Sunday, June 12, 2022

REVIEW: 'P-Valley' - Refusing to Trust Anyone Creates Dangerous Circumstances for Mercedes in 'Seven Pounds of Pressure'

Starz's P-Valley - Episode 2.02 "Seven Pounds of Pressure"

While The Pynk staff prepares for their biggest night yet, Uncle Clifford reaches a personal milestone.

"Seven Pounds of Pressure" was written by Katori Hall and directed by Barbara Brown

This ensemble can't allow themselves to rely on anyone else. They've had to be self-sufficient for their entire lives. No one cares about their well-being. They live in a world that is always trying to keep them down. The pandemic is simply the latest example of the world refusing to let them prosper. Instead, they must always suffer and grapple with the worst that humanity has to offer. Of course, so many of these characters ultimately have to rely on each other. The Pynk serves as a found family for those who work there. And yet, these natural instincts still dominate their behavior. Hailey, Mercedes and Clifford are bonded by a secret. They know exactly what happened to Montavius. Big L and Diamond are in on the truth as well. They helped dispose of the body. As such, they are always paranoid over how each other's selfishness will eventually lead to them all getting caught. The world at large doesn't care about what they've done. Instead, the outside interests only care about purchasing the Pynk. Clifford succeeded in getting a measure on the ballot to decide the fate of gambling in this community. He doesn't trust that people will turn out to vote. He can count on that when he's negotiating. People are still weighed down by expectations. That's especially true for Mercedes. It presents through a physical ailment. That places her life in danger because she has always been trusted to be the club's headliner. She was reluctant to embrace an open call for new performers. She didn't want to train anyone new when the club could safely reopen once more. That was the fate she had to accept. Hailey dictates the terms of how this business is now run. She can set the reopen date for Clifford's birthday without considering how he wanted to spend that day. He wanted to wallow by himself. His queer community refused to let him tolerate that fate. Even then, he couldn't escape the realities and dangers that lurk in every corner of the Pynk. That place calls to everyone who has resided within it. It's inescapable. It's mesmerizing and demands importance. Everyone expects a big pay day for their efforts. They will leave this life as a success just like Keyshawn. She carries her own baggage though. This life is brutal on the body. Mercedes was warned about her shoulder. Fortunately, Diamond can heal her with his magical touch. That too only exposes the fraying nature of friendships. Mercedes can't let Hailey continue destroying her life. It was cathartic when they could rely on each other. No one wants to be left in that position. It's a false sense of security they can't depend on. No one could help Mercedes when she was at the top of the pole and her arm gave out. Instead, they had to go through the wreckage of the aftermath. Mercedes felt the pressure to be the best. In trying to maintain that title, she avoided all the signs that much more horror was coming her way.

That looming sense of dread permeates throughout the entire narrative. That's the way the audience is conditioned to treat the sexual tension between Hailey and Andre. It could be seen as salvation for both of them. They have more of an honest and true dynamic than with others. It's still built on dishonesty. Hailey wants to put on a good face. She wants to argue that the Pynk isn't a home for anyone. She says so while literally moving into the building. Mercedes wants her out of her apartment. They can no longer live together. Part of that is Mercedes projecting all of her insecurities onto Hailey. She's a convenient stand-in to place the blame instead of truly holding herself accountable. That leaves both of them in dark head spaces. It leaves Hailey vulnerable enough to embrace Andre. That's as far as it goes. It could easily escalate into something else. Of course, the drama enjoys playing around with those expectations. At first, it seems like Clifford is being kidnapped. He fears for his life and confesses his sins only to realize his friends have abducted him for an elaborate party. It's odd that so many familiar faces are absent from that celebration. He is still called back to the Pynk. It's also a means of escape for him. He has a prosperous life outside of running the club. He has those opportunities even though he continues to linger on Lil Murda and the Pynk. Those are healthy in certain instances. He can't devote his entire life to them. Lil Murda does reach out to apologize. It's simply for choosing to ignore Clifford to embrace a different life. He sees the potential for success. He even lets Keyshanw buy into the fantasy. She wants to escape as well. She feels good about going a few days without an argument with Derrick. She believes they are both equally responsible for their problems. He continually belittles and abuses her. It's not a healthy environment for her to be in. She knows that. However, she has to think strategically in order to convince Derrick that she is acting in the best interests of their family. Even then, her efforts don't withstand much scrutiny. She still ruined lives. She simply had to embrace whatever was necessary to keep herself safe. She always returns to Derrick though. That remains a pattern. She can't escape even though she recognizes the dynamic for what it truly is. These patterns are inescapable. Opportunities may prosper once more now that the lockdown restrictions have been removed. Some people are more worried about the virus than others. It has shaped the community recently. It can still inflict a lot of damage. It's not the only thing to be concerned about. People prioritize their own agency. It comes at the expense of others sometimes. That's part of their self-preservation instincts. Those tactics being embraced over and over again only ensure that the patterns are repeated. Those trusted with power can never fully rely on anyone else to support their interests. This community wants to rise up as something bigger and more loving. And yet, the suffering continues because so little has changed as a result of indifference overall.