In the previous episode of F is For Family, Frank was vexed by his father, William, when he moved into a camper next door and stole the attention of his friends and family. Now, it’s back to school night and Frank must prove that he can be a supportive and loving father to win Bill and Maureen back. At the same time, Sue is unpacking hand me downs for the new baby’s room and comes across some photographs of her at a time when her future was still bright. A secondary character, Vic Reynolds, wrestles with aging and feeling out of touch. Many of characters in the arcs depicted in episode two and three of the season confront the realization that life is all too short.
When Frank makes his first appearance in the episode, he is saying what he normally would say but with a forced smile and mockingly positive accent. It seems this is the beginning of his attempt to win his family over. His wife asks that he take Bill and Maureen to back to school night, while she takes the oldest son, Kevin, to the high school. Once at the school Frank is reminded by a teacher of a humiliation he suffered at the hands of his father 30 years ago when he participated in a school play. It’s important to point out that flashbacks are a common occurrence in the show. While the show is mainly told linearly, flashbacks are used to show Frank and Sues past. The memory disturbs him deeply because the teacher remarked at how funny the situation was; as a result, he spends the rest of the night stuck in his head and being inattentive to his children
Meanwhile, Sue is at the high school trying to get Kevin to take his studies more seriously. When she enters the school, she sees her old trophies in a display case and is further reminded of her wasted potential. Many times in the show, conflict is created dually through the dynamics of a loving yet hostile family environment inhabited by five totally different personalities, each dealing with their own private issues. In the instances of Frank and Sue in these episodes, their conflict arises as a result of their past personal traumas
Next, Bill and Maureen tell Frank that they prefer their grandfather to him. As a result, Frank overextends himself and volunteers to coach hockey for Bill, in addition to assisting with the school play for Maureen. At the high school, Kevin has disappointed his mother by missing a meeting with the principle regarding his acceptance to a special program. Instead, he ate mushrooms in the hallway and had a transformative experience changing his view on his own life. At the end of the episode he meets a girl that takes interest in him and gives him a Lord of the Rings book, beginning a new transition for his character.
In the third episode of the season, Sue is feeling better about the baby coming when she begins looking through hand me downs to decorate the baby’s room. Frank is off to a rocky start when he realizes he forgot about his prior commitments to his children. An interesting habit of the show is taking a look at the lives of secondary characters more closely. In this episode, a neighbor of the Murphy’s, Vic Reynolds is highlighted as he faces an existential crisis as a result of his fading youth. After a week-long bender upon receiving word that he had been rehired as a radio host, he was now late for his first day. When he arrives at the station, he finds that he’s been assigned the oldies block, and that the radio station is taking a different direction. This further demeans him, as his new title is ‘Grampa Vic Reynolds’ though he is only thirty years old.
Later that day, Frank has gotten caught up at work, and left Bill stranded at school, forcing him to walk to hockey practice. He was assisting his boss, Bob Pogo, who as a result of a long hospital stay, decided that he loved his job more than his family; a sentiment that Frank feels the opposite of. He rushes to get Bill but finds he’s too late, and heads to the ice rink. Once there, he embarrasses his son and gets him thrown to the ground by another player. William, Franks father, arrives and consoles Bill, later taking him home. Frank is left more isolated from his children than before
Back at the house, Sue has become depressed because she has again dwelled on her wasted potential. As the audience we can clearly see that Franks emotional struggles are the result of his father’s torment and Sue’s are the result of her life path changing for the worse. Both have had their youth dashed, Frank by his father and Sue from pregnancy. Vic also struggles with the realization that he is old and sets out to find the next new fad in music to prove himself. Kevin appears to be the only winner in this episode, he performs better in school, talks to his crush, and writes a new song. This is an intriguing instance of a fad from the time period the show is based in. Kevin writes a song that seems to be similar to early punk, suggesting that later on in the show, he could be a fictitious pioneer in the genre. As a result of his mushroom trip and the positive influence of the girl he likes, Alice, Kevin has appeared to understand that youth is finite, and that he should work hard but also enjoy himself in order not to squander it. Overall these episodes gave us a glimpse of several stages and reactions regarding the passage of life.