Pamela Adlon Navigates Life at 50 in Season 4 of ‘Better Things’

Sam Fox (Pamela Adlon) starts life on the other side of 50 in the fourth season premiere of “Better Things.” Adlon, who also writes and directs the series, continues to draw from a deep well that is her own life as a single mother and actor in L.A. This season, Sam continues to support the most important people in her life, not the least being her three daughters, while navigating a midlife crisis.

The rain pours down in Los Angeles as Sam makes use of some rare quiet time to rest. Afterwards, she picks up middle daughter Frankie (Hannah Alligood) and youngest daughter Duke (Olivia Edward) from the airport following a visit with their father, Xander. While it’s a happy reunion, things get awkward when Frankie mentions Xander wanting money from Sam. Irritated, she has to hold herself back from sending her a scathing text, a reminder that you’re never really free from an ex when you share kids.

Meanwhile, Phil (Celia Imrie), Sam’s aging mother, who now has heart problems, sinks further into dementia. The two get into a spat during the ride home from the airport, and against the potestations of the girls, Sam temporarily kicks the older woman out of the car. Through the storm, Sam’s sense of humor is intact. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the first half of the season premiere comes when Frankie, the gender-noncoforming daughter, informs her mother that she would like to celebrate her upcoming 15th birthday with a quinceañera. To Sam, this is an odd request, since they are Jewish and not of Mexican descent. However, Frankie explains that such a celebration would not be cultural appropriation, but a show of appreciation for those who originally inhabited L.A. But the real reason seems to come out when Frankie, with emotion in her voice, tells Sam that she must invite Xander to the festivities. Fathers traditionally play a major role at a young woman’s quinceañera, and it remains to be seen if Frankie will get what she needs from both her parents.

Sam’s oldest daughter, Max (Mikey Madison), is largely absent from the first half of the season premiere, as she now has a job that keeps her up late. In the second half, she tests her mother’s patience when she brings home a furry creature without asking. Through all her troubles, Sam has still remained a pillar of support to not only her mother and daughters, but also to her dear friends who have been dealing with difficult breakups, her gay bestie Rich (Diedrich Bader), and gal pal Lenny (Cree Summer). The latter is in an especially difficult situation, considering that she is Sam’s age with a baby and a six-year-old. Is there room in Sam’s life to care for one more living thing? Apparently there is.

But the biggest surprise comes when Sam discovers that the animated series she starred in for ten years is getting a reboot. She’s excited until she finds out that she has to audition for her old role.But the biggest indignity comes when she finds out that she is being replaced by the voice of a dead person. In the end, Sam not only copes with humor when life’s changes come at her, but by doing what middle-aged men have been doing for years, buying a sick new ride.

Better Things” season four premieres March 5 and airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.