Friday, June 3, 2022

REVIEW: 'P-Valley' - The Pynk Struggles to Adjust Its Business in the Wake of a Pandemic Shutdown in 'Pussyland'

Starz's P-Valley - Episode 2.01 "Pussyland"

Still reeling from the events of Murda Night, the Pynk family faces off against a new foe: Rona.

"Pussyland" was written by Katori Hall and directed by Barbara Brown

The first season of P-Valley aired during the summer of 2020. And now, the second season is set in the summer of 2020. It dives in entirely on the Pynk adjusting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, plenty of people can question if any storyteller has the necessary perspective to tell engaging stories about how the pandemic changed absolutely everything in our world. Of course, many shows have tried. So many of them were required to do so in order to simply start filming again. They had to create safe precautions on set to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. Those restrictions produced some interesting achievements. It forced the industry to reflect on new ways to depict its stories. Overall, not much has changed. As such, one may not have high hopes for this show embracing a story that has been so dominant in the lives of those watching. Everyone wants the pandemic to be over. Instead, the world has simply adjusted to waves of variants. It's not back to normal. People want to continually profess that it is. That may never be obtainable again. That's nothing new for the communities that didn't have it great before the pandemic struck. The first season detailed how the population of Chucalissa welcomed development of their town only to realize that none of them would receive any of the actual benefits. Developers are still trying to get a casino built. They are fighting over this land. Clifford refused to sell the Pynk. When the lot was put up for auction, Hailey had the resources to buy it. And then, the coronavirus hit. As such, the money has mostly disappeared just to keep everyone afloat. It's inspired to see the Pynk embrace drive-in strip shows. They even play into the imagery of a car wash. That has long been a powerful visual meant to demonstrate the inherent sexuality of women. This show still finds a way to make it all empowering. It's still absolutely brutal on the bodies of the performers. Mercedes' shoulder is messed up after carrying the show for five months. She doesn't have the luxury of seeing a doctor either. She has to keep working. She can't allow anything to derail her. The virus has already done enough of that. The entire crew celebrates when Mississippi announces the end of lockdown. They can return to the environment that was once so lucrative for them. However, secrets still linger throughout the building. Hailey can still see Montavius' blood on the wall. The vicious cycle continues. No one wants to risk anything. They don't want to lose what matters the most to them. This community has been conditioned to always aspire for more. None of that can become a reality. And so, they are stuck in the depressing reality that has always been present for them.

It can all be too depressing to watch. People embrace what's known to them. Everyone is continually struggling because that's the only life they've ever know. They can't take a risk with something new. That could jeopardize what little stability they have. That's the cyclical nature of these lives. They run into the same problems over and over again. Keyshawn can't leave her abusive baby daddy. She fears what he'll do to her. She even defends him too. She made that choice. She's also apologetic when forced to confront Diamond again. He doesn't work at the Pynk anymore. That's what makes their encounter so unexpected. Keyshawn believes she can walk through this world with special privilege. She doesn't have that power though. She has to worry about the well-being of others too. She retreats to the comfort of caring for her child. That instinct is always right. It remains the core of who she is. She desperately wants to escape to an adoring crowd once again. It's dangerous for Keyshawn and Lil Murda to tour. It's not safe. It's all about what they need in this moment. They have to feel energized and excited. This is the only way they know how to do so. The rest of their lives are simply deflecting from their true feelings. They are running away instead of embracing their authenticity. Clifford always leads with that confidence. People shame him all over this town. So many respect him as well. He gets things done. He provides the temptation that everyone needs. He's still not great at managing money. Hailey was suppose to fix those issues. Instead, the club is right back to near financial ruin. Part of that can be blamed on the pandemic. No one could have planned for that. Moreover, people in the community want to downplay just how severe it is. It affects them personally. It's always seen through the lens of what they are losing as a result. It's not about the threat to personal health. It's centered around the loss. Mercedes has a dance studio with no kids willing to come take classes from her. Clifford and Hailey took a stand for what this community wanted to be. And now, they're on the verge of irrelevance once more. It may still be a tempting offer to sell the land. Hailey is now the one in charge. She gets to make that decision. She hopes to impress the community by what she has learned about Chucalissa. She is still an outsider who may always value a good deal over what's right for the local community. People are always running these schemes. They are hustling just to survive. Right now, that struggle is simply more profound because of how the world shut down. Even in opening up again, they have no guarantees of prosperity. The heart and soul of the Pynk may be gone. The people are still there trying to make it work. They put in that work every day. It's inspiring even as so many of their struggles are familiar to what has always kept them down.