Monday, April 25, 2022

REVIEW: 'Better Things' - Sam Fox Celebrates Life and Family in Her Own Completely Unique Way in 'We Are Not Alone'

FX's Better Things - Episode 5.10 "We Are Not Alone"

Sam and their village.

"We Are Not Alone" was written by Pamela Adlon and directed by Pamela Adlon

Life takes us down some strange yet familiar roads. That's the message Sam delivers when she is marrying Sunny and Jeff. That's the perfect summation of what this show aspired to be across five seasons. It followed and cherished a unique perspective from Pamela Adlon. So much of it functions as a typical family comedy. Sam is struggling to raise her children while pursuing a career of her own. The family celebrates each other. However, they casually dismiss each other a lot. They don't always vocalize what they mean to each other. In Sam's mind, it's mean that her children are growing up. They are less dependent on her. They live their own independent lives. Phil doesn't need her anymore either. This should be a time in Sam's life where she can celebrate her freedom even more. That makes it ironic when she gets her period once more. She thought that part of her life was over. She could move on to new opportunities. She could be the figure behind-the-camera framing a powerful narrative. She can absolutely deliver a stunning piece of commentary on the world's dependance on technology. That sequence that starts off the episode is much more effective and transcendent than Sam's prior complaints about her kids always being on their phones. They can never truly break free from those patterns. Life simply continues. They recognize so many of the things that happen. This isn't the first time Sunny and Jeff have gotten married. They know what to expect. They face similar jitters. They don't want to make the same mistakes. They have grown following their separation. Sam has held firm. Of course, she has always functioned as stability. Everyone could judge their growth based on how they compare to Sam. She has long been the stable one. She still has her own issues. In fact, it's not until the very end of the evening that Sam can embrace happiness for herself. She doesn't need her life to change. She isn't dependent on a man sweeping her off her feet and taking care of her. She can do that all by herself. Her remaining kids still present challenges to her. She deals with those consequences. And yet, she can fondly reflect on the past without linger on its traumas. That's huge growth. It allows her to be present in the moment of celebration. This should be a happy occasion. Sure, Sam still ultimately abandons it. However, it speaks to the central idea of her independence. She has created such a beautiful space for so many people to feel loved and accepted. That transcends generations.

And then, it all concludes with an epic singalong of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python. That's such a strange way to close out the series. But again, it perfectly belongs in Sam's wheelhouse. She grew up with such an appreciation for it. She has shared that love with the people in her life. They celebrate it as the message Sam needs to hear. She can choose to wallow over the misery of things not working out. It's better and easier to be happy. That's so easy to say. It's much more difficult to truly accept within one's essence. It's been a lifelong struggle for Sam. This season opened with her life being thrown off balance. She knocked the statue over by accident. That space hasn't been filled until now. Caroline comes in with the perfect replacement. That allows the two of them to bond. They inspire so much within each other. That has frequently led to jealousy and discontent. The other has what they want. It has always remained unobtainable for them. They simply have to be content with the lives they have. It can be absolutely miserable. They have to surrender that power though. This family relies on each other in order to thrive. So much of that burden and appreciation are placed on Sam. It's not always recognized. In fact, Caroline has been critical of it recently. And yet, she feels the urge to share what her relationship with her mother was like. It was very reminiscent of what Phil was like to her. It was cruel and demeaning. Sam actually loves her mother. That remains a gift that keeps on giving. Sam has to sell her mother's house though. That's the next stage of acceptance in this journey. She can't hold onto the memories. That would only prevent her from moving forward. It's a lesson Sam passes down to her kids. She and Duke have to free the fish that has grown too big for its tank in the kitchen. Of course, they are still destructive to the local ecosystem. No one has all the answers. Plenty of people make mistakes. However, they must enter life as a true celebration. Not everyone will appreciate every action done. And yet, connections can come from any moment. Sam has always been open to those possibilities. It's only now that Duke shares how in awe she is of her mother. All of Sam's kids have felt that way at one moment. It doesn't shape their entire relationships with her. It forms a crucial aspect. It's a part of maturity and development that can only come from them growing up. Sam dreads so much of life changing. It's ultimately rewarding though. She simply has to maintain that positive attitude even in the face of adversity. In doing so, she can see all the miraculous facets of life out there waiting to be witnessed and explored. This show offered that clarity while never losing sight of the distinct family at its heart.