These four episodes are "endlessly rewatchable and rewarding," says Matt Zoller Seitz. "The rest of the season is pretty good too — so nervy yet exact that it makes almost every other American TV show, even excellent ones, seem formulaic and timid in comparison. The series is filled with believably awkward, occasionally volatile, but always humane moments among Adlon’s Sam Fox and her daughters (Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, and Olivia Edward) and her friends, colleagues, and exes (including her deadbeat ex-husband, Xander, played by Matthew Glave). It’s about the sisterhood of all women, particularly mothers and daughters of one kind or another; variants of the observation 'All mothers are single mothers' are spoken twice this season. But it’s also about mortality, disappointment, the necessity of letting go of grudges, the difficulty of keeping hope’s embers burning, and the possibility of finding beauty and meaning in the parts of life that so many screenwriting manuals insist are inherently dull and should be avoided in favor of action, conflict, and jeopardy. The sneaky power of this series lies in Adlon’s determination to do what she’s been told not to do and point her camera at parts of the world that commercial television rarely notices."
Season 4 pushes the creative envelope to enrapturing results: "Better Things Season 4 remains a perfect television series," says Ben Travers. "This should come as no surprise to anyone wowed by the breathtaking emotional journey captured in the third season — there was no hint then, that Adlon, who showruns, produces, directs, and stars in every episode, was running out of steam. If anything, she was just getting started. Season 4 continues the bold shifts in format (including a wistful black-and-white silent movie and a killer 'instagran' segment), keeps up its loosely serialized plotting (matching its mesmerizing, scripted, cinéma vérité aesthetic), and tells more one-off stories as beautiful vignettes (some you’ll want to revisit immediately). But Season 4 also sets a definitive tone unlike previous seasons, in which Sam is forced to look at a future she doesn’t want to imagine and yet still finds ways to celebrate the turbulent present one thing at a time."
Pamela Adlon explains why it never feels like Better Things is holding on to part of its past: "It has to be something completely different," she says of each season, "because I do think that that’s an important part of the show—I do feel like you’ve got to shed skin every year to get stronger and better. So for me, I don’t want to repeat myself. I don’t want to just keep doing the same show. And I think that organically the show, it all works because of the story that I’m telling about these people, particularly these five women. And even though there’s three girls, I look at everybody as being of a different generation. And so those are all pieces of it and how it shakes out. But for this season, it was kind of just this profound thing last year, when we had all that rain in Los Angeles—I was convinced that I did it with my brain, so I wanted to make it a part of my show. I became a rainmaker in my show and in my life."