Monday, August 08, 2005

Dead, Not Gone

On 'Six Feet Under,' Grief and Authenticity

I will try to watch Nate's funeral again tonight and not be moved to tears, but I'm not making any promises.

Last night's episode effectively showed a slew of perspectives on the death of Nate, many times showing several in the same frame. Watching the Fishers (and the Chenowiths and the Sibleys) wound one another as they processed their individual and collective grief was a heart-rending experience for someone who has grown to love them.

The show has two episodes left, but it will all be epilogue, if you ask me; a way to explain what comes after the Nate era in these people's lives, which is what the main body of the show has chronicled. We'll learn the custodial fate of Maya, and find out if David and Keith keep Durrell and Anthony, and maybe even see Ruth take back George, the devil she knows, rather than continuing her heretofore fruitless quest to live man-free.

But the soul-crushing site of David following his mother up a grassy hill to bury Nate, followed by Rico, George, and Keith fumbling with his shroud-wrapped body before a jeans-and-t-shirt-clad Claire pitches in to help lower him into the ground, is what will stick with me forever, no matter what the next two-odd hours of the show reveal.

That's not to say that what remains won't be interesting. John Doyle states it thus:
Among TV critics and fans of the series, there is widespread speculation about how the series will conclude now that Nate is dead. Given the events and themes of past seasons, it seems likely that the only people to find happiness and love are the gay couple, David (Michael C. Hall) and Keith (Mathew St. Patrick). They have adopted children now and are already discovering a depth to their relationship that wasn't there before. That would make sense for Six Feet Under -- the characters who emerge with dignity and contentment are two gay men who form a family with adopted children. From the beginning, Six Feet Under took a cold look at American family life. It might end with an alternative vision of what American family life could and should mean.

The Nate Fisher character and his story amounted to Alan Ball's dramatization of the meaningless life of the familiar American male figure and his fumbling attempts at creating a happy family. Now he's dead, paving the way for a more meaningful sort of American beauty to emerge.
Of course, I long to see happiness for David and Keith, but more than that, I find Doyle's point intriguing. How the show treats each of its characters in its concluding hours will say much about Ball's vision of America, a vision that has enchanted me since I saw Annette Bening slapping herself for crying during American Beauty. Is the gay couple with kids the one best equipped for modern life? Is the "familiar American male figure" doomed to failure? Ball may think so. It will be interesting to see how he expresses this thought.

1 comment:

Michele said...

Nate died?

(Sorry, we don't have HBO anymore)