“Perpetratin’” smartly introduces audiences to the hierarchy and dramas of The Pynk with an enigmatic POV character and some striking dance numbers.
This recap of P-Valley season 1, episode 1, “Perpetratin'”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
Starz’s provocative and excellent new drama P-Valley lays out its stall in the first episode, “Perpetratin’”, an introduction to the setting, style, and characters of Chucalissa, Mississippi, and in particular The Pynk, a strip club with its own very specific hierarchy and dynamics. We’re introduced to these things in an early sequence that introduces the local alpha Mercedes and the nonbinary owner Uncle Clifford, and we’re shown what happens when a punter gets too handsy with the talent.
But this delicate balance is threatened in P-Valley episode 1 by the arrival of Autumn Night, an enigmatic, “all poetic and sh*t” dancer who immediately makes her presence felt by winning a Booty Battle competition while blighted by telling flashbacks of a mysterious past.
Autumn, then, is a threat to Mercedes’s status, but the current Queen Bee plans on leaving anyway – her real passion is a teenage dance team she coaches on the side, and she plans on stepping away from stripping, just so long as she can put up with her money-hungry and God-fearing mother. P-Valley season 1, episode 1 also introduces Keyshawn, a young mother stuck in an abusive relationship, Diamond, the absurdly handsome club bouncer, up-and-coming local rapper Lil Murda, and “photographer” Andre. All of these characters help to form the texture of The Pynk and will have personal subplots that are gradually unraveled throughout the season.
But “Perpetratin’” handles the most pressing particulars. The club is in dire straits financially, Mercedes is tasked with showing Autumn the ropes, which naturally doubles as an introduction to how the club works internally – as well as a getting-to-know-you for the sexually fluid Lil Murda – and we’re reminded rather unsubtly of Autumn’s dodgy past, especially when she takes a blow during a heated confrontation.
While catching her breath outside The Pynk, Autumn meets Andre, and both seem immediately rather taken with each other. Mercedes, meanwhile, performs in an extended and visually quite stunning sequence during which she catches her mother watching in the crowd. This leads to a bitter argument in the parking lot as we’re shown how Mercedes’s mother guilts her into parting with money while berating her about stripping.
As P-Valley season 1, episode 1 ends, the sense of lingering mystery and encroaching doom are deeply felt, as Autumn is eerily surveyed from a distance as she leaves the Pynk. Autumn works as a useful POV character in “Perpetratin’”, allowing us privileged access to the exclusive club and its very particular ecosystem. With its stellar visuals, striking dance choreography, and neat inversion of typical gender roles, including the idea of stripping as empowerment rather than degradation, this opener is a strong start for what’s to follow.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.