Monday, April 18, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - A Family Trip to England Inspires Introspection Which Leads to Major Life Changes in 'England'

FX's Better Things - Episode 5.09 "England"

Sam and fam take a trip. Sam needs the circle to be complete.

"England" was written by Joe Hortua and directed by Pamela Adlon

It was courageous when Phil moved to the United States. She was setting off on her own. She became an independent woman. One who formed her own entirely unique family. Her connections elsewhere always remained. But it's also emotional upon returning to England. She has always maintained her English sensibilities and identity. This is an epic homecoming for her. One where she is more forthcoming with her past than she has ever been. It doesn't matter if the stories are true or not. Phil has detailed her life in this place before. Sam has held onto those memories. And now, they may be contradicted by what Phil currently says. This is a magical place nevertheless. It fosters intimacy and companionship. Phil and Max don't want to leave. They view this as the place they need to be for their lives to move forward. They can no longer remain stuck in what has always been known to them. It's courageous for them to take this leap. They decide to do so together. However, they didn't inspire each other to come to this decision. Nor is it a direct result of Sam. She laughs when she's told. She needs to finish the circle. The family came on this vacation together. They can't leave some of them behind. That's not how vacations work. That would be a massive mistake. Of course, the family has already coopted this trip from what it was originally meant to be. Marion and Caroline were traveling to London to spread her mother's ashes. The rest of the family forced their way along with Marion happy to pay for it all. It's the pleasant and expected thing to do. It disrupts the notion of this trip. It suddenly becomes another Fox family outing. They have no connection whatsoever to Caroline's mother. They didn't know her. Meanwhile, Sam operates as if she has to give permission for the family to even embark on this activity. She doesn't have that power. The show is so often centered around her. She operates from that position. She doesn't always deserve it. She's not always in the right. She wants to peacefully navigate this world. She wants to enjoy this time with her family. She can't encourage them too much. That will only invite them to bring more back. Their lives in Los Angeles don't need to be invaded by new traditions that don't mean anything. This family can be exhausting. Caroline knows that all too well. Marion isn't always there to protect her. She is so often made to be the odd person out. She has a unique story to be told too. She honors her mother in this way. She also saves some ashes so she can literally piss on her. That's personal as well. It's a private moment meant for her. It's still invaded by Phil. That's unnerving.

This episode highlights the beauty of family and connection. This isn't the first time Phil has occupied this space. So much has changed since she was last here. And yet, so much is familiar too. She mourns not having her brother with her. She wants to be with Lester again. Duke experiences that beauty. In one moment, Phil and Lester are together happily enjoying each other's company. That dynamic evolved into what Phil and Sam now have. They are certainly codependent on each other. But their bond is driven by love. Duke has been welcomed inside of that too. That's what makes it heartbreaking when all of this is going to change. Phil and Max have made their decisions. Everyone else simply has to accept it and be happy for them. Sam worries her daughter hasn't fully thought this through. All it took was some encouragement from her cousin to realize Max has a beautiful future in front of her. Sometimes it takes making a drastic change to embrace what is possible. She has dimmed herself in her art too often over the years. Now, it's time for her to step into the spotlight with a community eager to cherish her talents. She cares about her mom too. She worries about how Sam will react. This move is necessary. Sam wishes Max good luck. Her influence will be carried on in the next generation. This family can tease each other over the past. Secrets were unearthed. They don't have to be a big deal whatsoever. Love defines these relationships. That was always present even if the truth was much more complicated. Sam giving her blessing is cathartic. That's the moment of release. It doesn't have to then be shared with Duke and Frankie. They understand and lead with compassion. Their lives are changing as well. Only half of this family will be returning to the United States. Sam has her dual citizenship now. She has a connection to England too. It's driven by family. This is never a goodbye. It's simply moving on to something new. It's a fate deserving of the characters as well. Marion expresses that joy. This is what his mother deserves. She can finally be happy in all its intended glory. It comes with the added benefit of her no longer being a daily burden to her children. That will be more transformational for Sam's life. She will be without the person she always uses as an excuse to avoid any change. And now, the decisions have been made. It comes in the midst of all this beauty in the world. The family enjoys that together. It's a profound and emotional experience. It culminates with Phil's performance alongside the piano. She speaks to these emotions much better than anyone else could. And then, Sam is at the airport. She's still flanked by the kids who need her. That connection is still present. But the world is spinning off to something new. It's equally as beautiful while always propping up the importance of this family every step of the way. That cathartic release flows through every distinct action. It's necessary preparation for the family onscreen. It's also reflective in the audience as we prepare to say goodbye to this transcendent series.