Better Things (airing at 10pm Thursdays on FX) might be better served by having a short season. The season is only supposed to run for 8-10 episodes, and that feels about right for what Pamela Adlon wants to accomplish. Too often comedy tries to push narrative over substance. While Adlon is still showing her Louis CK apprenticeship stripes, “Period” is the beginning of the breaking away process. Taking a few pages from modern HBO successes, “Period” allows Adlon to exist as something more than a single mom. She’s a sexual being that just wants the annoying parts to end.
“Period” opens on Sam undergoing a vaginal exam. Sam is half serious/half joking with the doctor to tell her that menopause has begun. As the episode progresses, Adlon keeps hammering home the same point. Being a woman sucks. She isn’t concerned with making grand political statements or trying to force views on an audience. This is a chance for the new array of voices to come together and then one single voice boos. Adlon doesn’t boo to be the negative Nancy. Adlon boos because the current female and male rhetoric behind the period is garbage.
A woman’s period can bring about many life changes, but it also becomes yet another burden to experience. Society jokes about it or uses it as an excuse for female behavior. When Sam gets angry over how other women are treating their period, the answer is quick but true. You have your period, and then you don’t have it. Life sucks about the same but in different ways.
Celia Imrie also debuts in this episode as Sam’s mother. Sam’s mom wants to drink and discuss muscle mass. Celia Imrie plays an older lady who doesn’t care about discussing female issues; it’s a matter of life that doesn’t define her existence. When she talks to Sam about the life she had before Sam’s father or even her daughter, Sam’s mother is wistful about what was missed. Then, she moves on. Life is about more than moments. Sometimes, a period ends chapters. That way new ones can begin.