P-Valley’s sophomore season progressively gets better and better, solidifying its spot among the most entertaining dramas on television. Though this week’s episode was written before current events, the timing is impeccable. Autonomy and agency are two themes that lie beneath every episode, driving the motivation and actions of many of its characters. Usually, P-Valley explores this through the lens of sexual consent and exploitation, but in this episode, which for the most part takes place completely outside the club, Terricka’s pregnancy investigates a different kind of autonomy.
As women, being able to decide what we want to do with our bodies is a privilege, no matter how far it feels we’ve come in terms of our political liberation. The overturning of Roe v. Wade marked a moment in history that validated what we’ve known all along: Women’s bodies are treated as vessels for public consumption and debate. What I appreciate about P-Valley’s handling of Terricka’s pregnancy is that it focuses on her personal choice and not any overarching political or moral agenda, the way all abortions should be treated.
Staying at Mercedes’ while Chelle dries out, Terricka’s stomach steadily expands without any sign of her making a decision on moving forward. Throughout the episode, Mercedes never tells Terricka what she should do about the baby, only urging her to make a choice soon, as time is an essential factor in getting an abortion. With Terricka thinking they’re going to TCBY, the two head out of town toward an abortion clinic so they can at least get more information about her options. In the car, after Terricka unironically signs along to WAP, Mercedes tells her that next time she decides to slip up to let her know so she can get her Plan B. Terricka responds: “Oh, so now it’s okay to talk about sex?”
Like Terricka told her mom, for too many Black girls, the sex talk consists of “close your legs and leave the boys alone.” Black women have historically been hypersexualized to the point of stripping us of our humanity, so some parents overcompensate by demonizing sexuality when we’re young, continuing a cycle of misinformation and ignorance. As we age, we’re left without the tools to navigate our first romances and sexual urges. But, as Mercedes points out, pregnancy is life and death for us. This year, the CDC reported that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. The consequences of pregnancy, especially teen pregnancy, are worsened by the effects of systemic racism.
When Terricka notices Mercedes passing TCBY, she realizes that she’s being driven further out for a consultation, causing her to literally vomit. She says she feels ambushed, but Mercedes emphasizes that abortions are time-sensitive. Terricka is frustrated by the mention of abortion, saying her friend Jelissa said their friend Taylor’s mom claims abortions cause cancer. Thank God Mercedes debunked this, stating that they can’t muster up two brain cells between Jelissa, Taylor, and Taylor’s mom. As they continue their journey, Mercedes has a flashback while Terricka is taking a bathroom break at a diner. We see teenage Mercedes and a younger version of Patrice at a restaurant where Patrice discovers condoms in her daughter’s wallet. She proceeds to beat Mercedes in the restaurant — even though moments earlier it seemed like she wanted her daughter to sexually solicit herself to cover the bill — another example of how Black girls are taught that being sexual beings is morally incorrect.
On the road, Terricka tells Mercedes about her baby’s father, Kelon. The two are smitten in the idyllic days of teenage love and lust. Kelon apparently wants to keep the baby even though they’re both 14, an idea Mercedes scoffs at. In Kelon’s defense, Terricka tells Mercedes that she’s jealous of their love, prompting Mercedes to hit Terricka in the face, stepping into the mother she vowed she would never become. They eventually make it to the clinic, pushing past pro-life protestors, where Mercedes subconsciously sees her own mother. The appointment reveals Terricka is 14 weeks pregnant, right on the cusp of the deadline for an abortion.
Later at a hotel, Terricka continues to mull over her decision as Mercedes grows increasingly irritated with the inaction. The tension escalates into a conversation between a mother and a child who consistently feels abandoned. A’zaria Carter, who plays Terricka, delivers a powerful performance, embodying the hurt, anxiety, and sadness of feeling rejected and the confusion of being a baby having a baby. Mercedes tells Terricka that all she ever wanted was for her to have choices, something that she didn’t always have. The next day, Mercedes gives Terricka the keys to the car, figuratively and literally, allowing her to make her own decision. Terricka takes the keys and drives them to the clinic.
While Mercedes and Terricka are on their journey, Uncle Clifford is back in Chucalissa dealing with Autumn Lakiesha Robyn Rihanna Fenty and her plans to sell the club by any means necessary. The episode opened with a vignette of the club in the past; Grandmuva Ernestine performs onstage over the decades as we see the venue’s evolution from Miss Ernestine’s Juke Joint to what we now know as the Pynk. There’s even a cameo of baby Clifford with her late mom, Ernestine’s daughter, Beulah, complete with the toddler clutching a Gucci handbag. Uncle Clifford tries to make Hailey see the importance of the Pynk in her family. Telling her the club is filled with “haints and unsung melodies,” Cliff reminds her that the club is the only tangible piece of her ancestral legacy. Hailey is unmoved, fully motivated by procuring millions off the land as part of some crusade to help her grieve her daughter.
Meanwhile, Ernestine, sick with COVID, is struggling to hang on, seeing visions of Beulah inviting her to the other side. Murda is staying with Cliff after the devastating death of Teak, and his sweet self is taking care of Ernestine with the level of sensitivity I would want someone handling my own grandmother. Uncle Clifford and Murda lean on each other in their respective time of need, leaving the widest smile on my face as the president of the Cliff & Murda fan club.
The Gucci handbag from Clifford’s youth emerges while she’s getting a change of clothes for Murda, leading to a conversation about Clifford’s gender identity. She tells us more about her mom, saying she staunchly defended her child’s propensity for carrying purses. Upon finding out that Uncle Clifford has always been gender non-conforming, Murda bluntly asks, “What are you?” to which Clifford responds, “I’m Uncle Clifford; what are you?” Solemnly, Murda tells him he’s “what the world won’t let him be,” providing a small window into his struggle with his own sexuality. Their conversation moves to a discussion of their relationship and how Murda being closeted led to their rift. Clifford explains how even asking “what” she “is” is a loaded question and how having an identity that confuses people, an identity that isn’t able to “pass,” is alienating. She says, “People don’t understand how lonely it can be to shine so bright. That’s why I understand why you did what you did on Murda Night. You wasn’t ready to stand in the sun.” Oof, tens across the board for the P-Valley writer’s room.
Ernestine’s sickness becomes too much for Clifford and Murda to handle after she wanders toward the part of the Mississippi River closest to their house. She howls about having to get to the water, calling Beulah’s name, telling Clifford it’s time. She passes out, with her fingers blue, so they call an ambulance to get her to the hospital. Murda is able to cheer Clifford up with a Sisqo dance party, and then things become intimate with the two finally having sex again, with Kendrick Lamar’s “Love” playing in the background. Yes!
• I love how Terricka wears a light powder blue while Mercedes wears a bright crimson during their journey to Jackson, accentuating Terricka’s innocence against Mercedes’s experience.
• Derrick’s abusive control over Keyshawn’s life is worsening by the episode. During a trip to Piggly Wiggly, Keyshawn runs into Hailey, who questions why she hasn’t yet used the gun she loaned her to free herself from the relationship. Later, Hailey appears at Keyshawn’s doorstep (dressed in red, of course), offering her a burner phone and telling her to call when she’s ready to swim.
• The symbolism of water was used heavily in this episode. Cutting from Ernestine going toward the river in her COVID-induced delirium to Mercedes and Terricka dipping their feet in the pool is a great representation of how water symbolizes both birth and death.