At the time of writing this, there have been four premieres of shows on FX and FXX. Five if you count Devs over on Hulu, as it was originally meant to air on FX, but I don’t. But yes, between Breeders, Dave, and the return of both Cake and Better Things, the four shows have aired double episodes for their premieres. Not sure what led to this decision, to be honest.
I could understand it with Breeders and Dave since they’re new shows, but Cake and Better Things are returning. Well, I’m no network executive, so not like I have any idea what the right call to make would be. Anyway, this is all one long prologue leading into me saying that I’ll be talking about these episodes back-to-back. There’s nothing that links the two and there about as standalone as any other episode of Better Things, but since they aired together, why not discuss them together?
So yeah, Better Things is back, on both FX and FX on Hulu the next day, if you hadn’t gotten enough notifications or advertisements about that. Chalk it up to the new era now that FX and FXX are a division of the mighty House of Mouse. Luckily, FX and FXX seem to have been left alone as far as content goes, and Better Things is no exception to that as Pamela Adlon returns to deliver more of the stellar work we’ve been getting from here for the past three seasons. But back to life with Sam Fox and company.
As you’d expect, we’ve got Adlon back behind the camera for these two episodes and perhaps the Fox family should start learning how to swim because rain has hit California. Didn’t even think that was a thing, but yeah, it’s raining galore in both episodes and it makes me wonder if this will be a constant for the season. I’d be fine that, as it would be a nice change of pace for the series.
Adlon is very methodical with her camerawork in this premiere, as we get a lot of long shots taking us throughout the Fox home while Warren Zevon’s “Steady Rain” plays. We see artwork displayed throughout the house and it’s a nice, relaxing way to ease us back into the swing of things. It’s quite awhile before we see anyone and even before we see Sam for the first time, and she’s asleep.
But like many episodes of Better Things, not a lot actually happens. At least not in the first episode. Duke and Frankie went to visit Xander and now they’re back, so Sam- along with Phil- pick them up at the airport. Side-note, like with most kid actors, it’s insane how quickly the girls have grown up between then and now. Olivia Edward in particular as Duke, who is still probably the most innocent of Sam’s daughters, is practically an adolescent at this point.
Things haven’t changed as far as the mother-daughters relationship goes, though. Neither Frankie nor Duke help Sam move their luggage into her car and they immediately begin badgering her. But it’s not just more of Sam’s girls being dicks. Frankie shows some thoughtfulness when she decides that her mother needs a dating profile. Side-note, I assume that Frankie has decided against moving out for now.
It’s laughable, yet admirable that Frankie would want to do this. You get her reasoning, but at the same time, at least for me, dating profiles are something you make fun of, not actually make. Either way, Sam knows how to make light of a situation like this. She’s spoken for between her three daughters and her own mother. Phil, by the way, is wearing a life jacket.
As with previous seasons, Phil’s health has come into question a few times, but it’s never been a focal point. Whenever something happens to Phil, Sam is the one to help take care of her.
In this instance, we get some quick flashbacks of her and Rich taking Phil to the hospital after a nasty fall. At the hospital, it’s revealed that Phil, for the time being, has to wear a defibrillator. Despite the moments of levity that come in a few moments, it’s still a stunning, yet sad revelation. But Better Things doesn’t dwell in the sadness for long. Phil curses at another driver coming the other way, prompting Sam to kick her out of the car and forcing her to walk.
Of course Sam doesn’t mean this, but I imagine part of her would be happy to be free of her mother for an hour or two or 10.
Sure, Phil eventually gets back in, but Sam’s problems continue when Duke and Frankie talk up Xander. While it seems like he might be trying to make a move, Sam (eventually) texts for him to go through his attorney instead of the kids. Max isn’t in the first of these two episodes because she’s been working a lot and, as a result, sleeping in. I’m fine that we don’t get all of the Fox daughters because they’ll factor in the second episode, but nice that Max is actually out doing stuff for herself.
But there’s more: Frankie wants a Quinceañera. Why? Who knows? There’s nothing special about your 15th birthday. 16 and 18, yes, but not 15. In addition, Frankie wants Sam to invite Xander. It’s not enough that she wants Xander to be there, but Sam has to be the one to invite him. Talk about a kick in the balls.
Still, Frankie’s expressing herself in the way she best knows how: art. She methodically takes down all of her artwork, repaints her room on her own, and dances. It’s probably more paint work on her own than most people do in their entire lives, and I like this side of Frankie. As we’ve seen in previous seasons, yes she can be very confrontational, but when she puts her mind to something, she has more talent than we ever realized.
Someone else who got a real kick in the balls in the first episode was Rich. As you recall, Rich found himself in a relationship last season, but now that’s ended, as his now ex-boyfriend has broken up with him. Diedrich Bader is great in this scene as he showcases Rich’s vulnerability and desire to be loved. Sam consoles him, as does Duke and she gets deep when she tells Rich that his time will come when he’s loved.
It’s another example of how Duke is wise beyond her years…and the only one of the Fox girls who, as of now, hasn’t been corrupted by the world. Yet.
The second episode, “She’s Fifty,” also has a rainy beginning, and the downpour doesn’t end there for Sam. See, she heads to an auto shop for her vehicle, which someone made off with. As a result, she’s stuck riding with Lenny, who is in the middle of going through a bad breakup. Sam, though, encourages Lenny to take it in stride. Things may hopefully go back to normal for her, even with her husband out of the equation.
After some time at the gym- and learning that Phil has been swimming in the neighbor’s pool without a swimsuit- Sam gets an update from Tress. Tress, by the way, is not Sam’s agent, as she makes clear over and over again. The update is that Ching of the Mill is being rebooted. Naturally, Sam would and could be up for her old part of Rooster, but she does have to read for it. Not uncommon, mind you, that an actor would have to audition for a role they already played.
In another bit of the show getting meta with Pamela Adlon’s line of work, the producer with Sam at the recording session is none other than Mike Judge. Imagine that. I always enjoy seeing how Sam’s life parallels with Adlon’s real life.
On this, though, I’m jumping ahead but we learn later that Sam’s role as Rooster will instead be voiced by Lazlo Barber, who is dead. The show just wanted to go in a different direction, and the studio has tons of voice clips to use. That’s saving money, yes, but also creepy. Not out of the realm of Hollywood to do down the line when actors die. Give it time. If Disney wants to reboot The Simpsons in 50 years- and they can now do that if they want- who knows that they wouldn’t just use old voice clips from the current cast?
Anyway, Sam still needs a car, so she happens upon a gas station that time forgot and meets a prospector-I mean the proprietor of this establishment. He shows her a nice, kick-ass looking car that’s bad for the environment, but just what Sam could use. How could she not purchase it?
Seems like a nice thing to surprise the girls with, but they’ve got their own surprise: a chinchilla. Her name is Priscilla, according to Duke. Sam freaks the F out because who wouldn’t? But more important is the question of how the girls paid for it. Max paid for it. Hey, we do learn that she’s working, so good on her to use money that she made.
Oh, she just used her mother’s credit card? Never mind. The two head to the pet store to return the chinchilla, but they learn that it’s been returned so many times that it might just be put down. Well, that’s depressing. With this in mind, they keep the chinchilla…and get a snake in the process because why not? All part of a way to help ring in Sam’s midlife crisis just as it starts raining.
It’s safe to say that Better Things Season 4 is looking to be as great of a ride as previous seasons. I hope the rain is a constant, as it’s a welcome change of pace and something new for the series. Welcome back to the world of Sam Fox and see you all in the weeks to come.