Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Six Feet Under: 'All Alone'

When a major character dies on a show, it's sort of a double edged sword for the writers. Do you want to spend a whole bunch of time dealing with grief, or do you want to try to move things along and get back to moving the plot forward. One of the greatest TV episodes ever made, Buffy's 'The Body,' was devoted entirely to dealing with the aftermath of a major character's death, and was the most realistic depiction of the grieving process I've ever seen in any piece of fiction. This episode doesn't reach the heights that 'The Body' did, it's much more of a standard TV eulogy, giving us an overview of the process, and at the end, there is a feeling of if not resolution, at least closure.

I think this was a really well done episode, with some phenomenal moments, but on the whole, it felt like too little content, considering we only have two episodes left after this one. Obviously Nate was a huge character and I don't think he should have went unmourned, but there's a lot of unresolved character stuff and I was more interested in seeing that than just seeing people mourn. I did love the funeral scene, particularly Rico's speech, as well as Claire's drive around town with Ted.

Bringing back David's attacker just felt like too much of a plot device, a way to give a narrative arc to David's grief, plus I never like when crucial information to a story is introduced in the episode it's used. Maybe I just forgot it, but I don't remember any of that stuff with bullying from the past. That said, I was feeling really sad as David struggled to get through his speech, so the device did serve its purpose.

The best scene of the episode was the only one where there was really lasting character conflict, and that was when Maggie goes to Brenda's house. Brenda's in such an awkward position now, having been dumped by Nate, however, I don't think anyone else actually knows this, and I'm not sure if Brenda is ever going to tell someone else. Maggie is also in an incredibly awkward position, I love the shot at the burial when Maggie is crying and Brenda is looking at her, hating the fact that she's crying for him.

The other really standout scene was Brenda's confrontation with Nate's spirit. If you look at this scene and the scene with Lisa in the premier, Brenda clearly still has a lot of issues with self esteem, particularly in regards to her relationship with Maya. I think that she should keep Maya, to abandon Maya now, the third parent to do so, would do horrible damage to her. I don't think any of her blood relatives have the right to be Maya's parent that Brenda does. Though there would be a certain justice in Ruth having to raise Maya, because it would give her the purpose she's been seeking since losing George. Maybe Ruth is the sort of person who can only function when taking care of others, and even though she resents it, she seems to be unsure what to do when she's not in the role of caretaker.

Over with Keith and David, we're finally getting to the dark side of the deal with Roger. I don't want to see Keith and David broken up when their family seems to be so together right now, but Roger doesn't seem like the kind of guy you want to have against you. It would be odd to just include mention of the 'blowjob video' and then not have it come back as a plot point, but I really don't see how you could play out a major storyline with it in only two episodes.

I guess that's my major problem with the episode, I loved all that was going on, and it was good to see the characters mourn, but with so little time left, each scene needs to be great to justify its presence. If you look at the end of Buffy, 'Chosen' is a great episode, but spending half the episode finding the demon army felt like a waste of time when we had so few moments left with these characters, and to some extent that's how I feel here. There's so much unresolved stuff, and even if the ending is pretty ambiguous, it's going to be tough to find closure in just two hours.

But, this is a show set at a funeral home, and when Nate dies, his funeral is certainly worthy of screentime. Part of it is the fact that I had already processed Nate's death and come to terms with it, so watching the characters do that felt a bit odd. This is definitely one that should be watched in succession with Ecotone, though coming after that brilliant episode, nearly anything was going to be a bit of a let down.


Keith G said...

About the Nate protecting David stuff - it seems in character and for some reason seems so real that I feel like I've heard it before, even if I haven't.

I think the recurrence of David's hitchhiker was symbolic of the fact he nearly died - and resonant to David's belief (as Nate Snr said) that he was the expendable one. His visions of his carjacker symbolise the thought that maybe if he'd died, Nate would still be alive.

It also becomes a good way to identify David's grief and his inability to function as he gets closer and closer to burying his brother. It's not as closely related to the carjacking incident itself, really.

Patrick said...

I would agree as stories like that go, this one did seem to fit with the characters. And I could definitely see it tying in with the idea that he's expendable, like you said in your review, he thinks if he had died, maybe Nate wouldn't have.

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