P-Valley has all the ingredients to be a compelling slice of life drama depicting the lives of an interesting group of characters. With some nice foundational work but an abundance of musical montages that feel unnecessarily long, it remains to be seen whether this series can back up its promising start with some tight-knit character writing over the weeks. For now though, the show gets off to a relatively good start.
After a brief introduction, we skip forward to Dirty Delta and a strip joint known as P-Valley. This is the setting for episode 1 as Mercedes is next up on stage after Keyshawn takes a nasty blow to the face. Mercedes certainly won’t stand for that nonsense though and as she dances for a client, he gets a little too grabby and finds himself slung out onto the street.
The owner of our strip joint is the lovable drag queen Uncle Clifford, who arrives and rallies the girls ready for the Booty Battle taking place that evening. Out back, a new girl called Autumn Night arrives just as Mercedes decides to hand her notice in.
Up on stage, Autumn starts dancing and immediately quells the doubters, winning the competition while flashes of the past show the abuse she’s been suffering from in the past. With Mercedes leaving the joint, there’s a position open and Autumn takes full advantage of that to enter the club.
This sets up the drama to come as we learn more about our central cast of characters. Mercedes is a dance teacher by day, with a church-going Mother whom she lends money to periodically. With her stripper days coming to an end, there’s one final blow-out lined up.
Keyshawn meanwhile is stuck in an abusive relationship and arrives at the club with her baby and a bloodied nose. Andre does his best to empower the down-and-out girl but it’s clear there’s a lot of baggage going on and stripping appears to be her way out.
Uncle Clifford is less than the positive ray of sunshine he seems too. The club is not doing well financially and he’s forced into making some difficult changes around the club moving forward.
One of those sees Mercedes forced to teach Autumn the ropes. As she shows her around that night, we learn more about the clientele and how to pick the ones with the most amount of money.
As the night draws on, Mercedes turns her attention to an up-and-coming rapper in VIP called Lil Murda. After calling him out for the amount of stacks he has, she recruits Autumn to join her in VIP where the duo dance for him. Midway through though things get a little too wild, ending in Autumn getting hit and heading out back to catch her breath.
Once there, she runs into a photographer called Andre and after some back and forth, admits to him that her name is actually Hailey. As she heads back inside the club, our night culminates in Mercedes performing her final number but she notices her Mother watching in the crowd.
Unfortunately this spills over into a pretty devastating confrontation out in the parking lot as they come to blows over her stripping. Eventually Mercedes is guilt-tripped into handing over her money.
As the night comes to a close, our different girls head home while Autumn stands out front of the club, unbeknownst to her that watchful eyes sit in a car nearby.
The Review Write-Up
Given I’m not from the area I can’t comment on how well P-Valley nails the accents but in terms of character and individual back stories, there’s enough here to make for an intriguing set-up going forward.
The introduction of Autumn acts as our gateway into this world and the clever way of delivering exposition through teaching her the ropes is a simple but effective tool to get us invested and understand the inner workings of the club.
If there’s one critique though it comes from the amount of music depicted across this hour. Several times the show starts to dive into the fears and issues our girls are facing but instead we pull back to a rap music montage that feels like something ripped right from MTV. Hopefully that will change going forward though as there’s definitely some positive signs ahead for this series
The characters are interesting too and seeing the contrast between the day and night lives for our different workers, along with stripping being shown as an empowering job rather than something to look down on, is certainly a welcome inclusion. For now, P-Valley gets off to a promising start.