Genre-bending is not the usual descriptor I’d use when discussing P-Valley. However, tonight’s episode fully dives into a supernatural Southern Gothic tone (something I’ve been anticipating since reading Roxana Hadadi’s review) that we haven’t seen in the series.
Often, when African diasporic spirituality is depicted in mainstream television and film, it’s through stereotypical voodoo tropes or within the horror genre. This isn’t to say that depictions of African spirituality don’t exist, but finding well-known and accessible examples that don’t exoticize or demonize certain practices is challenging. Of course, there’s the Holy Grail of examples: the film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Or a more recent example is Misha Green’s HBO series Lovecraft Country. It’s easier to find accurate depictions of African spirituality in the form of Black literature than in television or film, but let me not get ahead of myself by sharing my dreams of adapting more classic Black fiction for the screen.
In tonight’s episode, there are many scenes (all occurring on the premises of the Pynk) that weave the supernatural into the drama series. First and foremost, a new character has been introduced who is giving mystical crystal astrology Twitter girl energy. Known as Whisper, the newcomer is seen using her crystals to perform a paternity test and later communicating with a spirit lingering within a swinging pole in one of the private rooms.
Whisper is hired along with another dancer and a bartender after Hailey moves forward auditioning fresh talent. The second dancer goes by the name Roulette and honestly gives Mercedes a run for her money on the pole. Whisper, Roulette, and Mercedes make up a new trio at the Pynk: Earth, Wind, and Fire. Now that the next generation of dancers is secured, Hailey plans the re-opening of the club, sans the support of Uncle Clifford, whose fortieth birthday happens to fall on the same day.
Roulette and Whisper prove their worth on opening night, so much so that Mercedes begins questioning her position at the Pynk. In an attempt to turn up her performance to show why she’s the OG, Mercedes’s shoulder injury exasperates and leads to her falling from the pole and further hurting herself. Uncle Clifford and Hailey bring Mercedes to Diamond since hospitals are at capacity due to the pandemic. Diamond goes on to perform root work on her to relieve the tension in her shoulder, removing the malignant energy from her body. The practice looks almost like an exorcism as Mercedes shakes and convulses on the table.
After he’s done, Diamond reports that he extracted seven pounds from her shoulder, the same amount of pressure needed to pull the trigger on a gun. This statement, and Mercedes’s reaction, establishes that it was she who killed Montavius last season. It’s revealed that Diamond disposed of the body but kept Montavius’s ring for spiritual protection. Mercedes is shaken up over the whole situation and eventually tells Hailey to move out, as the burden of her presence, and what comes with it, is too much.
The root work Diamond performs, combined with Whisper’s metaphysical practices, is inserted into the plot in an unexpected but somewhat natural way. Black culture is intrinsically spiritual, something that has been instrumental to our survival in this world. The Deep South, in particular, has a wealth of faith, whether through the church, traditional African spirituality, or a fusion created through the diaspora. For many Black southerners, spirituality is very much a part of everyday life without much questioning. Knowing a hoodoo practitioner or having an older family member that passes on ancestral information is common. Plus, my background in studying Southern Black literature that incorporates the supernatural makes the show’s decision to do the same seem natural to me. But I worry that it may be discordant to the plot for some viewers as P-Valley has not done this in the past. It’s an experimental move that I’m interested to see developed.
What makes the supernatural elements of this episode a bit all over the place is the sheer number of storylines happening simultaneously. Questions of whether the casino will come to Chucalissa and if the Pynk will remain in possession of its land are being dragged into this season. We see corny Corbin and annoying Andre still hovering around trying to make moves. I’m disinterested in all of this, but the show insists on keeping Andre as a main character for whatever reason. There is a sweet moment when he watches a tape of himself as a child with Tydell while going through his late godfather’s things. The scene is very Tydell — the former mayor passionately tells young Andre that he can do whatever he wants, including becoming the president (another hint he may run for mayor), before yelling that the world can kiss his Black ass. Exuding both tough love and aggressive discipline, the conversation reminds me of many relationships between Black boys and men.
While sulking around Chucalissa as the executor of Tydell’s estate, needing a haircut and beard lineup, Andre discovers just how much his godfather provided for the city’s residents. It turns out that Tydell has been (illegally) covering for people who are behind on their water bills, something that’s confirmed in the paperwork he left behind. Clearly, the show is laying down the tracks for Andre to follow in Tydell’s footsteps. And, his relationship with Hailey is continuing to heat up because you know a cheater is going to cheat!
Speaking of toxic relationships, Keyshawn wriggles out from under Derrick’s thumb by convincing him to allow her on tour with Lil Murda. The dynamics of their relationship are changing now that Keyshawn is the breadwinner through her endorsement deals and presence as an IG baddie. Derrick is on a downswing; he can’t get a job, he’s stalking Keyshawn through his phone (down to the minute), and he found out she visited Diamond at the dollar store. All of these things are a recipe for his evil ass to snap. He already got Diamond fired and violently yelled at Keyshawn, but we’ll see what happens since she’s now on the road.
Before Lil Murda and Keyshawn leave for the tour (in a hearse???), Murda links up with an old friend who is fresh out of jail and ready to serve as his bodyguard. My man didn’t even shower or grab a meal before jumping in that hearse and into Murda’s arms. Is it just me or is there some chemistry or at least deep intimacy between those two? Regardless, I’m team Uncle Clifford, so it is great to see Murda drop by before leaving, even if Uncle Clifford ignores him. DJ Neva Scared won’t be joining the tour since he’s working for a new artist in Atlanta. We only get to hear her voice, but I would recognize that hot girl anywhere ;)
P-Valley is becoming somewhat of a top-tier soap opera compared to its first season, complete with an ending montage of all the characters accompanied by a shrill ballad. With so many plotlines and characters, it feels like I just wrote three recaps in one, and it seems as if this is just the beginning. Time to buckle up for the rest of the season.
• For Uncle Clifford’s birthday, her friends kidnapped her and brought her to a surprise birthday party at a roller rink. Niecy Nash’s wife, Jessica Betts, played one of her friends, which might mean we could get an appearance from Nash later on as she’s expressed a desire to guest star on the show. Seeing supportive queer friendships portrayed is refreshing, but even better than that? Uncle Clifford got some birthday dick.
• For the first time, we get a glimpse of Keyshawn’s other child! His head is covered in honey-toned curls and, naturally, like the light-skinned biracial baby he is, his name is Jaden. Another new face is Big Bone, a Saweetie look-alike who has zero skills on the pole but is a certified bad bitch.