Better Things: “Future Fever” Season 1 Episode 5 Review

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As with most Better Things episodes, it took a little for the various tangents of “Future Fever” to come together. But once they did, it became the most poignant and effective episode since the premiere. The fifth episode of season one is about two significant moments in life. The first is when you realize the pointless things you wasted energy on as a teenager, hence taking the first steps into adulthood. The second is when you watch your kid have this realization, finally allowing you to look at them, at least on some level, as an equal.

“Future Fever” may start with Sam mothering Frankie during her sickness, but the heart of the episode has to do with Max starting to look at colleges and seeing what she has to do to have the life she wants to have later on. However, we’re introduced to the concept of Max being an adult before she even realizes it. In a very funny scene involving Sam and Max witnessing a bad first date at a restaurant, Sam does her best to give the woman all the empowerment she deserves after sitting and listening to this dude talk about his whole life. But then, Sam jokes to the man after he came back to the bathroom that he should go sit with her daughter instead, as Max was ignoring her mother the whole meal for a group text thread. Disgustingly, the man just says “Hi” to Max as if there’s a chance something can actually come from it. The only reason Sam joked that this guy could go sit with her daughter is that she still views Max as a child not ready to be part of the real world. She’s so used to being in “mom mode” taking care of Frankie and driving everyone everywhere, that she is oblivious to the fact that her oldest is maturing before her eyes.

We next see Max as she talks to her guidance counselor about her college options. She later makes plans with her friends involving shrooms and a whole lot of nothing else. Mikey Madison really came into her own as an actress in these scenes, inserting genuine fear into her conflict with herself. The scene that followed with Sam and her drinking buddies was masterful. Whining about their petty annoyances with life, Max finally blurts out that she isn’t sure she has a future. Sam of course knows that isn’t true and uses goes to comfort her with the usual mothering tactics before one of her friends stops her. Here, Sam is forced to face her daughter’s entrance into adulthood head on. For Max, it’s a confusing moment of uncertainty. Then Sam burst into tears, seeing her failure to truly see her daughter before this moment. It’s the best single scene of Better Things so far, combining the genuine complications of the lives of two opposite generations.

The final scene of the episode had Sam taking Max to a store to try on a pantsuit, showing her that she can be anyone. It was a nice conclusion to what just transpired, even if the sap level reached Modern Family levelsI won’t lie, if Pamela Adlon and FX want to make Better Things a more cerebral, feminist version of Modern Family, that’s a bit of a disappointment. But hey, there was a time when ABC’s Emmy winner was a great comedy. So there’s no denying that even under this guise, Better Things still works. It’s tackling very relatable issues with a slightly modernized twist. Relatable is the key word there. The show is still playing things safe for the most part, relying on its warmness and more realistic use of profanity to get by. But safe isn’t always a problem when covering such emotional periods in peoples’ lives as “Future Fever” does. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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