Better Things: “Period” Season 1 Episode 2 Review

Photo Credit:

After the audaciously plotless pilot, Better Things played things safer this week. “Period” felt like an edgier episode from a later season of Modern Family. It had some laughs and the sweetness was abound, perhaps even in excess, but it ultimately struggled to differentiate itself from the plethora of other shows purporting feminism currently airing. It’s hip to empower women on TV right now, as it should always be, but Better Things took advantage of that this week and ended up feeling slightly mundane.

That’s not to say the episode was complete ineffective. There were still bright spots aplenty to keep things afloat. As just the second episode of the series, without the duties of wooing us with the pilot, “Period” has a lot of work to do in fleshing out Sam’s world. We meet Sam’s mother Phyllis (Celia Imrie), who lives across the street Everybody Loves Raymond-style. She’s a bit overbearing, just hoping to share useless information with her daughter. But after Sam rudely shoves her off upon returning home from filming in Canada, we’re slowly let in one a symbiotic relationship that Sam needs as much as her mother does. After cleaning the house due to a party her daughters threw, Sam drinks vodka with her mom and they talk about the different men that led to Sam’s father. It’s a sweet, though exposition heavy, conversation that sheds some light on where Sam came from. Later on, when Frankie and Duke are bugging their mother to no end, it’s Phyllis who comes in and provides support. Notably, it’s in a way you don’t really see grandparents do on TV, acting more as a partner to Sam than someone on the outskirts of this quasi-nuclear family. It makes sense, three daughters is a lot for a single mother to handle. This authentic moment that shows a piece of how Sam’s life stays together is exactly what makes Better Things such a prospect for greatness down the line.

But the bookends of “Period” naturally have to do with the feminist angle. The opening scene at the gynecologist is familiar in this super supportive TV-scape (Girls actually had a similar scene in it’s own second ever episode back in 2012), but it adds the “twist” that Sam is a middle-aged women waiting for menopause to kick in any day now. This different branch of feminism is one still rarely seen and worth exploring, and I hope Better Things continues down this path. As for the big speech at the end about all the girls at the seminar getting their period, making them stronger and more resilient to the extra pains life is going to throw at them, it bordered on cliche. It was the sort of neat, big-picture message shows like Scrubs and Modern Family drove into the ground. Pamela Adlon is smarter than that, the pilot being a perfect indicator. I seriously doubt Better Things will employ this tactic often, but that it went to it in just its second episode is slightly worrisome. Yet, you then get the perfect tag where Sam, in the heat of the moment with a guy, runs to her daughter’s room and steals the condom she found on the floor, scrambling to get herself together while enacting some sweet revenge on her daughter. After the cliches, Better Things sends us off on the right foot for the rest of the season. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *