BETTER THINGS is back (and BETTER than ever)

BETTER THINGS — Pictured: (l-r) Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, Olivia Edward as Duke, Hannah Alligood as Frankie, Mikey Madison as Max. CR: Pamela Littky/FX

BETTER THINGS was easily one of the best shows of 2016. Emmy-nominated star Pamela Adlon and her creative team put together something real, raw, dark, funny, endearing, and beautiful in season 1 and it should be no surprise that they’ve done it again with Season 2, which premieres tonight at 10/9c on FX.

Adlon’s story of Sam, her daughters, and her mother Phil, dives even more deeply in season 2 into the exploration of modern life – what it means to be a divorced mother of three, working in the business, all the while trying to cut through the bullshit, spend time with her family, and maybe find some romance along the way.  Sam knows what she wants and she’s painfully and refreshingly honest about it; she has learned she doesn’t need to settle for what she doesn’t want.

I’ve seen it described on Twitter by fellow reviewers as “magical” and I don’t think it’s over-selling the show to agree.  BETTER THINGS is magical – I sympathize and empathize with these bad ass ladies, who are growing and changing, sometimes from minute 1 of an episode to minute 22.  I want to know what comes next, I want to know what happened before that got us to certain points in the story.  I could watch Pamela Adlon internalize in a quiet scene as Sam, just using her face to convey myriad emotions, but I’d be just as happy watching her engage with the girls and her mother.

Seeing Max (Mikey Madison), Frankie (Hannah Alligood), and Duke (Olivia Edward) in the next stages of their lives as, respectively, a modern young woman who doesn’t want to believe she still needs her mom, a dreamer with the world’s problems on her mind who pushes the envelope and lives how she wants, and a precocious child whose friends might regret playing Truth or Dare with her, deepens the connection we, as viewers, have with the family, while Phil (Celia Imrie) continues to offer stealth comic relief as a look into the Ghost of Christmas Future for Sam and her girls. The romantic adventures of Sam are great; strengthening the bonds of her family is even better.

Finding truth in fiction, as I pointed out last season, is the show’s strong point, and a show that was fully realized in Season 1 becomes a show that explodes with heart, humor, and a little bit of magic in Season 2.

BETTER THINGS airs Thursdays at 10/9c on FX.