Pamela Adlon’s Better Things Season 4 Finale Provides Clarity During A Foggy Time

I put off watching last week’s Better Things Season 4 finale because I did not want it to end. It is not the first time that I have put off something so I can avoid it ending. As I write up this post now, in quarantine, reflecting on Pamela Adlon’s Better Things Season 4, I am also am reflecting on my own life. This, too, is not the first time I have spent thinking about Better Things and my life at the same time. I am a man. I do not have kids, nor have I ever been married, and yet Better Things is one of the most relatable shows I have ever watched. This morning, I decided to bite the bullet, have some espresso, and watch the season finale of Better Things.

I accepted going in that Pamela Adlon wouldn’t be able to top Season 3 finale where Sam, Frankie, Duke, and Phil perform a dance routine to the song “Titled” as their gift to eldest daughter Max. And no way could Adlon top the 50th birthday that ended with the raw and honest letter from Frankie to her mom, “sorry I’m such an asshole” after she comes back home after running away. It might be that I went into season 4 episode 10 with lower expectations, and it might be over the past couple months, as we deal with COVID-19 that I have been over-analyzing my life because the season 4 finale “Listen to the Roosters” was perfect. I am not sure I can explain it, and maybe others who watched it can explain it better, but there was a moment of clarity.

The answers are in the water. The answers are where we come from and who we come from. 

BETTER THINGS “Listen to the Roosters” Episode 10 (Airs Thursday, April 30) — Pictured: (l-r) Ellen Geer as Bella, Olivia Edward as Duke. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Toward the beginning of the episode, as Sam’s daughter, Duke, who has become a bit of a medium over the past couple of seasons, has a conversation with an older woman. She turns out to be a ghost, as her mom orders from a food truck following a Dodgers game. Duke asked the woman, who claimed she could see into the future, “I never want to get married or have kids — do I get married or have kids?”

The ghost replies, “I never did, and I had a really good life. I’ve known many good men. They gave me music, love, danger, adventures — it shaped me. But at the end of the day, I prefer being alone. Being alone and being able to feel good with yourself, that’s the ticket.” A very relatable, jarring and truthful statement while I’ve been practicing social distancing, and been alone for nearly seven weeks.

“Being alone and being able to feel good with yourself, that’s the ticket,” is a quote that I am going to try to live by. 

Other highlights from “Listen to the Roosters” include Sam’s mini-documentary, where she interviews women of all ages. All of them come from Adlon’s circle, about what it feels like to be in their bodies and how we live in a world that chooses not to talk about it.

Adlon set out to create a series for her three daughters. A show that understood them and one that spoke to them. Adlon created a series where you can watch the “brotherhood” of women, and where things like a period or menopause or the trials and tribulations of being a mother are discussed and seen. “To be a woman in the world is to be built up and then let down… you’re invisible, you’re unseen, and no one has prepared you for it,” Sam says just before going on a hilarious rant about the Dalai Lama’s sexist beauty standards. What is most incredible about this scene is watching the faces of Sam’s daughters as they watch this mini-documentary. Sam created something that made her daughters proud but also made her daughters feel seen. Just like Adlon has done creating Better Things

I grew up mostly with a single mother. My father wasn’t as present in my early life as he is today, and most, if not all, of my upbringing, is due to my mother, Abbie. It hasn’t been until Better Things, that made me think about the hardship it is for single mothers who have to deal with absent fathers. I understand it from a macro social-economic standpoint. But the emotional part not so much. The kids are so focused on their own emotions that it is too hard to grasp on to what your mother may be going through. And yet, the mother has to deal with their feelings about the situation while also prioritizing their kid or kids’ emotions and well-being. I have always seen my mom as an excellent and caring, although sometimes too-overbearing, mother, who is the best mom I could ask for. However, I am not always capable of showing it. Better Things has helped me understand that life is much more complex and too-often out of your control. 

Better Things season 4 ends as it begins with water. A rebirth of sorts. With REM’s Nightswimming playing. First, it was rain, now it the ocean and Phyllis’s neighbor Brad’s pool. Sam decides to give her ex-husband, Xander, a lump sum of the rest of his alimony, and she was going to be free. In those final moments, there was clarity for Sam and Rich, Phyllis, and Max, Frankie, and Duke. The answers are in the water and are where and who we come from.