Monday, April 4, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Sam Expresses Heartbreak for Those Not Able to Completely Embrace Their Truths in 'Family Meeting'

FX's Better Things - Episode 5.07 "Family Meeting"

Sam fights zombies and Frankie dresses up.

"Family Meeting" was written by Judy Gold, R. Eric Thomas & Pamela Adlon and directed by Pamela Adlon

Sam feels the connection with her children fading away. They no longer need her the same way they did for years. They are all growing up. They still live with her. And yet, they each lead such independent lives. She wants to be a part of them. That mostly leaves the kids feeling annoyed. They want their independence. They want the opportunities to grow or make mistakes. They know how loving their mother can be. She is supportive of whatever is happening. They are terrified of telling her the truth as well. She is so superstitious. She also has big reactions. She doesn't always handle everything well. It can take her an unusually long time to process certain information. Others can receive it and immediately make that change. For Rich, it's nothing when he learns about a dead name. He appreciates the honesty being shared. As such, he corrects his behavior immediately. He still wants to support the playful fantasy of life. He hopes Sam believes they just casually ran into his boyfriend on the street. It's not believable whatsoever. But it's a way to foster a stronger relationship. Sam has her opinions. She wants to do better. She gives them that chance. The effort is apparent. It's also less stressful and more freeing to have full and rewarding interactions with people she's never met at the market. She isn't a newcomer to this world. She has prospered here for a long time. She is always yearning for something new. She values stability at home. She worries about the decisions others make. She doesn't want them to live with any regrets. Her heart breaks on their behalf. That's how empathetic she is. She is so proud of the younger generation being able to express themselves fully and truthfully. She provides that safe space. She does so even though she doesn't understand it completely. She certainly should try to be better. She isn't perfect. She is capable of making mistakes. It's purposefully not done out of malice. Her children are still annoyed. They can't decipher a true difference. Instead, it's merely a hassle when she calls a family meeting because they are spending too much time on their phones. And yes, that is a fascinating conversation to have at the moment. The execution doesn't suggest anything too dramatic or inventive. It's simply the solution Sam can come up with in the moment. It doesn't have to be much more than that even though everyone breaks away to check their phones anyway. It's a part of life. Sam professes herself as a member of the best generation. She wants to believe in that image so fiercely despite her inability to handle basic aspects of life.

Sam can still be counted on to provide memorable moments of empathy and concern. She is devastated by the idea that Jay is throwing away his childhood. It's suppose to be a celebrated and cherished part of a person's life. Instead, he is rushing for it to be over because his parents can't provide him with the support he needs. His truth can only be apparent in certain settings. He gets to be a kid at Sam's house. He appreciates that so much. He is glad to have a friend like Frankie who has pretended to be his girlfriend for years. Their gender identities are much more complicated than that. They express themselves more freely and openly than the adults in the room can understand. These teenagers are capable of such profound introspection. People outside of that love and acceptance are the ones truly in the closet. All hope isn't lost. It's merely a journey. Right now, Jay's parents don't want to acknowledge he is gay. They don't want to confront what that reality means for them. It's about the image of a perfect family instead of embracing the truth. That fear can be absolutely crushing. Sam feels it for Jay. Meanwhile, Max can only be open with her love for her mother when she is absolutely wasted. She hasn't gotten the courage to tell Sam about her abortion. Even Rich has to talk around that word in order to tell Sam the truth. Max doesn't regret her choice whatsoever. This also is the first before and after moment she has had. Rich offers his advice and sees when it doesn't quite apply. He notices the maturity of the situation. Max has gone through an evolution. That may not be apparent because her home life has remained stable. It's still true. That internal source of tension and character is apparent throughout the Fox household. They each carry out such intense private lives. It's infuriating to whomever catches Duke vaping. Sam is completely in the dark. Max and Rich know the truth. They are angry about it. They express that before having to deal with their own dynamics. Max wants Rich to tell her mother the truth. She also wants to be the one to do it. She is conflicted. It's very much in keeping with Sam's own perspective. She has to decide how much she wants to know. Right now, it should be comforting enough to know Max is doing well. Sam has done everything right in helping her daughter navigate through this transition. She fears she hasn't done what was needed. As such, it's cathartic when Max comes home expressing her love so deeply. It's so strange. It's what Sam wants even though it's delivered in a way that will be forgotten about quickly thereafter. She is continually chasing these moments because the high they produce are so worthwhile in comparison to everything else these relationships must entail. That's the complexity of motherhood where Sam needs so much from her children while also providing them with everything they need to live productive, independent lives themselves. That remains the journey of the show despite being on the air for five seasons already and coming to a close soon.