Monday, March 21, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Change Proves Alienating to Some While Easily Accessible to Others in 'The World Is Mean Right Now'

FX's Better Things - Episode 5.05 "The World Is Mean Right Now"

Sam makes borscht.

"The World Is Mean Right Now" was written by Ariel Leve & Ryan Raimann and directed by Pamela Adlon

It's okay to be sad and it's okay to be happy. Those emotions shouldn't be treated as alienating or conflicting ideas that must never be spoken about or embraced. They make up the full complexity of life. Right now, Sam feels like her life is out of control. So much of it has the appearance of stability. She has three children and a mother who depend on her. They never appreciate all she does for them. They are all informed by her various personality traits. They respond in ways both playful and cruel. Everyone is so self-centered but ultimately loving within this family. They are all gathered in the same space as well. Phil is just across the street. Sam has all of her kids under the same roof. And yet, her life feels off in some way. It can possibly be attributed to the statue that was broken. That disrupted the energy of the house. As such, it's necessary for Sam to fully embrace change. She has to alter everything. That's the only way in which she can fully access these feelings and move beyond what has always been known to her. The life she has is comfortable though. It's a burden to change anything. It's better to let a space sit empty instead of trying to fill it with something that doesn't come close to carrying the same meaning. A feng shui expert can come into the house and tell Sam everything she is doing wrong. It's not as simple as that. Nor is it a war between Sam and Frankie in pursuit of perfection. Frankie receives praise for their decoration. Meanwhile, Sam's room is full of chaos. Her version of change is simply moving the bed a few inches off the wall. She still wakes up tired. No immediate results come from that decision. It was simply the only thing she could do to convince her mind to calm down and let her sleep. That's the path she had to follow in order to seek comfort in that moment. That's what she needed. It's not some profound change to her life. The underlying problems are still present. Her life is still fundamentally the same. She is comfortable sharing her space with her children. She wants the freedom of working elsewhere as well. She doesn't want to follow the same pattern with Phil in a different city. She also wants to be free of the terrible memories others seek to praise. She wants respect for what triggers her. She wants her family to be understanding. In the end, they are the ones who provoke her the most. Sure, she is annoyed by everyday people she doesn't even know. In that case, they are just a quick collection of traits that immediately inform her opinion of them. She holds that compassion. She awkwardly wields it sometime.

All of this is in pursuit of greater emotional clarity. When Frankie mocks Sam for acting upset instead of actually being upset, it sends her right back to her childhood when her father mocked her the same way. Sam shows such reverence for her personal history. She seeks out wisdom. She wants to know as much as possible about events that happened long before she was alive. With her personal history though, it can all be seen as trauma. Everyone around her has to be aware of it too. They have to coddle her to ensure she is always content in any given situation. Others are certainly entitled to the occasional odd moment where their responses don't make sense in any normal context. It doesn't indicate some deeper problem that must be solved. It's simply unnerving because it makes each person examine their own understanding of the fragility of life. Sam has to be mindful of her health because her father died young and her mother recently suffered a cardiac event. She wants to be alive for her kids. They mock her for being out of shape. She ultimately returns to the stairs to improve her health. She still craves the various vices that have always provided comfort. She would rather have coffee than the seaweed smoothie Frankie has made. All these little changes are significant. The underlying space is still physically the same. Sam hopes it's transformational enough for her internal life. She remembers the past. She uses that wisdom to inform the future. She wants to break patterns. Her children should do better than the generations that came before them. They remain in the awkward place in life where they still struggle to find their place within it. It's complicated and daunting for them as well. That doesn't condone how they treat their mother. Of course, it also highlights how their struggles can be similar. Duke also feels like her body is out of balance. Her connection to the spiritual realm is evolving. It makes her feel isolated from the events around her. Those fleeting moments are enough to notice a divergence. One that suggests a different life on the horizon. It's frustratingly out of grasp for anyone to tangibly accept all that it must entail. Instead, it's forever the yearning for more while battling the comfort of stability. Sam can refuse to change in so many ways. It's beautiful when she does find clarity. That too may only be fleeting in the end. However, that expression of emotional depth is always rewarding no matter how it is articulated in the lives of any of these characters.