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Time of the Season: (One Episode Of) S2-5 of Six Feet Under (’02-’05)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 23, 2007

Oh dear lord

There’s a part in season three of Six Feet Under, during the early days of Claire’s stay at art school, where her teacher and future mentor Olivier preaches something about how good art should make you want to vomit. I wish I had taken note of what the exact quote was, since it turned out to be the most prophetic piece of foreshadowing the show could have possibly had. The series’ finale, “Everybody’s Waiting,” literally made me feel ill–in the final minutes, I considered pausing it for a minute for fear I wasn’t going to be able to breathe by the end.

To be fair, the episode had help–a combination of over-indulgence on Chinese leftovers, fairly serious sleep deprivation, and mild to severe intoxication left me primed for such feelings. Still, the only time I can remember feeling a similar way was after watching Day of the Dead one night in High School, because both pecked mercilessly at all of my greatest, deepest fears in life–SFU = abandonement, rejection, alienation, death, family loss, DOTD = getting eaten by motherfucking zombies. And hey, at least Day of the Dead had a ridiculous happy ending, where all the characters escape to a blissful, safe existence on some island, presumably tacked on to keep patrons from walking out of the theater and straight into moving traffic. SFU ends with what is possibly the world’s first ever funeral montage. Judged solely on its own art = nausea standards, Six Feet Under must surely be considered the greatest piece of art to ever appear on TV.

Really, I’m not even gonna talk about most of the rest of Seasons 2 -5, which was largely good (with some minor issues and varying story arc success) but in retrospect seems basically just like a lead up to the series’ last five episodes, especially that fucking finale. It’s not my first time with truly emotionally painful TV–at least one or two Sopranos episodes inspired similar misery, as well as a certain episode of Seinfeld that I hope to talk about here at length sometime–but nothing quite like this. Starting about halfway through season five, I started racing through the last episodes as fast as I could to just get it over with already.

It started with Nate’s death about four episodes from the end, a death which, while somewhat predictable and anti-climactic at the time, set a chain of episodes in motion that just kept getting more and more miserable. But it wasn’t that bad quite yet–emotionally draining, sure, but manageable. And even when things started to go right again–with Claire moving on, Federico moving up, David and Keith making good with their kids Ruth learning how to live on her own, and Brenda finally being accepted as part of the Fisher family–somehow, that was still slightly doable. But at each of the show’s 100 could-possibly-end-here-endings (which make Return of the King seem like Crank by comparison), I started praying to myself end here, end here, let me out before any real damage is done.

And then, that fucking funeral montage. Choosing the most blatantly sentimental-sounding shit possible for the soundtrack (Sia’s “Breathe Me,” a piano + vocal number which has the sledgehammer effect of a combined Counting Crows x Cat Power x The Fray senso-wallop), it shows, in rapid-but-not-nearly-rapid-enough succession, scenes of each of the cast eventually growing up, living their full lives, and dying, while the remaining family members grieve in silence until only Claire is left, dying at age 102 in her house adorned with family photos. With each successive death, I thought “oh no, not [cast member], please just don’t show the death of [cast member]” I didn’t even like some of these people most of the time, but I just couldn’t bear seeing these fictional characters die. The show’s final message? No matter how well you live your life, you and everyone you know will eventually die. Which was probably the show’s message all along, although possibly in a more affirmative way than I’m interpreting it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch this show again, at least not those last few episodes. I never quite had the balls to return to Day of the Dead, and I want these season five DVDs out of my living room first thing tomorrow morning. I’m not even sure if I’ll even be able to honestly say that I like the show, given the trauma-esque reactions I will have to recalling it. I’ve long said that certain shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office should be rated NC-17 for the horrific social awkwardness they portray, but for the neuroses and insecurities exploited in Six Feet Under, the show should be banned in 49 states and bootlegged in none but the most hardcore underground scenes. Why my parents didn’t try to forbid me from watching it, I’ll probably never understand.

Fuck it. Tomorrow I’m starting up season of two of Weeds. Is Flight of the Conchords on or something?

(Oh, and of course, huge retrospect-LOLs at the entirety of this. As always, can’t say I wasn’t warned)

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3 Responses to “Time of the Season: (One Episode Of) S2-5 of Six Feet Under (’02-’05)”

  1. gena said

    wow, dan is such a fucker.

    if it makes you feel better, i cried like a baby at that montage and still haven’t gone back to watch it. it’s painful and fucking unreal.

    but we already talked about this.

  2. […] Thoughts: It’s drawn comparisons to CBS’s Cane, but the worst-titled new show of the year essentially presents itself in its pilot as an adult Gossip Girl–appropriate enough, since the shows run consecutively Wednesday nights. Both shows present an insider view to the lives of the rich and famous in high society New York, both are already neck-deep in scandal and bad blood, and both are seen from the view of the one “outsider,” here of course the character of Nick, played excellently by Peter Krause. Now being given a third starring role (at IITS we’ve spent much of the past few months catching up with his work in Sports Night and Six Feet Under) to officially cement his rep as a TV legend, Krause certainly makes the most of a role that could have easily been thankless, the kind of guy you want with you to help navigate through the seamy underbelly of the obscenely upper-class. […]

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