Thursday, March 28, 2019

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Sam Injures Herself and Has a Wild Night Out with a Group of Friends in 'No Limit'

FX's Better Things - Episode 3.05 "No Limit"

Sam unleashes.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of FX's Better Things.

"No Limit" was written by Pamela Adlon & Joe Hortua and directed by Pamela Adlon

This has been a fantastic season so far. This show has always told wonderful and true stories about what it actually means to be a parent in today's modern world. One's children can go from loving to hating you in an instant. There is still so many reasons for Sam to love all three of her children and the rest of the family in her life. However, they are very infuriating as well. And now, this season is only adding to her struggles. She is going through menopause. And yet, no one is yet willing to confirm that to her. She feels out of place in her own body and terrified to fall asleep. It's startling when she tells her doctor that she is repeatedly getting raped by her ex-husband. That's a horrifying sentence to say. It's still horrifying knowing that it's only happening in her nightmares each night too. This is a woman going through a profound amount of change at the moment. She has happy to see Max grow up and move out of the house. But now, it feels increasingly as if Sam is the only one who is actually changing. Frankie has always been the angsty and aggressive middle child. But now, puberty is only making her more mean-spirited and opinionated. Duke is going through her own changes as well. Sure, everyone absolutely delights at the amount of profanity she rolls off when given the freedom to do so for one minute. That is actually a really liberating moment for this family. It is still relatively private even though it's happening in a public parking lot. It completely dissolves the tension of who gets to ride shotgun in the van as well. That isn't a big deal whatsoever. But to the siblings, it is such a meaningful decision. Sam doesn't want to deal with that but has to nevertheless. She finds a creative solution in a way that also makes everyone go back to loving each other right away. That's what parenting fundamentally is. It's tolerating every melodramatic moment in the hopes of obtaining those moments of pure bliss from time to time. That may be cynical and counters every other story about the joys of parenting. And yet, it's the way that Sam has always viewed this experience. She isn't ashamed to say that she only likes one of her children. It's not something she would ever say out loud to them. But she has certainly felt it all the time. And now, she still wants the awareness that things aren't changing too suddenly and quickly for her. Sure, society may have said goodbye to her a decade ago. That's when she was no longer seen as the desirable woman when out in public. However, she and her friends are still able to have a wild night out together. That absolutely feels like a typical 20-something rager in which people go too hard partying with drugs and alcohol. People are frequently escaping to the bathroom to snort cocaine. In the middle of it all, Sam is also catching up with her friends about how their lives are going. It's difficult at this stage of life to continue seeing the beauty and joy of parenting. That's the reality of the situation. And the next morning only makes Sam realize how she is no longer the same woman that she was before.

When Frankie finds her the next morning, she is throwing up in the toilet. That is the sobering reality of all of this. Frankie believes she is being helpful by looking up the side effects of whiplash so her mother can properly understand what's going on with her at this precise moment. Frankie is wise enough to know when parents are simply trying to mask reality for their children. Sam doesn't appreciate any of this though. She just sees it as an annoyance that she simply can't tolerate right now. She is very sick and doesn't need any wise remarks from her children. She just wants the peace of trying to get better. But there's also so much more going on with her than this hangover. That's just one piece of her current health. Her doctor has not yet confirmed if she is going through menopause. She certainly feels like she is. But she is also dealing with a mountain of stress and feels like she can't just let it go so easily. Too many people depend on her. She feels that emotional burden to care for people even when they don't appreciate everything that she does for them. When she returns to the hospital to get her potential whiplash injury looked at, she is greeted with a doctor who may not have the best bedside manor. He is very frank and uses the word "fucking" a lot. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It's just startling to hear so often in this particular context. He has compassion but it's in trying to tell Sam the basics of what she needs to do to get herself right at this precise moment. He's not trying to talk around the problem. She needs to get right in her own head. That's where all of this trauma is coming from at the moment. He refers her to a psychotherapist for a couple of sessions. It may be wise to try that before prescribing medication. But that can also be frustrating as well because Sam sees the lack of sleep as the major problem that needs to be fixed for her. She isn't a doctor but she understands the medication that can help her achieve what she desperately wants. She breaks down during this exam talking about everything she feels responsible of doing. It's not just the stereotypical errands either. Every parents has so much that they have to do beyond just ensuring that their family is fed. Sam feels responsible for every activity that her children want to pursue as well as whatever trouble Phil gets into. Sam is perfectly frank as well in discussing some of the realities of her life. And yet, she is also reluctant to discuss everything that is clearly happening - especially when it pertains to her mother's own mental clarity. None of this is going to have an easy fix either. It's difficult and Sam doesn't get the answers she wants. She may in the future. But right now, she remains in the absolute thick of it.