Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's Already Gone

"You can't take a picture of this. It's already gone."

That is Nate's parting bit of advice to Claire as she bids farewell to her (radically transformed) family at the foot of Fisher & Sons' steps. And, I think, those are Alan Ball's parting words to us, his audience. Live in the moment. Don't dwell on the past. Death is sure, but life is not. The life part it up to you.

Six Feet Under often meandered into the pretentious and this scene hovered near the tri-state line of touching/overwrought/pretentious. But, I thought it was effective. Nate is right: the moment is gone and it's time to move on.

In some ways, the finale betrayed the overall tone of the show, especially the epilogue. I had mixed feelings about the epilogue. I enjoyed it. Seeing glimpses of the Fishers'/Chenowiths'/Charleses'/Diazes' future lives and deaths provided a real sense of closure that series finales so seldom provide (see, e.g., Angel's series finale "Not Fade Away"). On the other hand, my first reaction was to feel betrayed because the epilogue felt hopeful and peaceful in a way that didn't match the previous 62 3/4 episodes much. Aside from Keith (who's death scene was inordinately cheesy, even if horrific), the characters lived what appeared to be long, productive lives and died natural, often peaceful, deaths. We saw happy gatherings, including the weddings of Keith and David as well as Claire and Ted. Durrell and Anthony appeared to grow into well-adjusted men with nice families. Even George and Ruth found a way to structure their relationship that kept them together for another couple of decades. There was no swearing, no near-psychotic breaks, and no disintigrating relationships.

Still, I think there is much more to that epilogue than can be appreciated in a single viewing. I'm certain that many of the tableau-like scenes provided subtle hints of what the future holds for the Fishers/Chenowiths/Charleses/Diazes. For instance, I wasn't able to catch who Brenda was sitting with at Keith and David's wedding. Was it Billy? Was it another man? Did she ever move beyond Nate? (We know she didn't move beyond Billy.) It seemed like Rico and Venessa must have been successful in their business. Rico died on what appeared to be a luxury cruise. I couldn't tell (aside from Keith) what affliction claimed any of the other characters in the end. Did Ruth and Claire suffer prior to death?

In retrospect, I'm not sure all was signaled to be peaches and cream for the various characters. For instance, Brenda and Billy were never able to grow beyond each other and, eventually, Billy literally talked Brenda to death. Not only is that hilarious, it's sad. Likewise, Claire's death scene portended some heartache. She lived to be 101 years old, but she was clearly blind at the time of her death. As a photographer, her sight was a beloved commodity that she lost at some point.

I'm also intrigued by the notion that Claire's coming of age became, I think only in retrospect, the show's defining story arc. As Claire leaves, so does the show. David has gone nowhere, but is finally contented with his place in life. Ruth's evolution is encapsulated in her ability to let go of Claire and be at peace with that decision. So, it's Claire who's really grown. She never knew her dad, didn't know her brother Nate as well as she would have liked, didn't stick around to get to know David as well as she could, learned from her mother's mistakes, and in the end stepped into her own. I like it.

What do we take from Six Feet Under. Plenty. Some of it in spite of the terribly flawed characters. But, at its base, I think we learn:

Life goes on. Death is inevitable. Make the best of the former before the latter catches up with you.

UPDATE: You can view the obituaries of Ruth, Keith, David, Rico, Brenda, and Claire on the SFU website at HBO.

UPDATE 2: Here is an attempt to glean some info from the obits and (in the comments) from a closer viewing of the epilogue. Some of these were, I thought, fairly apparent upon the first viewing. Others were not. I didn't catch that David met someone after Keith died. It explains the person who was sitting next to Brenda at the wedding (and her pregnant appearance . . . though that was as much a matter of Rachel's real life pregnancy as storytelling, I'm sure). And, most interestingly, the commenter who concluded that the future was all in Claire's imagination as she was driving to New York. Nice thought, but the obits suggest otherwise.


Post a Comment

<< Home