As a show’s lifespan continues from season to season, it gradually matures and evolves. The third season of Better Things greatly exemplifies this, in particular with the focus on, let’s not beat around the bush, getting older. Pamela Adlon doesn’t shy away from having characters discussing the ravages of age. While that’s not the focal point of the series or even this season, it has slowly gained more prominence and it works quite well.
The opening of this episode works pretty much as a sequel to the birthday party we saw in “No Limit.” With the exception of Ida, everyone is present. Tressa even shows up, despite how she and Sam left things in the previous episode. But Tressa assures Sam that she doesn’t want to miss the thing. The “thing” is really important, just like the “stuff.”
Anyway, the ladies drink, do drugs, and- except for Sam- unwind in jacuzzi. In essence, they have themselves a good old time. Now that I’ve said the word “old,” let’s dig into the conversations. The women acknowledge that when they reach a certain age, they become invisible. Some, like Tressa, don’t mind this and even consider it a superpower of theirs. But others rightfully acknowledge that when they get older, society in general sees them as less viable than before.
While there’s nothing new or revealing about this conversation, it’s often not discussed in many television shows. At least not the ones I watch. Veep, for example, will often have Selina Meyer comment on her age and how she tries to maintain the illusion that she’s still in her 30s- just to name one. But here, the women watch as life passes them by. Friends of theirs are getting engaged and living their lives, but others feel stuck.
As such, these gatherings provide an outlet for the women to bond, vent, and just let loose to be themselves.
It’s another reminder that perhaps the source of Sam’s stress comes from her being around family. It also serves as one of the few times in which Sam can unwind and relax without Phil or the girls creeping up on her for some random need.
But this all comes to a halt when Lala’s husband, Tom, along with a friend, show up- not to crash the party, but because the game they left ended early. It brings the mood down a bit and, in a way, ends the fun. Not that the guys have done anything wrong by being there. But the gathering is intended to be for the ladies. Their presence, whether intentional or by accident, sort of flies in the face of that, more so given that they were apparently meant to be out all night.
With that in mind, no one has that big of a problem with this. After all, Tom is one of the owners of the home where the party is taking place. In the grand scheme of things, him showing up because a game ended early isn’t that big of a deal. Unless you’re Sam, who points out that this night has been months in the making. This is meant to be their time and she thinks that Tom and his friend should leave. She’s not wrong, but the way in which she’s saying it further adds to deflating the mood.
Then again, Sam doesn’t have a cavalcade of guys randomly showing up to her dinner parties or festivities, so not like she’s ever had to deal with that. In a way, every night at the Fox home is a Girls’ Night. Not so when you’re at the home of someone who is married and in an ongoing, stable relationship. Sam doesn’t have any semblance of that, and while her rant doesn’t come from a place of jealousy, it just brings things down.
Lala even challenges Sam, saying that if she has a problem with Tom being there, then she can leave. It’s rare that Sam is actually challenged by someone she’s close to, unless it’s in jest, but again, it adds to the tension.
Luckily, we have more important things to deal with…like a giant ass print in Duke’s bed. See, while Phil shows up in a good mood- probably from winning that Easter Egg hunt- Duke rushes downstairs to let Sam know that Grandpa was in her room.
Sure, maybe Duke is just being delusional, but that big ass print in her bed didn’t get there by itself. Plus, as Frankie points out, Duke couldn’t have made that big ass print because it is, in fact, a big ass print. That’s quite the observation, but it is worth looking into.
So Sam visits David and asks if he can pretend to be a medium. As far as Sam is concerned, there’s no rationalizing with her kids, especially Duke who is still young and impressionable. Still, this being the first time that David would’ve met Sam’s kids, he doesn’t want to lie to them. More than that, he’d like to know why Sam texted him when they were away.
It’s a weird situation and fine line that Sam and David are walking. Both seemingly have good intentions, but that’s conflicted by their past and by the fact that neither can fully put into words what they want. In fact, both point out just that. When Sam is about to leave, David stops her, and the two admit that they don’t know how to do this. As a result, the two kiss. It’s as warm of a moment as you can get, helped by the fact that David won’t charge Sam for this session.
After another brief talk with her ghost father, who wants her to lighten up, Sam brings Duke some books that her grandfather wrote. It’s again one of the calmer moments that Sam has with absolutely no tension whatsoever. It’s not a girls’ night out, but having a brief heart-to-heart with Duke is comforting. This works for Duke as well, after the heart-to-heart that Marion had with her about how Sam is always there.
Though I will admit it was funny to see Duke’s Frankie showing when she almost pointed out that her mother is probably 50 years old.
But then, Duke makes another bold move for…I guess herself. Earlier in the episode, Phil pointed out that she has her husband’s ashes in an urn by her bed. Why does this matter? Because towards the end of the episode, we see Duke get that earn and then put some of those ashes onto a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that she makes. She then proceeds to digest said sandwich.
First off, why? Second, why the hell? It’s a weird moment that we don’t really dwell on, but it is rather…odd. Not the strangest thing we see in this episode.
No, that happens when Sam takes Duke’s dead mouse outside to bury, but finds a bear in her driveway instead. This, in turn, answers two questions…I think. It would answer where the giant ass print in Duke’s bed came from- helped by the fact that Duke’s window was open. In addition, it also explains who has been shitting in Sam’s driveway, as there was another shit sighting at the start of this very episode.
But hey, Sam has a fancy new toilet that can take anything, so she can flush the mouse that way. Still, though. A bear?