Pamela Adlon returns tonight with an even more intimate view of Sam’s daily life as she stars in, writes, and directs the impeccable season 2 of Better Things.
We get an even more personal look at Sam Fox as Pamela Adlon takes the wheel to direct the entire second season of Better Things. From the close-up opening shot, we see a focused Sam staring intently at the wall ahead and can only guess where her mind is. That’s the genius of Adlon because when we pan out, she’s actually sitting on the toilet only to pull the plunger out from behind and get to work. Adlon reinstates the authentic, self-sacrificing nature of Sam instantly by doing the nitty-gritty work, before emerging into her open home and the party she’s graciously throwing for her closest friends and family.
There’s a bit of a time-jump here from the season 1 finale. Macy (Lucy Davis) is recently out of a relationship with a 30-something year old now dating Sam’s oldest, the sixteen year old Max. It’s here the first conflict of season 2 begins. Sam’s judged for not being able to “control” her, though she knows her daughter well enough to know that any effort to control her would only drive her away. She also knows she doesn’t need to “control” her children to raise them because she can trust them to make their own decisions and intervene when needed. Max ends up talking to her mother (to which Sam hilariously responds in surprise with “Who? Me?!”) saying that she’s not ready for a relationship like this and Mama Fox quickly gets out the claws.
Sam’s defiance to the norm and her independence are a beacon of hope and inspiration but even more so in the post-Trump era. Throughout the season, she never needs approval or asks for permission because a) she knows she doesn’t need to and b) between work and being a single-mother, she plain doesn’t have time for it. The same can be said for her dating life which provided one of my favorite moments where Sam verbally eviscerates her entitled date and the result is an absolutely glorious feat of gender norm deconstruction.
He calls her “mean” for being honest, to which she responds with only more honesty to correct him that she’s actually been pretty nice. She didn’t need to date him in the first place, put up with his lack of effort/high expectations oxymoron, or blatantly, have sex with him at all. This started because she wanted to have sex first so she could go home to her family after without the expectation of having to give something after dinner (and, well, to get it over with because she’s just not that into him). Whenever Sam’s away, whether it be work or a date or hardware store, she’s always thinking of getting back to her girls.
We see this too when the newly divorced Sunny (Alysia Reiner) plans a trip to get away. At first, Sam is thrilled and even jokes to Frankie and Max that they can move out and rent an apartment while she’s gone for all she cares. Though, when she gets away, she’s overwhelmed by the “perfect” time Sunny has planned and escapes to a beach front hotel. She fantasizes over living by the beach like she’s always wanted to and of renting a black Mustang to pick her girls up with. She brings them to the beach to enjoy her vacation with them rather than have a vacation from them.
Sam is the epitome of the honest, cool, unapologetic mom who unconditionally loves and never stops giving for those she cares for (including her ailing and aging mother, Phil). With a special eulogy themed episode that captivates how under-appreciated she feels and the beautiful reciprocation of love from her daughters, the lovely surprise of Hannah Alligood’s singing voice, and a Bobby Hill visual reference (who Adlon voices), Adlon continues to deliver simply the best comedy on television that’s both exceedingly heartwarming and fulfilling.
Better Things premieres tonight (9/14) at 10 p.m. EST on FX and you can stream the entire first season on Hulu!