Thursday, April 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Phil and Duke Go Searching for Easter Eggs at a Party in 'Easter'

FX's Better Things - Episode 3.08 "Easter"

Sam helps Max and bakes for Phil.

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.

"Easter" was written by Sarah Gubbins & Robin Ruzan and directed by Pamela Adlon

Every season so far has given Celia Imrie a spotlight episode. One where Phil takes the focus and the audience gets to see her go out on some adventure. Sure, that's hardly the only thing that occurs here. Sam is once again supportive of Max's latest pursuit of her photography even though she doesn't totally understand. She gets clarity from the seedier part of town over her potential worth as a sex worker. That's valuable in that it's nice to know she is still appreciated in that way even though it's absolutely horrifying that someone just assumes she is working in that trade just by sitting on some stairs. Meanwhile, Marion has an honest conversation with Duke about her father being the worst while her mother is actually the best. Moreover, this episode actually provides clarity as to why Marion has been more visible this season after previously stating he couldn't possibly move to Los Angeles to help Sam take care of Phil. He has been in town for awhile now because he has no where else to go after his life has fallen apart. The family is just choosing to be respectful of his privacy and allow him to open up when he's ready. Of course, they can only be sensitive and considerate for so long. Phil has reached out to her son on numerous occasions because she knows he's in town with nothing better to do and won't give her a hard time like Sam always done. Sam has been more reliable for a long time. But here, it's clarifying to know that she has another child who is willing to make an effort to drop everything to be a part of her life. Sure, it's a fantasy. One that she has no problem destroying immediately by holding firm to her views. And yet, it's also clear that Marion is still holding onto some version of who his mother should be. He wants Phil to be the person who apologizes to him after wasting his time or making fun of him. He wants her to be an active part of his life. He wants her to care about what's going on. Instead, she is cruel and mostly focused on finishing her drink. And yes, this episode does revolve around Phil and how she is prioritizing her needs. But there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Sure, it's outrageous to see her push a child into a pool in order to get to the Easter egg first. But she's trying to have fun because she knows exactly how short life can be. She wishes to accept and welcome the good moments and not worry about all the pent up melodrama that seems to be driving so many people in her life. She doesn't see the value in apologizing to her son. That may forever shape his opinion of her as the woman who was never there for him - like Sam is there for her kids. And yet, she finds peace in it because she doesn't want to just go through the motions of something she isn't interested in doing.

Of course, the world is absolutely judging Phil throughout this entire story. Sam questions how she can be dating someone who is married. That has always been a taboo subject that gets way too complicated and personally destructive. It's this narrative that can be so corrosive to a person's identity. The man is cheating on his wife and the other woman doesn't seem to care at all. This story sets out to flip the script on this familiar plot device. Phil is happy and understands that marriage at a certain age is different than what it's like in the early going or with children. Sam doesn't understand. Nor do the many people at this party. Phil sees clarity in Walter pursing happiness while never wanting to leave his wife. Phil isn't asking for any kind of serious commitment either. She is just helping a friend feel fulfilled and loved in ways his wife can no longer do because of her failing health. Of course, his wife isn't as comatose as Phil was always led to believe. This entire Easter party is defined by Phil acting more aggressive about the hunt for eggs than any of the children. She pushes Duke to keep going despite being injured. She sees this childish activity as so important. But she also doesn't think much of all the glances sent her away. They are judging her for being the other woman. Walter's brother is proud to meet the woman Walter talks so much about. And yet, Phil largely sees the value in the personal journey and being perfectly content with the life in front of oneself. She is the only person who really checks in on Walter's wife. She does so not really knowing what to expect. She does so after getting into the big argument with her son. In that moment, she certainly didn't want to be the center of attention. In private though, she still loves talking about herself and the opinions she has on everything involving her family. Some things can be private. But she also loves talking about being born behind the veil and the potential implications that has had on her life. In the end though, it's just such a simple and sweet moment where two women feel connected through song even though they shouldn't like each other. The effort is made to form a connection. They succeed in doing so. That's beautiful and shows how life can be so specific to every single person while we all pursue happiness in unique ways. It's important to hold onto these moments as well because there is never any clarity as to how many more of them are left on the horizon. Phil certainly has that fear.