Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Surprising death on 'Six Feet Under'

If you don't want to know who died, don't continue reading this post. Look at the picture of the Fishers at the funeral of Nathaniel, Sr., back when Claire was a screwed-up high schooler, David was a tormented, closeted gay man, Nate was living in Seattle and working in an organic grocery store, and Ruth was beating herself up over her affair with hairdresser Hiram.

Still here? NATE IS DEAD--or, as the Tribune put it yesterday morning, "Nate kicks bucket on Six Feet Under." As the series has focused on him the most--he has top billing in the cast, and the biggest drama of the series has always concerned his plot, whether his relationship with Brenda, his marriage to Lisa, or his AVM--this is quite a shocker.

I am happy. Nate's dalliance with "that ferret-faced" Maggie, as Brenda referred to her, was the last straw. Nate has fallen ass-backwards into all kinds of good things--a job he was actually good at and had an ownership stake in despite no effort or training on his part, a daughter who appeared out of the blue and gave his life purpose, and, in the past season, a wife, Brenda, who is making real progress and really trying to make their complicated relationship work. Watching Nate, on what would end up being his deathbed, telling Brenda that they were through--while she sat there, seven months pregnant and ready to forgive him for cheating--sealed the deal. He had to go.

Killing off the main character of the series is a bold move, even if it does come three episodes from the end. Surely Nate's ghost will populate at least the next two episodes--next week is to be his funeral, in a neat bit of parallelism, as the show began with the funeral of his same-named father. But while his actions will surely haunt the other characters, particularly poor Brenda, he's done. Done whining about how he's as beset with troubles as Job, done alternately self-flagellating because he didn't do enough to make Lisa happy and self-pitying because his life isn't perfect. Done spouting off about his latest craze, whether it be the recent fascination with "green" funerals and Quakerism or his former jogging mania. Done sleeping with women who make him feel momentarily OK, deciding he's in love with them, and then running off again.

I hope this bodes well; the show's creators said some characters would have darker endings, some lighter ones, and I'm rooting for David and Keith to come out on top. Alan Ball is a gay man, so I have reason to be optimistic; the show may have revolved around Nate, but it's David who has made the biggest leap forward these five seasons, from closeted and scared to out and committed and parent to two adopted kids with Keith.

Three weeks left!

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