Monday, March 14, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Expression of Identity Plagues Sam's Children as They Strive for Acceptance and Clarity in 'Ephemera'

FX's Better Things - Episode 5.04 "Ephemera"

Sam learns about pronouns and finance.

"Ephemera" was written by Pamela Adlon & Joe Hortua and directed by Pamela Adlon

I want you to know that I know. That's the comforting phrase Sam uses to welcome Max back home. It's her way of sharing with her children there is nothing they could do that would surprise her. They can be open with her about anything. She isn't as silly or old as they think she is. She can handle anything. In that moment, Max believes it's Sam bringing up her recent abortion. That's the subtext of the conversation. It isn't. That moment still needs to occur. It will continue to define the relationship between mother and daughter. It can't be delayed for too much longer. It should never be seen as the one thing central to Max now. She is much more complex than that. And yet, she is back at home. It comes at a time when Marion tells Sam she needs to sell her house. It's the financially smart thing to do. It won't be long until her children are gone. She doesn't need all this space. Time has shifted where she now remembers all the good times in this place. Her children are growing up. They have developed their own unique personalities. They have identities in this world. They are loving and nurturing. They carry on the traditions and morals Sam cares about. She is proud of them. However, they require less from her. At this point, the house is simply a place to live. They need that comfort in order to understand what they want from the bright futures ahead of them. They are challenging the world. They offer new connections. It's a fruitful discussion for each of them regardless of who is around to help. Sam is positioned as the annoying parent who doesn't get it. She strives to always lead with compassion. She yearns for connections to the world around her. She sees the beauty that resonates from the stories that led people in their lives years ago and the influence that has made ever since. She also needs confirmation of how to be socially acceptable in her behavior. She understands the importance of pronouns. She doesn't view it as something beyond humor. She can laugh about that concept of gender too. It must come from a place of respect. Frankie doesn't see that. As such, they are nervous about having that conversation with Sam. It's about Jason proclaiming they/them pronouns. Sam identifies how this weighs on Frankie too. She asks obvious questions. She wants to genuinely connect. It still takes simple confirmation from Max to realize that is also how Frankie wishes to express themselves. The siblings have a bond that may transcend their mother. Sam is realizing that. She struggles to cope even though she always provides comfort and care.

Duke also feels uncomfortable in her body. She has always prided herself on being connected to the universe. She sees spirits. She communicates with figures no one else can seemingly engage with. And now, she's growing up and fearing she is losing that ability. She doesn't want to go into an antiques store with Pepper. She knows she will get drawn into some elaborate story from an object in there. She feels that history calling out for her. Instead, she is bored in this space. She isn't connecting with anything. For a moment, it appears as if she takes an interest. That's a sequence that has taken place many times before. She wants it to happen. It doesn't. Instead, she retreats back to her phone. Pepper refuses to let her do so. She wants a memorable and present time with her friend. This is what she wanted. Duke unravels with the declaration of no longer feeling secure in herself. It's heartbreaking. It shows how quickly these thoughts can rise up and gain attention. Part of life is seemingly passing Duke by. She can't explain it. Meanwhile, Sam and Frankie are the ones bonding at a cemetery. It holds personal significance for them. They also marvel at the lives from years gone by and what they had to endure to make it into these walls of history. It's special. Everyone is glad to be a part of these experiences. Sam isn't unique in that she is the only person who can provide such profound connections. Phil's grandchildren are capable of connecting her with her past. They are interest in it as well. All it takes is a few clicks online. It's partly a reflection of Phil's generation and what she is currently capable of. She is on Facebook in order to connect with people she hasn't seen in years. She can be friends with them once more. She can remember all the good times with people who were actually there. It's a new way for her to feel alive. Meanwhile, Sam only has making a margarita. That too is disrupted when Max returns home with a mattress being moved upstairs. Her children should give her more credit for what she is capable of handling. And yet, they are also challenging gender norms and what should be expected of them. They want the time to process all of that. It's a luxury given to them for sure. It may not even be sustainable for long. It offers peace. That's the most comforting feeling throughout all of this. That radiates from Sam even if her life can be chaotic a lot of the time.