‘Better Things’ Gets Through A ‘Blackout’ And An Awkward Encounter

A quick review of tonight’s Better Things coming up just as soon as I ask the guy at the paint counter if he has a lavender woman’s suit…

After the gorgeous emotions of last week’s “Eulogy,” Better Things shifts into shaggy dog comedy mode for “Blackout,” a string of vignettes all in service of one big punchline, when Sunny’s ex-husband Jeff makes a move on Sam on the way home from the hardware store, and she shoots him down as definitively and vociferously as any man has ever been shot down in the history of filmed entertainment.

Before we get there, there’s a bunch of slice of life stuff in the episode, including the disconcerting spectacle of Dukie watching a King of the Hill repeat, which raises the question of whether Sam is the voice of Bobby Hill in this universe, or if she co-exists with Pamela Adlon, and the two of them are always competing with Constance Zimmer for the same roles(*). Then the power goes out, air raid sirens start going off, and Jeff turns out to be just the calming presence necessary to get Sam and the girls through all the weirdness.

(*) I asked Adlon for comment on this via FX publicity, and they tell me she replied, “He should know I would never answer a question like that. Only the shadow knows…..”

This then moves us into punchline territory when Jeff (who’s been hanging around a lot this season, since their kids are friends) takes Sam to the hardware store to prep for the next blackout. Sam has a mortifying encounter with Robin — at first I thought it was a very Adlon/CK move to skip over the breakup entirely, until we learn that Sam never actually broke up with Robin, just started ghosting him because she couldn’t handle the feelings — and they wind up back in Jeff’s truck. Every interaction the two have had throughout the episode would seem to be pointing towards a kiss, because that’s how TV shows work. But even though Sam Fox is technically a character on a TV show, it’s one that deliberately doesn’t function like a TV show, just as Sam doesn’t operate by the logic of either a romantic comedy heroine or even what most of the interested men assume a single woman would want. She’s barely interested in dating at all, and she’s sure as hell not interested in any kind of hook-up with her best friend’s ex, and the force and repetition of all those “No”s was a dark comic delight, which then went to another level of hilarity when Jeff inadvertently let Sam off the hook for the whole uncomfortable incident when he suggested, “If you were just to taste my dick,” she might be more amenable to the idea.

Sometimes, Better Things wants to make you cry. This week, it wanted to make us laugh, and though it needed a while to get there, the wait was worth it.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His next book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.