P-Valley: Come for the dancers, stay for the drama

By Bianca Coleman25 October 2022

P-Valley: Come for the dancers, stay for the drama

First of all, what happened during P-Valley Season 1 that necessitated a flashing-light warning at the beginning of every episode in Season 2? Besides the obvious, which is that flashing lights are a fixture of the nightclub where the series is set.

It would not be precisely correct to call The Pynk in Chucalissa, a fictional small town in Mississippi, a strip club because the dancers don’t actually do much of that (except in the private rooms, and there is female nudity throughout, which is necessary for credibility); the action on the main floor is pole dancing. More about that below.

In Season 1, we were introduced to the mysterious Autumn Night (Elarica Johnson), who arrives in Chucalissa under the darkness of night following a hurricane. She has a couple of other names too, and there is tragedy in her past. She washes up at The Pynk, owned and run by the glorious Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan). Headliner Mercedes Woodbine (Brandee Evans) is on the verge of retiring from the pole, and Miss Mississippi aka Keyshawn Harris (Shannon Thornton) is on the verge of fame. This is the ear-worm: her theme song is Mississippi Pride by J Alphonse Nicholson, who plays newcomer rapper Lil Murda. 

Watch the trailer for P-Valley Season 1

With Season 2 of P-Valley now streaming, here’s a quick recap of what you need to know about Season 1: Lil Murda and Uncle Clifford are a secret item; Keyshawn’s baby daddy Derrick (Jordan M Cox) smacks her around; bouncer Diamond (Tyler Lepley) doesn’t like this because he likes Keyshawn; Big L (Morocco Omari) is Uncle Clifford’s right-hand man but he’s side hustling drugs with Duffy (Dominic DeVore), boyfriend of the token white dancer Gidget (Skyler Joy); Mercedes’s mother Patrice (Harriett D Foy) is a loud Christian with questionable motives and zero morals and we hate her for how she sabotages her daughter; and Andre (Parker Sawyers) seems like a Nice Guy at first but he’s working with a big development company to buy The Pynk – or steal it if necessary – for the land to build a casino.

There was no shortage of drama in the first outing but it ramps up to almost unbearable levels in Season 2. The relationship between Uncle Clifford and Lil Murda is an audacious one given the context of hip hop culture filled with machismo, drip, and twerking (there’s a lot of that too). It’s also beautifully handled; there is no doubt about the feels and the conflict between public and private personas, and if you’re not rooting for them, you have no heart. Acceptance where it matters most is the way it should be but so often isn’t.

Watch the trailer for P-Valley Season 2

In Season 2 we also get Keyshawn’s back story and how she met Derrick; Patrice runs for mayor and so does Andre; and Autumn/Hailey is now co-owner of The Pynk (no spoilers for those who are still going to watch Season 1, because that final episode was hectic) which puts Uncle Clifford’s nose out of joint as they frequently clash.

The Pynk is a family business stretching back generations but for Hailey it’s just about the money. The casino people are still relentlessly pursuing the prime waterfront property, while Keyshawn and Lil Murda go on tour in a gold hearse with a mirrored ceiling. No time for questions about that – just watch it.

More reasons to watch P-Valley Seasons 1 and 2

P Valley S1 on Showmax

1. The pole dancing

This is beyond incredible. The athleticism, core body strength, and grace are jaw dropping. Brandee Evans (Mercedes) did some of her own stunts, and respect to her. CheatSheet has more on this. Even Uncle Clifford gets on the pole in Season 2, as does Patrice, but with limited success in terms of agility. She is a bit old for it.  It’s a massive component of the show and every scene is spectacular. 

2. Uncle Clifford

“As house mother and diva extraordinaire Uncle Clifford—who identifies as non-binary and uses she/her pronouns—Annan (he/him) channels the soul of the show, empathetic and fierce, as the strip club owner leads the dancers of the Pynk through the physical and emotional trials of the life with the help of her oft-quoted ‘Uncle Clifford rules.’ Rule number one: Let the stage be your stepping stone, not your tombstone.” – Elle.

Those rule numbers get a bit blurry by Season 2 but it’s a subtle writing device that makes Uncle Clifford more human, more vulnerable. That’s more apparent in other areas, like her relationship with Lil Murda. Uncle Clifford is highly sensitive, empathetic and compassionate – even if she does call the dancers “heifers”. To their faces. While gesticulating with impeccably manicured hands with death-defying acrylic nails.

3. The music video insert in Season 2, episode 3

This episode is worth watching for the creative and stylistic music video insert around minute 18 alone. This goes hand in hand with number 4, below.

4. The costumes

Think: dancers clad in teeny sparkling things and floss. Feel free to look that up on Urban Dictionary but you’ll soon pick up its meaning while watching the show as it becomes pretty self explanatory. The fashion, oh chile the fashion – channel Uncle Clifford’s voice – and not just her flamboyant outfits and killer heels.

“The show is rich in symbolism for those who care to look. And nothing is more emblematic of that than the fashion choices this season,” says Los Angeles Times.

5. The drama

Some cringy lines notwithstanding – when Andre takes a call from his wife while Autumn is grinding on his lap and he says “No, stay there. I’ll be right up… dear” -the drama in Season 2 is popcorn-worthy non-stop, and by this time, we’re much more invested in the characters so it’s intense. Plus there are new players in the game, like Farrah (Shamika Cotton), wife of Coach (Sherman Augustus), Mercedes’s regular who makes her an offer she can’t refuse; a few new troublemakers at The Pynk; and something which blossoms on the road with Lil Murda while he’s sending romantic postcards to Uncle Clifford back home.

Sometimes all a person needs to say is “You look beautiful in red”…

Oh, and did we mention the pole dancing?

All episodes of P-Valley Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Showmax.

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