Thursday, May 2, 2019

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Sam Shares More Details About Her Father With Her Children in 'Show Me the Magic'

FX's Better Things - Episode 3.10 "Show Me the Magic"

Sam winds down and reminisces.

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.

"Show Me the Magic" was written by Pamela Adlon & Ira Parker and directed by Pamela Adlon

Dr. David Miller has often let his attraction to Sam get in the way of him being an effective therapist for her. In the short amount of time they've been meeting though, he does understand that she loves creating problems in order to avoid any kind of difficult situation or emotion. It may not ultimately matter that their interaction here leads to them kissing and having sex. That takes away from the reveal that she hasn't been taking the medication he prescribed for her. She has largely been forgetting to do so. That's dangerous considering all of the chaotic elements that have been happening in her life. She felt like she needed something in order to cope with the world. But now, she is choosing to keep everything exactly the same. That too can be dangerous because she isn't willing to put in the work to address how things are really going for her and her family. It means she is left all alone to mourn the death of Duke's pet mouse, Mandy Patinkin. That's a sudden tragedy. Sure, it's effective that Sam has a toilet that won't clog no matter what. It just makes it a much more poignant and emotional moment because Sam has this inability to actually address problems head on. She enjoys making things into a big deal when they don't need to be. Plus, she's comfortable concocting insane plans to offer some kind of easy solution. David notes just how crazy it is for him to present as a medium to appease her children's fears that their house is haunted. Sam has also been seeing and dealing with the ghost of her father this season. Murray has constantly been popping up and offering his observations of the world. He has a unique perspective even though he has been dead for a long time. Sam's children only know him as a spirit who is potentially haunting their home. That's what makes it meaningful when Sam pulls out her father's belongings to better contextualize him as a human being. It's a tremendous gift that she gives to Duke here. Her youngest daughter can now perceive the passage of time and what it was like to have these relationships. She has long viewed her grandfather one way. She now understands that to her mother he was a completely different person. It's tragic that she assumes he too abandoned the family because that's what fathers do. That's not the norm. Instead, Murray died of a heart attack. The family doesn't think about him all that often. Phil doesn't even know why she still has his ashes. That just makes it gross and uncomfortable when Duke decides to get even closer to her grandfather. At first, she was scared and startled by him. But now, she is willing to eat his ashes in a sandwich. That's so disconcerting. And yet, it still plays into the idea of this being a weird family. That's the atmosphere that Sam has created and it has been very beneficial to all of them. She is still largely seen as a good parent. She may be asking too much of David. He can't be the solution for everything that is plaguing her life. She still wants to treat him as her therapist. But he also serves as a way to avoid processing everything that happened with Mer during her trip away. He presents as the easy guy for her to be with. He is fine with that on some level because of his own feelings. It still highlights though how complicated Sam's life has always been and will continue to be in the future.

All of this is also dramatized wonderfully when it comes to the ladies night that Sam enjoys with several of her friends. It's just a relaxing night in which they don't have to think about men or the demands of the world and their lives. They can just enjoy these friendships, drink great wine and consume delicious food. It's a playful and joyous occasion. It builds around the idea that these women have so much that connects them. They are all unique human beings. And yet, they need to feel comfortable sharing the experiences that unify them as well. Talking about societal issues is the only way to ensure some commonality and compassion. Some of them are going through menopause. They find camaraderie in being able to share their experiences and the ways to tackle the various effects that come from this massive change. But that can be interior in a lot of ways too. It's also just as important to talk about the outside perception and how the world at large treats them differently. Society has long propped up the idea that young, attractive women are the goal and older women are essentially disposable. This show has never treated them as such. It's fascinated in these stories. It is delivering an uplifting message to ensure that support is there for everyone who needs it as they face changes to their lives. But again, it's a deeply personal story as well because Sam essentially ruins the evening. Sure, the oxygen is sucked out of the experience a little bit once Lala's husband and his friend come home early. Sam sees that as the biggest disruption to the night. Suddenly, everyone goes back to being the female roles they play in public. It's no longer them living as their true authentic selves. That too is such a fascinating dynamic at play here. Sam wants to call it out. And yet, her words only make the situation more tense and awkward. This is Tom and Lala's house after all. They don't have to disrupt their lives in order to appease some of their friends. Sam is the only one who voices concerns. She may have a point. She shouldn't have to apologize. But it also means that no one is in the mood to watch her new movie. It's great that Sam and Tressa are capable of being friends after being forced to split as manager and client. But all of this is still fundamentally about how Sam has a tendency to turn things into problems because she is uncomfortable and doesn't instinctively know how to react. That ensures that she is a flawed character who is still learning as she goes. She can be disorientated just like anyone else. She faces off with a bear after all. That forces her into her own little world even more. That too may provide some clarity in her life. And yet, it comes with the understanding that nothing is ever as simple as many would hope or want it to be.