Saying goodbye is hard to do whether it’s a broken relationship, a pet dying or something as seemingly trivial as one of your favorite television shows drawing its curtains for the final time. They all walk into your life and change you in a way that you never expected when you first invited them in. They help you grow as a person and see the world through a borrowed pair of eyes. Six Feet Under started out as the most peculiar television show in existence, feeding on the unconventional, and closed as the most cherished. The series finale was about family, which is something that was always so fundamental to these lives yet they struggled with so badly. There was always something keeping them from completely being there for one another and letting down their walls enough to show the love that was hidden in their hearts. This was also an evening of change and healing from wounds suffered so deep by Nate’s sudden passing. It was a chance to make everyone whole again.
We open with Brenda giving birth to Willa very prematurely. The new baby is immediately hooked up to breathing and feeding tubes as she grasps at life with uncertainty. Brenda becomes plagued by feelings of doom, prodded from the beyond by a finger pointing Nate, that something horrible is going to happen to their new child. Her rock is none other than Ruth Fisher. Every time Brenda threatens to bottom out with despair, Ruth takes the weight off her shoulders just long enough so she can take a breath. Unfortunately, Ruth’s strength doesn’t extend to herself as she becomes frayed at the seams by depression, unable to cope with giving Mya back to Brenda or losing Nate.
Claire gets a dream job at a photography agency in New York and struggles to face the next chapter in her life, which lights her on fire though staring at change cripples her all the same. Rico finds his own slice of change in the form of his own funeral home, which he can run with Vanessa and do all the things he’s never been able to in the constricting partnership with the Fisher’s. After briefly flirting with the idea of selling the business, David conquers his inner red jacketed demon (himself) to carry on the legacy Nathaniel left he and Nate. Keith agrees to help David to buy out Rico’s share to return the business back to its rightful place as Fisher and Sons. It also allows David and Keith to finally have a house of their own — the Fisher house.
Claire and Ruth finally bury all their incessant bickering when Claire offers to forgo going to New York to instead watch over Ruth in her time of need. Ruth is touched, but can’t let Claire give up her dreams as Ruth did so long ago. She unlocks Claire’s trust fund and sets her free to finally live life on her own terms. There is a nice moment where Ruth achieves closure by calling Maggie to ask if Nate was happy the last evening she was with him. The intriguing part came in Maggie taking the call at the doctor’s office, looking generally distraught. Did Nate father yet another child as his last act on this earth?
The final moment of the series was a flickering set of montages set over Claire’s journey to New York, perfectly serenaded by Sia’s (Zero 7) “Breathe Me.” It steps forward through the remaining key moments of their lives: David and Keith’s marriage, Claire’s marriage to Ted, David showing Durrell how to run the business and ultimately the last moments of each member of the extended Fisher family. Each time one would depart, the family would be there to welcome them on to their new life free from their mortal shroud. It was like flipping through a picture album, unwrapping the emotion of each photograph along the way. It was a fitting end to these characters that have come to mean so much to so many.
Any Six Feet Under fan that made it through this episode with dry eyes better go check that you have a soul. It was a series of profoundingly touching moments that just snuck up on you, hitting you when you least expected it. The best one came during the dinner party in the newly redecorated Fisher house when each member went around the table talking about their favorite stories of Nate. There was a brief pause broken by a toast to Nate. It was as if to say they’d finally made our peace that Nate was in a better place and life will move on easier for having known him. It was an apt metaphor for the final toast to the show itself.
I’ve never seen television like this. The series creator Alan Ball (American Beauty) wrote and directed this episode, bringing the series full circle from his work on the pilot. It played like a deeply moving film. Every actor involved in this fitting last goodbye just poured their heart and soul into bringing this last episode to its final breath with the power and the urgency we all needed to find our own measure of closure. The writing and direction were astounding. There were so many small moments that just dug their nose into you like a puppy falling asleep in your arms. Although I’m sad to see the Fisher’s go, I couldn’t have hoped that the closing glances of their lives would have been anymore striking or poignant. This is television at its best, and I don’t know that we’ll ever see a series with as much heart, dark humor or psychologically chaos as we did with Six Feet Under. The Fishers didn’t always make life easy on themselves, but they never gave up hope nor stopped believing in those people they loved. In the end, could we ask anything more of any of us?
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