Judge Patrick Naugle mourns HBO's funeral home drama.
Our reviews of Six Feet Under: The Complete First Season (published February 10th, 2003), Six Feet Under: The Complete Second Season (published August 4th, 2004), Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season (published June 8th, 2005), and Six Feet Under: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 10th, 2005) are also available.
Everything in life must come to an end, and that time has arrived for the brooding, contemplative Fisher family to meet their maker. In the fifth and final season of Six Feet Under the Fishers come face to face with their own mortality. Patriarch Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy) continues to struggle with her husband George's (James Cromwell) odd behavior while finding a widening gap occurring between her and daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Claire finds herself a hit in the art world but flounders when it comes to disposable income and school funding. Claire's newly passionate relationship with Billy Chenowith (Jeremy Sisto) hits a bump when his old demons begin to resurface. Uptight David Fisher (Michael C. Hall) and his lover Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) find themselves in the midst of an enormous life decision when they decide that they want to have a surrogated baby, though a different solution soon presents itself. The funeral home's restorative artist, Rico (Freddy Rodriguez), continues his attempts at staying an equal in the funeral business while trying to woo back his wife, Vanessa (Justina Machado) Finally, Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) and Nate (Peter Krause) tie the knot and begin their new life together with Nate's daughter Maya, only to find a rough road ahead filled with fear, doubt and a final tragedy that will bring the entire Fisher family together…or tear them apart for good.
Spoiler Warning: I'll be discussing the end of this series, as well as the final episode. If you want to wait to find out what happens, please skip this part of the review.
And so we bid a fond farewell to the Fishers, one of TV's most dysfunctional, dynamic and complex families. Although the show only lasted five seasons it was a wonderful start of the new millennium; months after I watched the final harrowing episode, I'm still haunted by what the show (and its creator Alan Ball) had to say about life, death and how fast time passes us all by.
There were a lot of complaints about Six Feet Under's final few seasons; some thought it went into places that were too dark even for a show about a funeral home. Others complained that some of the characters—especially prodigal son Nate Fisher—acted completely out of character from the rest of the episodes. I just think no one likes change, which is exactly what this final season of Six Feet Under consists of: a lot of painful, shocking shake-ups.
I do agree that a few of the storylines have not worked for me. Two seasons ago Nate discovered what happened to his ill-fated wife, Lisa (Lily Taylor), and that conclusion was at best rushed and wholly unsatisfying. Yet for all of Six Feet Under's stumbles, it has never faltered in being intelligent, emotionally wringing and—above all else—fantastic entertainment.
This final season offered a grand exit for the series. Of the storylines, the best included David and Keith's journey to adopt a child, Rico's attempts at winning back his wife, Vanessa (Justina Machado), and that final, breathtaking moment when Nate suddenly dies ("Narm!" became the buzz word during this episode's airing). The cast all found themselves in top form—the final three episodes of this series are among the most heart wrenching ever witnessed on television. Creator/writer/director Alan Ball infuses the story with so much depth that it almost takes your breath away.
And speaking of taking your breath away…let's talk about those final ten minutes of the series. I know it sounds overly dramatic to say that this series' end is the most powerful in broadcast history. I haven't watched every show ever made, but I can safely say that I can't imagine any other series giving the viewer that much power in its final moments. In the last few minutes we see each character—characters we've come to love and care for, even with all of their inherent flaws—find happiness, experience loss, and finally collide with their own mortality as they die off right before our very eyes. To watch these final moments is hard; to view them after following the Fishers for over 60+ hours is like seeing your friend's futures unravel inside of a gypsy's crystal ball.
For this reviewer, Six Feet Under packed an emotional wallop all the way to the very end of the series. It is that rare of shows that goes beyond entertainment and gives the viewer an emotional and intellectual tie to its characters. If you haven't had a chance to see what all the fuss is over Six Feet Under, I can easily recommend picking up all five season and spending a few weeks with the Fisher family. R.I.P.
Each of these 12 episodes of Six Feet Under is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's nice to see that HBO has taken the time to make sure these images look crystal clear and wonderfully crisp—in fact, I had a hard time finding any flaws in the picture. My only complaint is that I wish the previous first few seasons of the show had been shot and presented in a widescreen format (if only for continuity's sake). Overall these are good looking transfers that will do wonders for anyone's big screen 16x9 TV set.
The soundtrack for each episode is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Once again HBO has stepped up to the plate to deliver a great sound mix on each of these tracks. There are a fair amount of directional effects and surround sounds here (though because this is a heavily dialogue driven drama don't expecting to be overly amazed). The recordings are all clearly heard with a bare minimum of hiss or distortion. Also included on this set are Dolby 2.0 Soundtracks in English, French, and Spanish, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
While I would have liked a few more extra features on this final season box set of Six Feet Under, what HBO has included should please fans of the show. Two 30-minute retrospectives titled "Six Feet Under: 2001-2005" (an apt and funny inside joke from the show's opening death scenes) feature interviews with the main cast and crew, including Frances Conroy, Peter Krause, Mathew St. Patrick, Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Rachel Griffiths, James Cromwell and Freddy Rodriguez, as well as creator/writer Alan Ball, writers Jill Soloway and Bruce Eric Kaplan, producer/director Alan Poul, among others. These are very well done retrospectives that include the cast and crew's thoughts on the show, what it has meant to them and their careers, and how much they'll miss everyone's favorite mortuary "family." There is some back history on the show, and an all around feeling that everyone was really happy with the way the series turned out (as well as they should be, since this particular reviewer thinks it's one of the best to ever grace the small screen). "Life and Loss: The Impact of Six Feet Under" is in the vein of the previous two retrospectives—it looks at how Six Feet Under changed the landscape of TV and what the show's place in entertainment history may be.
Also included are six audio commentaries with various cast and crewmembers. The commentaries are as follows:
• Episode 4 ("Time Flies"): Commentary with writer
Craig Wright and Director Alan Poul
Each of these commentary tracks is interesting in their own way—some are more technical based (as with the directors and writers) and some are more character based (the writers and the actors). If you're a fan of the series I'm sure you'll get a kick out of the cast and crews comments on the varying episodes.
Finally there are some episodic recaps and previews. The entire set is housed in an accordion case and comes inside of a heavy-duty outer box.
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Scales of Justice
• Six Commentary Tracks With Various Writers, Directors, Actors and Creator Alan Ball
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