Thursday, April 25, 2019

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Sam Makes Decisions About How Much Change She Wants in Her Life in 'The Unknown'

FX's Better Things - Episode 3.09 "The Unknown"

Sam gets theatrical.

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.

"The Unknown" was written by Sarah Gubbins and directed by Pamela Adlon

Change has been a fundamental component for this entire season. Sam's family and even her body have been under change. She has had to adjust to the ways her life is different than what she has grown accustomed to. She has been willing and able to handle a lot of things. Some have been more difficult than others. And yet, she is still functioning as a person others can depend on. That stress may not always be healthy for her. She still puts up barriers in order to avoid confronting some true feelings. As such, she finds herself in a position here where she has to ask how much change she actually wants in her life. So much has been out of her control. She has such a nice life with her family. She is supportive of all of her girls. She cares for her mother even though she drives her crazy. She has a robust group of friends who always keep things exciting. Plus, she still has an active career. But now, she's starting to question if the way that things have always been done will continue for the foreseeable future. Tressa has been her manager for over 20 years. They have such a close relationship. They are more like friends now than people who work together. Tressa warned Sam about Mer and how she has a reputation for flipping straight women. There was even the fear that she was trying to poach Sam as a client. Those concerns seemingly went anyway until this episode. Sam is given an opportunity to read through a play that could actually make it to Broadway. It's a job she never would have thought to pursue. And yet, she is working with a bunch of fun people she enjoys and is actually well suited to the part. She has a great time. Sure, there is the concern about whether or not the script is any good. But it doesn't take long before the cast drinks the Kool-Aid and believes this is something that could really go the distance. It presents as an actual opportunity now. Sam has to decide if that's something she actually wants. When it comes to that decision, she is able to provide a decisive answer. She would like to say that she performed on Broadway. That would be a cool experience for her to have. She isn't even concerned about what performing on Broadway could mean for her family. It's just something she is intrigued about doing. Sure, that may cause her entire relationship with Tressa to implode. Tressa believes she is being pushed out and decides to leave Sam before she can be fired. It's all sudden and explosive. Sam initially wants to see it through an archaic perspective of troubling gender expectations. She does so as a way to minimize the action and process it in the moment. And yet, she can't do that. She actually has to embrace her needs and make choices as to what she actually wants moving forward. When Mer questions Sam if she should act on their connection, Sam can't even refer to their spark as flirting. It's not comfortable for her even though the audience has seen how much pleasure she has gotten out of this dynamic. Instead, the show paints a stark portrait where she is much more comfortable being forward and blunt with the men from her past and seeing them in the present as sexual options. That's true of the family friend making Sam an honorary member of the organization her father belonged to. That's also true of Dr. Miller. She concludes this episode agreeing to give a relationship a chance with him. That may be purely reactionary on her part. She retreats to something that is known even though it was wildly inappropriate for him to be her therapist. She didn't really get any kind of help or clarity through that experience. But he is still seen as the safe option. All of this may also mean that this celebration isn't as joyous as it should potentially be. She's just as happy as the other actors at the bar. But they are the ones continuing to perform. They are fantastic as well. Meanwhile, she's sorting out her personal life and accepting that she may not be as open to change as she has always wanted to be.