22 August 2005
Six Feet Under 2001-2005
I wanted to steer clear of the death cliches here but if there is ever a TV show to be "mourned," it is Six Feet Under. I was saddened to learn the series was ending this season because I felt its untimely demise would leave many stories untold. I took for granted I'd have more time with the psychedelic mess that is the Fisher family. Ruth, Nate, David, and Claire -- all deeply flawed characters that were not living life as much as dying of it. Even the sideshows -- the lovably indignant Federico, crazy-as-hell Billy -- had storylines that were equally as entertaining and disturbing.
Each season, I got to know the characters more and more but instead of understanding them better, I found them even more unpredictable. Their lives were constantly swerving. One moment in the throes of despair, the next twirling carefree through a meadow. The plot twists -- like the bus that hit Nathaniel Fisher's hearse in episode 1 -- you never saw coming. Some weeks I'd watch the show just to see what Ruth was going to do - have a cup of tea? carjack a van?
Other times, I'd tune in to catch a glimpse of Billy off his meds, twitching and speaking gibberish.
But mostly, I watched to see Nate's self-sabotage play itself out in his string of failed-rekindled-failed relationships. First there was Brenda, the female version of Nate. Maybe soulmates, maybe not. Then Nate's wife Lisa, the passive-aggressive hippy-despot, who goes missing and -- fulfilling Nate's dearest wish -- winds up dead. Watching Nate grapple with his grief over losing Lisa alongside his guilt about being happy she's gone was the best thing happening on TV in 2003.
At last, Nate seemed to have kicked his self-sabotaging ways, but a few months into his marriage to Brenda, Quaker Maggie surfaces with her own stories of personal tragedy. Nate gravitates toward Maggie because she is "deeply kind" and decides to give Quakerism a shot. Then, in the deeply kind, Quaker tradition, Nate and Maggie get it on doggy-style while pregnant Brenda waits for them at church. Many viewers -- especially Auntie -- wanted to eradicate Maggie's unapologetic sheepish grin with an anti-bacterial handwipe.
Luckily, Nate collapses while putting his pants on and dies the next day; his cycle of sabotage shattered by his own death. DAMN! The only way to truly change is to die.
Just when things go from sad to ridiculous-sad, the show offers reminders that love too can transform. Keith, once a semi-abusive hothead, evolves into a supportive paragon of patience while David falls apart.
Claire the cynical artist (and Annie look-a-like) falls in love with, and finds a muse in a "deeply-unhip" Republican who blared Christian rock music while she snapped nude photos of him. The show was never warm and fuzzy but was not all death and doom either. Thankfully, the writers indulged the audience in the final episode tonight, showing us how all of the characters' lives play out -- including exactly how and when they die. While the show was heavy on death, I think the central message was to enjoy life while you're here. In short, live a little. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Just ask Nathaniel Fisher.
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