Sunday, January 03, 2016

Six Feet Under

My latest "TV" binge watch (on my iPad) has been Six Feet Under, to catch up on the last two seasons that I never saw. Fittingly, on New Year's weekend, I watched the series finale. I had heard that it was extraordinarily well done, and that is so true. It was an amazing ride with the barely functional Fisher family, and I have to admit that there were times that I wondered whether I really liked any of these characters, even to the penultimate episode. But then in the final episode, life found a way to go on after a death that had affected them all, and it was so organic and so affirming. And then the final montage was simply wondrous. Structurally it combined two cinematic cliche endings — a ride off into the horizon and a roll call of every character and what happened to them — and yet it did it in such a fresh, profound way that it was extraordinary and luminous. The whole premise and structure of the series has been one long memento mori, a family-run funeral home with each episode beginning with a death, with characters often imagining conversations with the dead, constant reminders that life can be fleeting and death can be senseless. So it was brilliantly fitting that in the final montage we see the deaths of all the major characters, some sooner, some later. This span of lives over decades is telegraphed in flashing glimpses, interspersed with shots of Claire driving out of Los Angeles, away from the only home she's known, into a frightening, exciting, beckoning unknown future unfolding like the highway before her disappearing into the horizon, and all to the beautifully haunting song "Breathe Me" (Sia Furler). She's just learned her job offer in New York has been rescinded, but her dead brother urges her to go anyway, not to live in fear. And as she takes a farewell photograph of her family, Nate whispers in her ear "the moment is already gone, you can't capture it." Moments and lifetimes. What an exquisite piece of television, and what a perfect note on which to begin a new year.