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TV Series Better Things: Season 4 Episode 8 “Father’s Day” – Recap/ Review (with...
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Better Things: Season 4 Episode 8 “Father’s Day” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Father’s Day leads to the mother’s mourning time lost, and children prepping for father’s who may not step up as they need them to.


Directed ByPamela Adlon
Written ByPatricia Resnick, Robin Ruzan
Aired (FX)4/16/2020
Introduced This Episode
TomKen Weiler
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This content contains pertinent spoilers.

To The Children Of Divorced Parents – Frankie, Duke, Phil

Father’s Day is a bit triggering for the kids, leading to Duke holding court with the kids of Sam’s friends. During that, she tries to prep them in ways she wasn’t perhaps prepped. Showing that, similar to how everyone came together for Max’s graduation, Duke is continuing this sense of family, by establishing herself as someone the kids can come to.

Frankie having dinner with Phil.

But, as Duke is taking her father’s absence on the chin, Frankie is struggling. Which is why Phil was perhaps not the best person to have dinner with. After all, Phil, while capable of being lovely, doesn’t bite her tongue. So as Frankie opens up to her about not being able to reach her dad, Phil noting Xander isn’t likely coming to her party was a hard blow.

Now, granted, Frankie likely wasn’t expecting him to come, since he rarely comes for any big moment in her or her sisters’ lives. However, having someone second that thought makes it more real, and Frankie didn’t want her insecurity to evolve into something factual.

I Don’t Know If I’m More Bitter For Myself Or My Kids? – Sam, Lenny, Lala, Tom, Xander

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With Lenny officially on her way to divorce, this causes a handful of things. For Sam, it reminds her of when she and Xander were divorcing and how, originally, it was going to be done without lawyers and the nonsense. That is until his mom got involved. But, alongside that, we also bear witness to the women in Sam’s life venting and dealing with being single mothers.

This leads to a bit of a venting that evolves into the women trying to move on by airing their grievances and then placing the note into a fire. However, for Sam, things don’t seem to be that easy. What Xander did to her, and continues to do to their girls, it eats at her. Also, in an effort to not give Xander more reason to not see his kids, or taint how the kids see him further, she usually stays out of their relationships with him.

Which, considering how Sam jumps on everyone’s divorce or break up train, it helps you understand why Tom, Lala’s ex, had to lay into her. She, for who knows how long, has used her friends to live vicariously. She has used their pain, their divorces, to do what she couldn’t for the sake of her kids. And with Tom, maybe Jeff to a point as well, holding them accountable, bashing them at times, it allowed for a cathartic release.

But it seems now that Sam letting go isn’t about decreasing the steam so she doesn’t explode, but truly moving past what was done to her so she can honestly move on. Similar to what we saw Jeff do with Sunny. However, as shown, Xander may not be the type ready to own up to what he did. So Sam may have to learn that closure isn’t for everyone.

Mother’s Can’t Compensate For Lack Of Fathers – Frankie, Sam, Duke, Max

While Sam’s kids love her, as shown through her interactions with her friends, and brother, Sam likes to use what other people are going through and dealing with to avoid her own stuff. Which makes Duke’s issues with ballet something she’d rather deal with her sisters than Sam. After all, lest we forget, Duke is getting to that age where, as much as she loves her mom, and likes to cuddle, she is building her own identity. So what once was seen as love might be seen as smothering.

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Plus, it isn’t clear how much seeing Xander over the summer affected Duke. We saw what it did to Fankie, in combination with Phil’s health scare. But as for how Xander changed Duke? Well, unfortunately, we can’t pin her quitting soccer and doubling down on ballet on that. There just isn’t enough evidence.

Highlights

Sam Being Called Out For Living Vicariously

Tom (Ken Weiler) who is Lala's ex.
Tom (Ken Weiler)

While we love Sam, there is a need to recognize and admit, she operates under misery loving company. She more so jumps at the chance for her friends to get divorces, and end things, than do counseling or work it out. And it really pushes you to realize that, while Sam isn’t a miserable person, she is Phil’s daughter. So she does find herself presenting people with harsh truths they aren’t necessarily ready for.

However, the difference between Sam and Phil is Sam is often kinder, and that creates this sense Sam is looking out for people’s interest. But, in reality, it seems Sam’s inability to truly get back at Xander has made the husbands of her friends often enemies. Leading you to wonder how in the world did Jeff find a way to win her over? Because, truly, him being honest and sober, that couldn’t have been enough.

Frankie Opening Up

This is truly Frankie’s season, considering how much she is getting to talk and not for the sole opportunity to show how smart she is or to pick a fight. Because, the consistency in her vulnerability just didn’t exist before, and now it is like she is playing catch up with letting us know what’s going on in her head. Mind you, not just in subtle ways, like when she redecorated her room, but also in talking to Sam about having sex and with Phil about her feelings towards her dad and generational trauma.

All of this really pushes you to wonder if each season will primarily focus on one sister, with another having something minor going on? Leaving, in this season, Max sort of on the back burner as someone around, but not necessarily moving forward.

Lenny’s Story

Many of Sam’s friends have gone through things and, across the seasons, we’ve checked in and have gotten updates. However, there is something about Lenny’s story that feels like it needs its own episode. Doing check-ins every few episodes, it just isn’t enough. Which I can only attribute to Cree Summer getting a story the others haven’t. For while we got to see Sunny’s relationship end and Lala in bits, the way Lenny is handling her divorce has a sense of emotion the others didn’t. The devastation just hits in ways we haven’t gotten with the others, and it draws you in despite Lenny being the newest one of the group.

Lenny during Sam's father's day event.

On The Fence

Wanting To Know What’s Going On With Duke

One could submit Duke is starting to show herself more and no longer operating on this split personality of a sugar-sweet kid around adults, and then someone with a filthy mouth and attitude around people her age. With that, you automatically are led to believe it is due to her getting older, but what if it is not? When it comes to “Better Things,” there is no desire to spell things out for you since not everything is meant to be simple. And while you have to appreciate that, it does create some frustration as you are left with nothing but theories. All of which don’t really get followed up on since this show is very slice of life, as is, and you are left feeling as most parents do. You know enough to have a vibe of how someone is, or who someone is, but can never say, with absolute certainty, who someone is without question because it changes so often.

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Amari Allahhttps://wherever-i-look.com
I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and from movies, TV, the occasional book, play, and Broadway show, have been trying to bridge the gap between a critic and an avid lover of various forms of media.

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Review Summary

The Short & Sweet Version

As Sam recollects over her relationship with Xander, she, her friends, and daughters, try to reconcile or find closure despite what little they have been given to do so.

Rating Breakdown

Lenny’s Story
91 %
Wanting To Know What’s Going On With Duke
79 %
Frankie Opening Up
89 %
Sam Being Called Out For Living Vicariously
88 %

What To Read Next

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Better Things: Season 4 Episode 9 “Batceñera” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

It’s a turning point of sorts. In some ways for the better, as shown by Sam, Frankie, even Xander (!) but, sadly, also for Duke.

Better Things: Season 4 Episode 7 “High Man, Bye Man” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

As we get to see the dynamic between Marion and his wife, Frankie continues to rebuild her relationship with Sam.

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