Better Things remains a show without any direct peers and it makes you wonder why it took so long for someone to give Pamela Adlon a show?
Like last season, a lot happens in Sam’s life but at the same time not much does either. She goes to work, fights with her older two daughters, hangs out with her friends, and deals with the banes of her existence. Of which are Phil and Xander. Yet, going a bit deeper, one of the main things exhibited to us is how much Sam likes the idea of being needed. Hence why she puts up with Phil’s antics, can deal with Max and Frankie’s, and it speaks wonders when it comes to her relationships.
Especially the longest one of the season, Robin. Someone who does have his dysfunctions, probably stemming from trust issues, but doesn’t need Sam the way she likes to be needed. So that goes to hell.
Thus leaving her with what she will always have: Her girls. Of which Max remains the usually brat who tries to run over Sam with having a live in boyfriend and a graduation party that has a keg. Then of course there is Duke who, outside of a dare in which she tells her friend to stick a monopoly piece up their vagina, remains that sugar sweet kid. And then there is Frankie.
Arguably, history sort of repeats itself when it comes to Frankie. Her relationship with Sam reminds you of Phil’s relationship with Sam. The only difference is, buried underneath the teen angst and skepticism, is a love which doesn’t seem out of obligation. As shown in the very touching “Eulogy” episode and just shown by how they play and talk to one another. Like how things go at Sunny’s son’s Bar Mitzvah and the talk Sam and Frankie have when it comes to family throughout the season.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Who was Dalton, in episode 2, and why did his presence make Sam leave?
This Love/Hate Relationships & Seeing How Trauma Was Passed Down Through Generations
One of the things I love about this show is the complicated relationships Sam has with her mom and also her two oldest kids. With Phyllis, as we learn she got disowned from her family for marrying Sam’s dad, and see how lonely and low-key miserable her life has been ever since, you start to understand why she bugs Sam so much. Plus, considering what we learn about Sam’s secret aunt, it really pushes the idea that Phyllis fears being abandoned somewhere like her sister so she has to integrate herself into Sam’s life.
Which, even before finding out about the sister, explains why Sam often lets her. As noted, Sam likes to be needed, to a certain point, for there is some unspoken guilt. Be it because she is doing so well or what have you, it makes it so she often makes these sacrifices in which her own comfort is put aside. Like with Max having Arturo in her room. As we have seen since the beginning of the first season, Max and Sam cannot help but butt heads. If only because Sam has the ability to say no to Max unlike, so it seems, people outside the family.
And in that, we often are given this perception that Max is a brat. However, then you take into consideration how Xander is with her and maybe her knowing about Phyllis’ family abandoning her. With that in mind, the sort of bratty-ness we have come to know appears more to be desperation. Sam is all Max believes she has and perhaps like Frankie, who we’ll get to next, Max is just trying to get all she can out of Sam before she leaves her one way or another. Be it a gig that is far away, their lives’ splitting once Max is grown, or even death. For once that happens, who does Max have that will put up with her? Phil barely talks to the girl, uncle Marion barely comes around, and Frankie? They barely interact.
But the key to this highlight is Frankie. With knowing Phil’s story, feeling the abandonment of her dad, and feeling like the Black sheep, the whole love/hate idea is strong with her. She loves Sam for the same reason Max does, since she figures who else may love and take care of me like Sam? Yet, while Max speaks in such a way to make herself smaller to maybe not upset Sam, Frankie just outright pushes her away. In a weird sort of self-destructive mindset, it seems she rather have Sam leave now than wait till she grows more attached. Hence all the insults and the way she talks to her. So if Sam does finally decide to leave, while it may still hurt, it won’t hurt as much as if she just gave into the awesomeness that is Sam Fox.
The Men in Sam’s Life
Whether you speak on Robin and Sam’s relationship, Rich who acts as a surrogate father to the girls, and Sam’s arguable best friend, or even Jeff, the men in Sam’s life brought some good to the season. Jeff, for example, gave us a healthy depiction of a man’s life after divorce. Especially one which was his fault. We saw the issue of losing damn near all your former friends, the awkwardness of co-parenting, and being so desperate to be understood, maybe even feel redemption, that the one person who listens you can see yourself falling for. Which was the case that nearly led to him kissing Sam.
Then with Rich, you just have to admire how integrated he is within Sam’s life without necessarily hounding her for quality time. He is there when she calls, or in times like when Max chose him to sub in when Xander didn’t show up on her graduation day. Yet, he also doesn’t kiss Sam or the kids’ ass. He calls out Sam when it comes to her relationship with Robin and the kids when they don’t appreciate their mother. Which is why they probably love him so much. He somehow knows how to balance being loving but not being willing to deal with their unnecessary BS.
Lastly, one of the things which I find to be one of the biggest factors that makes Bigger Things stand out is Sam’s community. In a lot of shows, it seems friendships and family don’t have any real emotional backing unless there is some kind of drama. However, be it Sunny, Tressa, or the others, you get a real sense of friendship. The kind in which you see each relationship isn’t equal or the same. Tressa and Sam have a very different relationship than her and Rich. And despite how close Sam is to Sunny and Rich, you can see they are for different reasons.
But, despite that, as really shown in the final episode, even if everyone isn’t best friends with everyone, they can come together for each other. But especially Sam and her kids.
So, About That Version of Duke We Saw in Episode 1
Recognizing kids act very differently with friends than parents, I found it so alarmingly weird what Duke said in the first episode. But what made it weirder is that it wasn’t a sign she was sort of becoming like everyone else in the family. After that, we never saw that side of Duke again. She was just this quiet and sweet kid. So it ultimately was hard to say whether we got a small glimpse into how Duke really is or whether there were plans to show how Frankie, Max, Sam and Phil were influencing Duke but that got dropped.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Yes, according to Deadline. However, it is unsure how this show may change in consideration of Louis C.K.’s situation.
|FX’s “Better Things” returns and Sam’s house is in a bit of disarray. Though, as I’m sure Sam would say, “What else is new?”|
|In this episode of Better Things, it seems the idea is: Sam is only a mean person if you give her reason to be a mean person.|
|Could Sam have really found love? May the title of this show, Better Things, no longer be wishful thinking but actually here?|
|As Sam is trying to talk herself into breaking up with Robin, Xander shows up and reminds her why she fears love.|
|While Phil has always been mean-spirited and quirky, something is seriously wrong now. To the point Sam isn’t sure if she can handle it.|
|We’re shown what it is like to be in acting alongside a reminder of how much Sam means to her kids. Sam and Frankie anyway.|
|After a blackout, Jeff and Sam head on down to the store to buy a generator. Which leads to her running into Robin.|
|Pray for Sam everybody. For between Xander’s dad Arnold and Frankie, she may actually lose her mind – if she didn’t already lose it.|
|During a trip to Canada with her kids, a family secret is learned about from Sam’s uncle Lester.|
|It’s Max’s graduation and perhaps the parting lesson Sam gives her is about consistency and a reminder of what love is.|