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Review: ‘P-Valley’ Returns with an Engaging Second Season 

Review: ‘P-Valley’ Returns with an Engaging Second Season 

With a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating and widespread critical acclaim, P-Valley season one was a cultural phenomenon when it premiered in July of 2020. P-Valley season two takes crazy, sexy, and cool to the next level. Creator/showrunner Katori Hall is a combination of Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Lil Kim for the 21st century. The first five episodes of P-Valley season two are a rollercoaster ride of unexpected drama, seriously sexy representations of Black on Black love, and raucous joy that should not be missed.

We last saw our friends on the final night at The Pynk. We had just been blindsided by the events of Murda night. These included Mercedes’(Brandee Evans) devastating breakup with her mother Patrice (Harriett D. Foy) and Hailey/Autumn’s (Elarica Johnson) swooping into the auction and bidding all of Montavius’ (Cranston Johnson) cash to buy the nightclub, saving it from being bought by the casino developers and making Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) and Hailey partners.

Season two takes place five months after Murda night and nimbly incorporates the impact that Covid-19 and the pandemic have on Chucalissa, Mississippi into the storyline showcasing the creative resilience of Uncle Clifford and the ladies of The Pynk as they redefine the meaning of essential workers. 

P-Valley is based on Katori Hall’s Play Pussy Valley which is about four women who work in a Mississippi strip club and premiered in Minneapolis in 2015. After the series was greenlit by STARZ it took a little over two years for P-Valley to arrive on screen. The love and care Hall and the entire writing team take in crafting these characters into fully developed and nuanced people is impressive. 

When I was in my twenties working doing theater for young audiences, I had a roommate who was a single mom who was also in her early twenties and worked as a pole dancer in a strip club. She was an incredible human being. So kind and a focused mother who cared so much for her baby girl. In addition to being an incredible dancer, she was a talented visual artist and loved to draw wolves with sky blue eyes howling at the moon. 

She was the best roommate I ever had and she did work she loved that she did well and was paid well. She was not only able to take care of her daughter, but she also paid for her college education by dancing. She also had mixed feelings about life and knew her time as a dancer was limited. I remember she would run the washer machine after cleaning the costumes she wore at the club before washing her baby’s clothes. She didn’t want the energy from the club to be on her baby’s clothes. 

Before P-Valley, most of the films I’ve seen involved women who work in strip clubs as caricatures that didn’t even come close to the complexity of the young women who do this work to make a living to care for their families. One of the reasons I love P-Valley, particularly season two, is how the show portrays the dancers as human beings, and not as stereotypes. All of the episodes in season one were directed by women and it shows.

The challenges of single motherhood are one of the strong themes in P-Valley season one. Mercedes’s relationship with her judgmental religious mother Patrice, and her daughter Terrika (Azaria Carter), Keyshawn AKA Miss Mississippi’s (Shannon Thornton) challenges as a young mother of a baby and a toddler struggling living with her abusive partner Derrick, and of course Hailey’s processing the trauma of losing her daughter Autumn in a flood while fleeing from her abusive partner Montavius. 

P-Valley truthfully reflects the serious challenges women face in a society where access to education is the only way a single woman can have financial abundance and independence. Knowing all of the challenges the women face raises the stakes of being the top dancers. The stories of the women of The Pynk are relatable not only to folks from the low wealth communities in the Dirty South but to women all over the world who face and deal with the same challenges. Katori Hall and the entire team are phenomenal. 

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Season one’s dialog is spectacular. A line that stuck with me from the season finale is when Mercedes and Montavius are alone in the champagne room, Montavius laments that Hailey left with her daughter, and Mercedes replies, “Don’t hate her for loving her child more than you. Good mothers are built that way.” Oh my good life, the truth in those words uplifts all of the mothers who are out there doing all they can to take care of their children. 

The choreography in the first five episodes of season two takes P-Valley to a whole nother level of excellence. The athleticism displayed by all the artists in this show is mind-blowing. Choreographer Jamaica Craft hits the ball out of the park in every episode. There were moves I had to rewind and watch three or four times to comprehend what this outstanding creative team laid down on the screen. My mind was totally blown away. These ladies do moves on that pole that I never even thought was possible. 

The only aspect of P-Valley season two that slightly misses the mark are some of the overwritten and broadly acted arguments between Hailey and Uncle Clifford. Elarica Johnson is originally from the UK, and I like the choices she made in playing Hailey, but her accent is always strange to my ear. 

Even still, I still enjoy her performance. Uncle Clifford shines in season two. It’s always plain magic whenever she glides onto the screen, but at certain points this season, her choices are a little too big. We get to go deeper into the lives of Mercedes and Keyshawn aka Ms. Mississippi and see how the pandemic impacts the complexities of their lives. Shannon Thornton is absolutely incredible. Her range is spectacular. 

I one hundred percent believed she was Keyshawn, and I was invested in her story. I cared so much about what happened to Keyshawn — there was really beautiful writing for this character this season. In season one, there is a hint of mysticism that goes even further in the first five episodes which work well for the dark elements residing in these storylines. In P-Valley season two, the cast has come together even more powerfully as an ensemble. Each member pulls their own weight to tell the stories with care. 

Costume designer Rita McGhee and makeup department head Arlene Martin put together some fierce and fabulous looks for the dancers onstage and off, giving pure beauty in motion. The cinematography is stunning, the soundtrack is popping, and has me looking up pole dance classes in my area. 

Friday nights this summer are going to be LIT!! Please do not miss P-Valley season two Friday, June 3, 2022, on STARZ.

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