Better Things: Season 5/ Episode 4 “Ephemera” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

How Frankie identifies is accidentally revealed, as Duke speaks on her insecurities, Max tries to get a grip on what’s going on in her life and Sam her finances.


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Frankie, Phil, Max, and Duke checking out one of Phil's past love interests

How Frankie identifies is accidentally revealed, as Duke speaks on her insecurities, Max tries to get a grip on what’s going on in her life and Sam her finances.


Aired 3/14/2022
Network FX
Directed By Pamela Adlon
Written By Pamela Adlon, Joe Hortua

Recap

Old Feelings I Can’t Get Rid Of – Duke, Max, Frankie, Phil, Pepper

Phil has spent quite a few weeks now getting rid of things, and with knowing this, her grandchildren are helping her adjust to this new chapter she is starting in her life. Be it going on Zoom or even using map websites to see where she grew up in the UK. But what really hits a soft spot is Frankie helping Phil find an old crush on Facebook and those two reconnecting.

But, while Phil and the kids have a good time hanging out, sadly, Duke isn’t much fun later on when she is hanging with Pepper. Because of how her life is, Duke wants to isolate herself because she isn’t pretty like her siblings, or at all, and just feeling overall disconnected. Of which Pepper tries to help by noting Duke’s talents as a writer, but it isn’t clear if Pepper may have provided a short-term or long-term solution to Duke’s issues.

So, What Do I Call You? – Sam, Frankie

In a sign that Sam and Frankie have really turned a corner in their relationship, they hang out, just the two of them, to do a graveyard tour of celebrities and also to visit Sam’s dad. During their trip, Frankie revealed Jason’s pronouns are they/them, and with Frankie shifting their pronounces and identity over the year, Sam takes this as the opportunity to ask, what is Frankie’s? The response is a bit irritated as Frankie makes it clear they don’t really like labels, and thus Sam’s question goes unanswered.

Trying To Remain The Constant In The Storm – Marion, Sam, Max

Marion telling Sam her finances are in a bad condition

Sam’s income to debt ratio is all off. She has two mortgages, four dependents, counting Phil, and it isn’t sustainable. So, in Marion’s eyes, it is time to put their mom in a condo and Sam to sell her house. This isn’t easy to hear since Sam likes taking care of everyone. Yet, she clearly can’t for too much longer.

Yet, with Max having to move back home, Sam feels her decisions are kind of justified. Yes, Max moves back in without warning or any sort of hint, but that’s Sam’s baby. The one who slips up and says Frankie identifies as they/them and also is her oldest. So while Sam will have to face the music down the line, right now, she is going to enjoy all she has worked for while she can.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Do you think Sam will ultimately sell the house in the finale?
  2. Was Frankie saying Jason identifies as they/them as a test to see Sam’s response?
  3. Did Duke lose her ability to see the dead?

What Could Happen Next

  1. All the children are in the same house, causing the chaos Sam loves and the kind that ruins the peace.

Review


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Highlights

Sam’s Need To Take Care Of Everyone Being Detrimental

From her kids to her mom, Sam loves having everyone close and not necessarily reliant on her, but at the very least open to the idea of coming to her. As shown, acts of service is Sam’s love language, and for that, it seems, she has gone in debt. Which she knows is a problem, especially since she doesn’t work consistently. Yet, with Max coming home, I think it negates the reality check Marion so badly wants his sister to realize.

But take note, once the kids leave, and if Phil is away, all Sam will have is herself, and it seems she enjoys the chaos too much, maybe even is addicted to it, to let it end. Even if it means financial ruin.

Max’s Emotional Control

Max noting she feels like a failure

Emotional outbursts was Max’s thing. It seemed she wasn’t good at self-regulating and would often break down when feeling pressured or criticized. But, despite a back and forth with Sam over moving in and prepping herself for criticism, between Sam if not Max, we didn’t get the usual breakdown. Did it seem possible? Yes. But whether it is therapy or just plain growing up, Max held her emotions and was able to take this step back without collapsing.

Frankie’s Internal Battles With Labels

While there is a litany of labels to identify your gender, sexuality, and more, one of the issues many have is the connotation behind a lot of labels. Whether it is being male, female, bi, someone’s husband or wife, each label has a history and expectations attached, and while Max reveals Frankie identifies as they/them, a part of me thinks that is only because it is easier for them than to really press people just using their name.

For already, Sam is on a learning curve and is kind of jokey about the whole pronoun thing, and she is trying. So Frankie, with an acknowledgement the world doesn’t revolve around them, just wants the path of least resistance while still remaining comfortable in their own skin. This is hard to do when Frankie is still figuring themselves out despite what others may think.

Duke’s Insecurities

If I recall correctly, Duke has had issues comparing herself to her siblings for quite some time, but it seems it has reached its peak with becoming a teenager. With that, you can understand why Duke is entertaining some strange older guy and maybe why she wavers from being her mom’s baby to pushing her away. There could be a part of Duke trying to find her place amongst the three since Frankie is the cool one, Max is the one who is like a model, and Duke just wants to know what role can she play?

In a way, it helps you understand Frankie’s desire to not have labels for everything Duke associates herself with she can’t put a positive spin on. She can’t love. So she needs Sam sometimes loving on her and doting on her to feel worthy or not to feel like a piece of crap. Heck, Duke may even need the spirits visiting, which seems to be a talent she lost, for it made her feel special and different.

Yet, as a teen, she is now average, maybe less, and in a world where it seems everyone is special, feeling like you’re the only one without something remarkable about them is not only lonely but depressing.

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Frankie, Phil, Max, and Duke checking out one of Phil's past love interests
Better Things: Season 5/ Episode 4 “Ephemera” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Overall
As Sam finds herself dealing with uncomfortable truths and her relationships with money and her kids evolving, so comes the need to wonder how Better Things may end? Especially whether Sam and the girls have a next chapter that may actually be a restart.
Highlights
Duke’s Insecurities
Frankie’s Internal Battles With Labels
Max’s Emotional Control
Sam’s Need To Take Care Of Everyone Being Detrimental
Disputable
83

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