Better Things (S04E09) “Batceañera”

So the time has come for Frankie’s special day, but Frankie’s not the only one who makes a big change in this week’s Better Things.

It’s a big development for her character with her approaching this age. It also helped that she was asking Sam early in the season to have this specific ceremony. That and her father actually attend. Both of which happen.

Batceañera Getting ready for the day - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

For the most part, things go off without a hitch. There are antics aplenty, yes, but we’ve come to expect that when under the house of Sam Fox. Seeing Sam’s extended family from across the pond is a welcome change of pace. As Duke points out, we rarely get to see the rest of the family. Sam is so curious about her lineage and there’s some nice continuity here when we see that there’s more to Sam’s family than we’ve been led to believe.

Batceañera Xander arrives at the party - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

The arrival of Xander is a tricky situation. Technically, he was invited at Frankie’s request, and Better Things has made it no secret how much of a deadbeat dad he’s been. Sam is certainly no friend of his, but this was Frankie’s request for her mother, and Sam’s not just going to say no because it makes her feel good. I mean, she could be petty and refuse Frankie, but that’d just create more animosity than there already is. Still, there’s an extra layer of tension when he arrives because even he knows that he’s not wanted.

Batceañera Sunny talks with Sam - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

No one knows that better than Sam, but Sunny is there to snap Sam out of her funk. While Sam searches for weed- all of which she probably smoked two episodes ago- Sunny pops by to give her a ‘good old speech’. While it’s true that Sam wants a public apology, her putting on this fake show just to appease her daughter doesn’t help things. Right now, the day is about Frankie and what’s important should be ensuring that she has a good time. In short, move the hell on.

Batceañera Sam talks with Sunny - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

Sam being Sam goes on the defensive and points out how Sunny, after her fallout with Jeff, is telling her to move on. But…well, yeah, Sunny is doing just that. She’s doing this because she knows that no one else will. That’s what you want in a friend, really. Someone who will tell you the uncomfortable truths that no one else will. What kind of friends would just validate everything that you thought and felt?

Batceañera Jeff tells Sam that hes offering to give Xander a Chicago Beatdown - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

On the other hand, you’ve got friends who are willing to deliver a Chicago Beatdown. That’s what Jeff offers to do to Xander, if Sam wants. Whether this is just a tough guy act or an actual promise- threats are empty- we never do find out, but it’s somewhat admirable that he offers to show Xander the door.

Batceañera Frankie gives a speech - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

Still, this is Frankie’s day and as much of a smartass as she is, she can show heart when she wants to show it. When she takes center stage at the ceremony, she starts off by asking the very pointed question: how many people have been raised by a single mother? Many raise their hands. Like working in customer service, being a single mother is a thankless job. It’s one of the more honest things Frankie has said and is a reminder that, as awful as Sam’s girls are, they have glimmers of goodness sprinkled throughout.

Frankie then remarks that life is about choices, and one of those choices revolves around her father accepting this invitation. Not the only one, as we’ll get to later, but it still means a lot not just that Sam invited Xander, but that he showed up at all. It can be an interesting, albeit conflicting childhood when one of your parents isn’t in the picture. Given how Sam’s girls have grown up, it can be argued that while they may miss their father, their lives haven’t changed for the worst without his guidance.

Why? Because Sam has done her damnedest to ensure that her daughters have a great upbringing. As much of a pain in the ass that Max, Frankie, and Duke can be, at the end of the day Better Things has shown that the four can have a laugh and come together for a good time.

Batceañera Xander at the microphone - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

Still, Frankie thanks her father for coming, and not to miss out on an opportunity to be forthcoming, Xander also heads to the microphone. It’s not the cathartic apology that Sam would’ve wanted, but again, this isn’t about Frankie. Xander expresses how proud he is of his daughter and how he’s constantly impressed by her, but acknowledges how he hasn’t always been present.

Batceañera Rich tells Xander that hes been the emergency contact for Sams daughters - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

From there, seems like most of the attendees take an opportunity to play psychologist to Xander. Rich tells Xander how he’s been the emergency contact for Frankie, Max, and Duke and how much he wishes that they were his daughters. That alone is a gut punch without Rich outright telling Xander that he sucks, but we’re not done here.

Batceañera Jeff talks with Xander - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

Jeff tries to empathize with Xander, saying that people used to hate him, too. Granted, some still do, but they don’t hate him as much now that he’s acknowledged and admitted where he failed. There’s the difference: in Xander’s mind, he’s done nothing wrong and feels no need to apologize. Therein lies the error.

Batceañera Xander admits to Sam that he could have done better - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

But right after this, Xander must have had the world’s quickest epiphany, because he has a conversation with Sam.  He comes clean and wishes that he was more involved with the girls. More than that, he should’ve done better as a father. It’s probably as close as Sam will get at the moment to some resolution and moving forward, as Xander admits that he has no excuse for letting her down.

Batceañera Sam invites Xander to dinner - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

As such, Sam invites Xander to join her and the girls for dinner this upcoming Friday. Whether we get a resolution to this plot thread, I don’t know, but I hope it’s not left dangling and that we do see Xander attempt to set things right in his role as a father and ex-husband.

Batceañera Sam wants Duke to say goodbye to her family again - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

While this is Frankie’s moment to shine, the other daughters get their moments as well. Duke, who has been whispering to people throughout the party, has a bit of a fit the next day. Sort of. Sam wants Duke to bid farewell to everyone after the party, but she’s already done so. Okay, so Sam asks her to do it again. Not an unfair proposal, given how far away most of Sam’s family lives, but that’s the point: Duke never gets to see the rest of her family.

More than that, they didn’t show up to see her, but to help celebrate Frankie. Perhaps it’s a bit of jealousy from Duke, or maybe she just wants a bit of attention for herself. She is the youngest and it’s not uncommon for the youngest sibling to be jealous of something that their older brother or sister has. Still, it’s another sign of rebellion from the normally…well, she ain’t innocent, but I guess kinder Duke.

As we’ve seen so far this season, she’s getting older and will eventually lose that innocence that Sam admires about her.

Batceañera Sam stops by Maxs job - Better Things (S04E09) "Batceañera"

I thought maybe this episode would end with Sam and Xander meeting, but instead Sam heads to the restaurant where Max works. Quite the unexpected guest for Max, I’m sure, but Sam isn’t here to pester her daughter. She watches and admires what her child has done, yes, and even one of the chefs compliments Max on being a model, helpful employee. Yes, I can’t believe it either, but perhaps there’s a “nice” switch that Max turns on when she’s away from family.

The episode comes to a close with Sam having a nice chat with the chef. It puts a nice bow on a very good episode for Frankie as she takes one step further into adulthood.  In addition, Xander’s return and the promise of dinner with Sam and the girls could hopefully move the Fox family forward in a positive way, should Xander deliver on his word.