A review of tonight’s Better Things coming up just as soon as I rent a muscle car…
Where the season two premiere was one big story taking place during Sam’s house party, “Rising”(*) mixes a few different stories into the same half-hour: We open with Sam’s terrible date with the guy she can’t stand, then get a brief interlude where Duke and Sam talk about Phil’s mortality, then transition into Sam’s weekend getaway and her very quick decision to get away from the getaway once she realizes Sunny and her rich new boyfriend are trying to fix her up with one of his rich friends.
(*) The title comes from a repeated lyric in “Release Me,” by Corrina Repp, the song playing over the concluding sequence.
There’s less connective tissue than there was at times when the show took this kind of episodic approach last year (or when Louis C.K., who wrote this script, did the same for most of the early years of Louie), but all three combine to add up to the same basic idea, which is already the core of the show: the only thing in Sam Fox’s life that consistently makes her happy is being mom to her girls. She can blow off the bad boyfriend because she’s not particularly hungry for male companionship, she worries about her own mom and the impact her eventual death will have on Duke and her sisters, and she flees from a fancy time at a palatial estate to sit at a cheap beach motel and fantasize about bringing the girls up to join her. None of the three segments have to be in the same episode, because Better Things is always on some level about Sam’s maternal instincts, but they fit together nicely, and offer a variety of tones.