Better Things: “Duke’s Chorus” Season 1 Episode 7 Review

Photo Credit:http://www.vulture.com/2016/10/better-things-recap-season-1-episode-7.html

“Duke’s Chorus” brought forward a previously unexplored aspect of Sam’s life as a single mother. We’ve seen her navigate a few adult friendships so far, but here we see her get in deep with the parents she’s forced to interact with thanks to her kids. In picking up Duke from Chorus, she gets one child that’s not hers unapologetically thrown on her while another parent hits on her, unbeknownst to Sam. As a mother, Sam fiercely cares about her children’s lives and growth, so much so that she’s blind to the clear signs of attention or that something is wrong.

But that doesn’t mean she’s not going to argue with her kids. When said unapologetic mother (the terrific Sarah Baker), who happens to be Mormon, picks up her daughter, Frankie gets Sam and the whole family roped into a church outing that Sunday. Then there’s Max, who, as many teenagers do, just seems to get a thrill out of torturing her parent. Begging her mom to come pick her up after she lost her Lyft privileges, Max puts up a stunt when Sam arrives to be on top of some boy just so her mother can see it.

Showing Sam’s personal hardships before unveiling Trinity’s (Baker’s character) made the impact of both more long-lasting. After the church outing, Sam and Trinity argue over religion, which naturally blows into other stuff, until Trinity breaks down about being stuck in her marriage so long as she practices Mormonism. Sam’s struggles aren’t Trinity’s struggles, in fact they couldn’t be more opposite. But the point Better Things is building to here is that they both struggle. Sam remains a little too wise of a character for any genuine growth to be felt here, which is frankly one of this series bigger problems at the moment. But we do get the satisfying closer, in which we find out that Trinity cheated on her husband with the very father that was hitting on Sam in the beginning of the episode. Now it’s not just their mutual difficulties that bring them together, but their outlet.

As with most Better Things episodes, the ending brought new significance to the first half of the episode, which seemed as if it was going on tangents. This formula is working well enough so far. The episodes are neat little morsels of parenting that serve a purpose to the overall series. That said, FX’s other new comedy this fall, Atlanta, has beat out Better Things in terms of quality because of its risk-taking, formula-breaking storytelling. Pamela Adlon’s show could benefit from getting itself out of its comfort zone as we head toward the end of its first season. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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