WARNING: Massive spoilers ahead.
An old girlfriend introduced me to Six Feet Under more than a decade ago, but it turned into such a grind that I managed to finish the series only last week. There’s a lot of complex drama without stability to balance it out, a lot more tension than resolution. One of the most common themes is characters seeking happiness in all the wrong places, just to escape the depressing reality of their lives, and usually ending up worse for it.
Nate was written as the central character, but I’d already had enough of him halfway through. He refused to go to therapy when asked by his wife, and ended up cheating several times over the course of the series; some fairly defining steps, in my book. It was only at the very end that he seemed to learn a way to behave in his relationships that wasn’t completely selfish or self-destructive1, and by then, he was already responsible for two more children with different people. It took him 40 years to sort of get his shit together. Personal growth may be a lifelong journey, but his process ended up causing a lot of unnecessary heartache and wreckage along the way.
The only characters I ended up rooting for were David2 and Keith. Which made Keith’s murder extremely upsetting, cause it was such a surprising and senseless death, and dealt with so chillingly in 13 seconds. Perhaps it was a way to show how little sense there is to be found in the world. Or maybe it was a way to include the image of a young Keith appearing to David before he passes away…a beautiful detail that shows us he was truly David’s one.
I’m still glad to have experienced the series. It was a way for me to remain at a careful distance from toxic people while still learning from and about them. I enjoyed the writing in particular3, but I simply didn’t feel good watching it. Each episode left me with a deeper appreciation of how uncontrollable and messy life is, but also heavy and sad.
That’s why I couldn’t handle watching it alone. I needed company to help me deal with the things I felt, and finally found the right person in Heather4. I doubt I’ll be able to go through it again; I’m certainly not averse to morbid topics or difficult emotions, but too many things in this show reminded me of a world I’ve been trying to leave behind.
- Brenda didn’t make it easy for him cause she had a habit of starting arguments or sabotaging the relationship in some way, but he’d consistently make things worse by reacting the same way, instead of de-escalating. [↩]
- And he regressed significantly enough in the last season that this became a challenge. [↩]
- The fact that Claire ends up with Ted — someone who’s politically opposite from her, but stable, responsible, and emotionally supportive (unlike all the artists she was with before) — is such a great exploration of the way odd couples can form. [↩]
- The show also covers huge range of significant relationship issues and milestones — from infidelity to miscarriage to the loss of a lifelong partner — and it was like having a textbook of extreme situations to figure out our positions. [↩]