda, and his phony crew show up to the VIP club and separate the two for private dances things go south fast, Mercedes insults the rapper’s music while one of his drunk friends can’t keep his hands off of Autumn, causing Diamond, the bouncer to break them apart and throw him out as Autumn runs from the room. 

The only redeeming quality of night two is the cute photographer, named Andre, Autumn flirts with outside the club, and through whom we finally get to hear her real name, Hayley. 

Finally, we end on Mercedes’ last dance of her seven-year stripper career. This is clearly the best scene of the episode, Mercedes’ performance is literally thrilling. At one point she touches her heels to the roof of the club and slides down so quickly you almost think she’s going to land directly on her head. It will give you second-hand whiplash. 

It’s clear for Mercedes, dancing is an art form and one she’s passionate about, yet the whole dance ends on a sour note when her preacher mother shows up at the club. Calling Mercedes out in the parking lot as a sinner and a ho, this woman detests her daughter’s profession but still has no problem taking her money for the church. I’m sure we all know such hypocrites. 

The girls tip out and head home, but Andre is back and now we can see he is obviously taking pictures of Hayley. That can’t be good. 

If this hasn’t been enough of a recommendation, let me give you some more quick points to consider this series. Besides being a domestics survivor and supporting boss, Uncle Clifford is non-binary and fabulous. The bouncer Diamond is precious and besides sticking up for the girls, even offers to take care of Keyshawn’s abuser for her, which she declines. Not to mention the dialogue is breath-taking, when Mercedes’ mother warns her she’ll never meet the gates of heaven she responds “I heard hell was hella lit though.”

What more can you ask for? 

Oh, and the soundtrack is killer. 

Just keep in mind, this is not a Hustlers reboot. This is a show about the wildly different lives of women who get into stripping, and just like real-life it’s not going to be straightforward, it’s going to be complicated, humorous, maybe even a little bit sad, but also really exciting. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. 

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