In every episode of BETTER THINGS, life for Sam (Pamela Adlon) is a pill. She has to digest everything she’s asked to swallow because she’s a mother first. This episode is no different.
Sam finds herself declaring that she’s failing at raising her oldest daughter Max (Mikey Madison). She says this to comfort a fellow mother, who happens to be Mormon – Sam’s favorite (not). The woman’s daughter is the bain of her and her youngest daughter Duke’s (Olivia Edward) existence. The little girl is a nightmare. She’s a fun-size judgmental Jesus. She explains that everyone should love church and that crosses are reminders of the torture Jesus went through. As if that isn’t enough, she spits on the ground every time Duke says “Oh, God.” Oh, God.
Sam declares that when this little girl gets to Max’s age, she’s going to have a whole host of problems that her mother won’t know about because “church people” like to pretend the real world isn’t happening to them. Her commentary on church people is interesting. She judges them and admits it. She thinks that what they believe is weird, and she’s open about it. Her apples haven’t fallen far from the tree. For the most part, Max and Frankie (Hannah Alligood) are just as judgmental. Duke, on the other hand, is impressionable because, well, she’s the baby. Is it more understandable for a small child to be a Mormon than an adult?
Sam is not religious. She may even be an atheist. It doesn’t surprise me because she lives a life of no rules. She isn’t judgmental in the traditional sense, but she is judgmental. This episode redefines its meaning. “Church people” are so easy to pick on. They try to live according to rules, which they think will promise them something greater in this life and the next. These rules vary from one religious organization to the next, but most that follow them have good intentions. This is true for people like Sam as well.
However, I think Sam is a rebel in her nontraditional group. She just desires people to keep it real. You can follow rules, but you can also talk about how those rules suck. And that is what the Mormon mother does when Sam presses her to keep it real. The Mormon mom says that, indeed, her daughter has issues; she’s been having an affair (and so is her husband); and she cusses. Sam opens up an ocean of transparency in her. The Mormon mom also says that one of the Chorus fathers gives “dick generously.” Yeah – she’s hella comfortable talking to Sam.
“Duke’s Chorus” isn’t about Duke’s Chorus. Heck, I only think of the chorus when I think of the “generous dick” line. To me, it’s about experiencing life: its good, bad and ugly no matter your religious or spiritual beliefs. It may disappoint Sam to know that her life of no rules is a rule. But if it works for her, then God bless her.
Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
Better Things airs Thursday at 10PM on FX
Jennifer spends her nights writing, her days securing insurance for TV shows, and her in-betweens blogging about the silliness and seriousness of life on her blog.
Jennifer Ford | Contributor