Sunday, July 12, 2020

REVIEW: 'P-Valley' - Autumn Auditions for a Strip Club Where Mercedes Reigns Supreme in 'Perpetratin'

Starz's P-Valley - Episode 1.01 "Perpetratin'"

Autumn Night, a mysterious beauty with a harrowing past, washes up on the shores of the Pynk seeking employment. Mercedes Sundayz, a night headlined by the club's OG, brings unexpected trouble from a number of patrons.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Starz's P-Valley.

"Perpetratin'" was written by Katori Hall and directed by Karena Evans

This drama immediately opts for atmosphere over plot. That isn't inherently a bad decision either. In fact, it's actually a noble goal because it aspires to take back the strip club environment following decades of how it has stereotypically been portrayed in prestige television. Those expectations have to be bucked immediately because the audience is aware that any grim and dark show sets some kind of seedy or disparaging action in a strip joint. In fact, the premiere of P-Valley aired after the finale of Hightown, which featured a character who worked at a strip club and fell in love with a john in the way that a viewer would typically expect in this kind of story. That may be on the horizon with this version of the story as well. However, it approaches the material in a more thoughtful and earnest way. It depicts a town in economic collapse. This isn't a city full of prosperity and opportunity. Instead, it's a broken down locale of small town USA. The average citizen is struggling to get by. The economic realities seem to be crushing the communities of color. Plus, all it takes is one act of natural disaster to completely destroy life for someone. Autumn Night may take on many identities over the course of this hour. She remains an enigma as well. She is someone who becomes immediately successful at the Pynk largely because of her lighter skin tone. That is recognized by the women who have been working there for years and have built up their reputations. Autumn enters an amateur contest and walks away with an actual job. This is the place where she has landed after her whole life has seemingly been washed away. It's one positioned as offering prosperity. She kills it on the stage. And yet, her life is being held together in the hotel where she is currently staying. Her phone is the only connection to her past. It's a connection she wants to keep alive. One mistake with a liquid though offers nothing but destruction. That seems to be the overall theme throughout this story. This town comes alive at night when the Pynk is packed. The regulars have crowds of adoring fans. They feel safe and protected. Clifford cares for them possibly to the detriment of his own bottom line. The bouncers offer support whenever it's needed. And yet, a competitive spirit exists at all moments. It's not a camaraderie of broken souls who have found each other. Instead, it's offering sympathy for a brief moment over an injury before complaining about Mississippi not finishing her set. Someone has to go on in her place. The outside worlds for these ladies are complicated and often broken. They are allowed to dream. Mercedes understands that she can't be a success as a stripper forever. She will be replaced by someone younger and more talented at some point. She remains at the top for now. She is tasked with teaching Autumn the ropes of this business. It is overwhelming for Autumn. For Mercedes, it's just as arduous. Part of it is performance. It's a piece of art that showcases her physicality and athleticism. The crowd sexualizes her. But the show itself puts her front and center. The viewer should be in awe of her skills on the pole and terrified about one misstep leading to dangerous consequences. Money is fleeting throughout this world. Clifford is behind on his payments and needs to start taking more for the various deeds done throughout his club. Mercedes' mother pleads with God for clarity on where she went wrong. Mercedes knows that giving her money is the only way to make her go away. That's emotionally devastating and draining for her when she wants support despite this being a less than desirable job. Lil Murda has the cash to make it rain for whatever he desires. His friends cause nothing but trouble. He finds enjoyment with Clifford though. So fundamentally, the Pynk offers some hope. But the brutal realities of this work are always seeping through the edges of the story. It's an environment full of abuse. Mississippi has injuries from the pole and from her abusive partner. She does everything to best support her baby. All of this overwhelmingly reveals these characters are simply trying their best in a part of the world that has been forgotten about. People don't care about them. But they immediately grab the attention of the viewers who will want to spend more time in this world with its colorful and moody displays of physical talent and social commentary on the decay of rural America.