In almost the best way possible, the final season of Better Things is more of the same.


Network FX
Genre(s) Comedy, Drama, Young Adult, LGBT, Family
Noted Characters
Sam Pamela Adlon
Max Mikey Madison
Duke Olivia Edward
Frankie Hannah Riley
Phil Celia Imrie
Marion Kevin Pollak
Caroline Rosalind Chao
Jay Kevin Phan

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Summary

In its final season, Sam is dealing with her usual litany of issues. She has three offspring, a mother she has to watch over, and a budget always nearing collapse. But, at this point in Sam’s life, she isn’t really much for chasing what she doesn’t have or could anymore. She wants to accept, honor, and enjoy what she does.

Max, while still discovering herself, is making progress as an adult. She doesn’t have a breakdown whenever told no or when she has a setback and has really stepped up in terms of being dependable for Sam. While going through teen angst and insecurities, Duke still is her mother’s champion and checks her siblings whenever they take things too far.

As for Frankie? They reveal more about themselves than develop as a character, but what else is new?

Things To Note

  • Unexpected Content Advisory: Cursing (Occasional), Sexual Content (Beyond Sam in her underwear, not really)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Will Sam use the money from selling Phil’s house to help deal with the budget issues Marion mentioned earlier in the season?

What Could Happen Next

  1. This is the end my friend

Review

Highlights

Most Characters Feeling Like They Completed Their Arc

Sam noting to Phil that they had fun

For most of the main characters, you get a sense of closure. After worrying so much about everyone else and, if they are good, happy, and what she can do for them, Sam ends the season driving alone, in peace, checks on her mom for a second but has let go of her worries. Max has matured to the point where she isn’t overly reliant on Sam, she can stand on her own, and after struggling to find her tribe, people who aren’t trying to use her but support and uplift her, she got that through her cousin in England.

Heck, even Duke, the youngest, with her being a teenager and going through so much, it seemed like she was not only losing herself, but her insecurities about not looking like her sister were sapping away at her. Yet, with watching Frankie and their friends, Max fully step into adulthood, and being a student of her mom for so long, she refound her joy. With Phil’s encouragement, she even was able to see the dead again. Ultimately leaving you to think, while she had a dark period, she’ll be alright.

I’d even through Phil, Marion, and Caroline into it. After treating Sam like she has actively plotted against her since she met Marion, Caroline apologizes, compliments Sam, and even gives her a gift. Marion, who has long had issues with his mom, and even jokes he is glad she is living in England rather than Los Angeles, cries over her departure. He breaks down because his most difficult relationship is no more, and after trying to make his mom happy and proud all his life, one trip did it. She is back home and in bliss.

Which is a perfect way to end Phil’s story too. She raised her children, left her mark on her grandchildren, and it is time to live for herself again. To revisit who she was before she gave her life over to her husband and kids, and in doing so, she essentially gave Sam back her life, too, since they were no longer mutually dependent on one another. Both found freedom.

Low Points

Where We Leave Off With Frankie

Frankie gaslighting their mom

If you look at Frankie across this season and the series, their path has been jagged. They didn’t mature as Max did or came to really get to know Sam and appreciate her. Frankie appeared to be on their own path while ignoring or hating that they essentially were walking in Sam’s footsteps. They were creating this community that loved one another, came together for various events, and they were at the center of it. Maybe not the star, but the knot that bonded everyone.

But that isn’t acknowledged. What we get is the same Frankie who likes to gaslight Sam as if their father didn’t abandon them, and Sam has loved them throughout running away and all the other BS. Oh, and lest we forget, we meet Jay this season, who apparently Frankie has pretended to date for years to help Jay cover up the fact he is gay. Frankie, the one who would come at their mother’s neck about telling the truth, has allowed for a multi-year lie to exist in their life and be a vital part of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it. But while you can say that Better Things was often a random show with a handful of moments that were strung together into a storyline, at this point, I don’t think Frankie was ever meant to get on the wagon. For as noted above, the only thing Frankie ever did was reveal things to us, like being non-binary.

But when it came to letting us get to know them, see them evolve, and truly show us, or Sam, there are better things for this character ahead? That is much harder to say, and it is so disappointing because Frankie has long existed as such a mystery on this show, and even in the end, they couldn’t let them have that moment that redeemed them. Frankie couldn’t have a moment which made it seem worth it. Instead, they gave Duke the perfect speech that should have come out of Frankie’s mouth.

Overall

Our Rating: Mixed (Stick Around)

Sam sitting on her steps, after a frustrating dinner with her family

While a brilliant show, there is no denying like most shows on FX, like Atlanta, in Better Things‘ brilliance comes a lot of puzzling storylines, characters, and decisions. Some of which are funny, insightful, and so specific that it doesn’t come off weird or unique but wholly human.

But, like Atlanta, it seems that things aren’t equal across the board. Everyone doesn’t get to unfurl, evolve, and become more than they were when you first met them. Some, like Frankie, are used to punch up a moment and stir the pot, but when it is time to get in the trenches and make this person more than a catalyst, all that brilliance seems to have dried up. It is suddenly time to move on to other people and better things, thus leaving a blight on something which never tried to be perfect, yet you’d want to go back and forth over why it should be considered so.

Which is all to say, the final season of Better Things is a bittersweet end that brings closure for nearly every character except one, and sadly, that might be part of its larger legacy more than it should be.

Better Things Directory

Network(s) FX
Created or Developed By Pamela Adlon & Louis C.K.
First Aired 9/8/2016

Character Guide

Not Created

Season Reviews

Not Created

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Amazon

Sam winking at the camera
Better Things: Season 5 – Summary/ Review
Who Is This For?
Those who enjoy slice-of-life shows where you rarely feel like there is some grand plan or exact ending that the show is heading towards.
Highlights
Most Characters Feeling Like They Completed Their Arc
Disputable
Where We Leave Off With Frankie
75


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Avatar of Amari

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

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