Monday, February 28, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Sam Feels Connected to Her History After Learning Some Family Secrets in 'F*ck Anatoly's Mom'

FX's Better Things - Episode 5.01 "F*ck Anatoly's Mom"

Sam learns some things about her family.

"F*ck Anatoly's Mom" was written by Pamela Adlon and directed by Pamela Adlon

Sam's space is shrinking. This show has offered a brilliant examination of the human condition especially in reflecting motherhood. Sam occupies space beyond being the mother to Max, Frankie and Duke. Her babies are growing up though. Max is no longer living at home. She is renting her own apartment for the first time. She is taking that huge step. It's exhausting for Sam to walk up the five flights of stairs to get there. She only sees the problems. However, it's a thrilling experience for Max. She is off living her own life now. It may include her own journey into parenthood. That's just a slight tease. She's taken a pregnancy test and reacts to the results. That doesn't inform everything else though. It's certainly a way to continue the lineage of this family. That remains so important to Sam. She is always happy to have her daughters with her. Right now, her space feels empty. Duke is off with her father while Frankie's story takes place largely away from the home. Even Phil is starting to declutter her life. She is getting away of boxes that don't mean anything to her. Of course, they carry the history of this family. Sam's old belongings can still be found there. She is inspired by this connection to history. She wanted to learn more about the family's genealogy. In doing so, she and Marion learn their grandfather isn't biologically related to them. That only further continues the generational trauma that radiates from disappointing father figures. Their history is also shaped by their connection to the Holocaust. They had one relative who survived one extension of brutality only to be betrayed later on. It's a horrifying story. It's one that unifies Sam and Marion in hatred. That's easy for them to bond over. They have such vastly different reactions from this experience. Sam feels connected to something much greater. She is part of a lineage. It's a storied past that all led to her creation. To Marion, it's an excuse for someone to tell a story in an entertaining way. The details of life aren't always shaped up to be that big and grand. It's a service meant to piece it all together to make it feel like something. It's not the culmination of entire lives throughout the history of this family. That encompasses so many emotions. They can't be summed up in one meeting. Nor can it be easy to break free of the patterns that are so rampant throughout. It's easy to feel betrayed and hurt by the mother-in-law. Heinous actions were taken. That informs so much. It can be infuriating because explanations are now offered. It can be freeing too because the truth is now known.

That's what makes it so traumatic when this world is disrupted in such a pivotal way. Again, Sam is proud of all that her family has accomplished. She and Phil are still living in the same places across the street from one another. Their lives are stable. And yet, so much is changing. Sam never has a reason to fear too much. Her credit may be bad. That doesn't have an impact on her life right away. It's the personal bonds that are much more searing and disruptive. Sam is happy to go out to dinner to celebrate Frankie's class friend getting accepted into Harvard. She does so knowing that Frankie is every bit as bright and full of possibilities as he is. Her life is taking a different path. One that is equally deserving of celebration. She has accomplished so much at such a young age. She still causes problems for her mother. She still constantly annoys her. It's sweet seeing Sam take care of others. It's a role she has lived in for many years. Motherhood is a calling. It's special to those within it despite the many swirling emotions that can shift in an instant. Frankie demands protection and assurance from her mother that everything is going to work out once the power goes out. It's victorious for Sam because the generator kicks in. That action confirms she has done something right. It works exactly how it was planned. Once the uncertainty is gone, Frankie no longer calls out for her mother. It's no longer a sudden desire. In fact, it's quickly forgotten. Sam is accustomed to such mood swings. She would still appreciate more. She asks for it. It's all too rarely given. But again, the disruption comes from Sam knocking over the statue that has been perched atop the staircase for years. That fixture provides comfort for those in this house. They rub it whenever they walk by believing it will bring good luck. It's a superstition but it's been a constant for years. And now, it's shattered into a million pieces. As such, no clarity can be provided. It no longer matters that Rich possibly has an answer back about his love life. His decisions may ultimately take him away from Sam. They both have to be comfortable with that reality. It's worth exploring because love means something to them. They deserve to embrace it in their lives even if it comes at the expense of their bond. They love each other. They depend on each other. But Sam needs an escape. She leaves. The house is no longer secure. That's the eerie message stated right off of the bat in the final season.