HOLLYWOOD—This is a TV show unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a series to say the least America. I’m talking about the Starz series “P-Valley.” I would love to tell you the actual title, but this is a family-friendly column, so you’d have to Google if you want to know what the ‘P’ stands for people.
I stumbled upon this series during the pandemic and I literally watched every episode in a single day. It was eight episodes for its first season, but wowza, you get hooked immediately. This series created by Katori Hall is all about the stripper world, but it is not what you think. Yes, there is indeed nudity and stripping, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. You actually have this clashing of these characters stories that just has the stripper world as a backdrop for the mayhem that is taking place in the fictional town of Chucalissa, Mississippi. Yes, I actually googled the city because I wanted to know if it was real or not.
When the audience first settles into the series we meet a woman named Hailey Cotton (Elarica Johnson), who has just survived an unspeakable tragedy. Her daughter was killed during a major hurricane and she just has pictures of her on her phone as a memory. As the first season plays out, we learn Hailey is keeping secrets people and they are big ones. She has been running from an abusive lover, who has been hunting her down.
Why? She stole tons of his money and he wants every penny of it back. More on that later, as we have to shift our focus to the incredible Brandi who portrays Mercedes, the HBIC (another acronym that you need to Google people) at the Pynk, the infamous strip club owned and run by Uncle Clifford portrayed by the amazing Nicco Annan. Mercedes and Uncle Clifford could not be more different, but similar at the same time. Mercedes is a veteran in the stripper world and people come all over the country to see her, but she is looking to exit the scene to open her own dance studio and has been saving her money for quite some time to make that happen.
Uncle Clifford on the other hand is a non-binary character, who is fabulous in every way. He speaks his mind, he does not apologize for anything and he takes care of his workers even if it ends up biting him in the butt later. Uncle Clifford is in a major financial bind as the Pynk has fallen behind on property taxes and is on the verge of being sold.
Throughout this mayhem we meet other core characters in the drama like Keyshawn (Shannon Thornton) who is known as Miss Mississippi. She is in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Derrick, whom everyone knows about, but Keyshawn keeps running back to him. The one person hoping to get Keyshawn to see the light is Diamond (Tyler Lepley), who portrays the bouncer/security guard at the Pynk. He shows a liking to Keyshawn, but she really never gives him the time of day people. Other key players include Andre Watkins (Parker Sawyers), Patrice Woodbine (Harriet D. Foy), Big L (Morocco Omari) and LaMarques aka Lil Murda (J Alphonse Nicholson).
All characters in their own right, as Andre is hoping to sleuth in and snatch up the Pynk property for his godfather, Mayor Tydell Ruffin (Isiah Washington). Patrice is Mercedes’ bible totting religious mother who thinks what her daughter does is filthy, yet, this woman is not as Christian as you think. She took her daughter’s money and used it to buy a building of her own to open a church. Talk about devastation, I can see why Mercedes put a beating on her mother that landed them both in jail.
Then we have to talk about Lil Murda, who is an up and coming rapper who sparks a relationship with Uncle Clifford. The problem is Lil Murda is still in the closet and hasn’t fully come out regarding his sexuality so he balances dual personas one that is expected to act tough and mighty, another who is soft and wants to pursue a relationship with Uncle Clifford, but realizes he’s made some mistakes that are not going to be easy to come back from.
Trust, I know it’s a lot for a backstory, but you need to know what is going on to understand where season two is headed. At the end of season one, Hailey’s boyfriend found her at the Pynk and demanded his money, but a scuffle between Mercedes and Hailey led to Uncle Clifford intervening and Montavius was shot dead. There is one little problem: the audience had no idea who pulled the trigger until the most recent episode in season two. The audience discovered it was Mercedes, and as a result she suffered a serious injury to her shoulder that has impacted her moves on the pole.
In addition, Hailey purchased the Pynk for $250,000 hoodwinking Andre, Tydell and the developers who wanted to demolish the Pynk in their efforts to build a casino in Chucalissa. Talk about gentrification people that is just one of the several themes this series tackles in addition to the plight of African-Americans in a small town, race, sex, gender, economic disparity and so much more. So Hailey and Uncle Clifford are now partners as we enter season two and to be honest Hailey is the boss, Uncle Clifford still runs things behind and in front of the camera people.
Keyshawn no longer works at the Pynk after Derrick and Diamond got into an epic brawl that led to gunfire after Derrick called Diamond a racial slur. The fact that Keyshawn pulled that gun on Diamond still baffles me. This guy was beating your ass and you stay loyal to him for what? Now he has you locked in the house where you’re showcasing your talents on a YouTube or Only Fans page where it’s so clear that Keyshawn wants to escape, but she is terrified for her life and that of her children.
The Coronavirus is explored in the opening of the second season, where the Pynk had to get beyond creative to keep business going by turning into a carwash on the outside with actual strippers cleaning vehicles. It blew my socks away, but during the pandemic all sorts of crazy things happened for businesses to stay open and to stay afloat people. The pandemic is hitting all of our core characters hard, money is tight, people are dying and dynamics have changed massively between our core group; people have splintered. Those that were once close are not so close, that weren’t close are much closer and those who shined before are seeing dimmer lights as new faces get a bit of glimmer in the limelight. That includes new strippers and old strippers to say the least.
It feels like a bulk of the drama will revolve once again around Andre and his client Corbin Kyle (Dan J. Johnson) in his quest to purchase the Pynk in hopes of establishing new amenities and business ventures on the small town. That might be helped by the new Mayor of Chucalissa who is looking to honor Tydell’s wishes. Something is telling me we might see Uncle Clifford throw his ring in the hat to become Mayor of Chucalissa. The character is well liked by everyone and those petitions were signed courtesy of their doing so becoming mayor is not the long shot it appears people.
If that wasn’t enough drama, Lil Murda and Keyshawn are about to go on tour in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, that’s what several characters echoed during the last episode as well. Only 3 episodes in and the drama is hot, I can only imagine what other surprises are in store for audiences. New episode of “P-Valley” air Sundays at 10 p.m. on Starz.