Friday, August 05, 2005

Six Feet Under: "Hold My Hand" (5.3)

Well, after an absurd delay of two months, which seemed like barely any time, I'm back on the wagon, or off the wagon, and have finally seen a new episode of Six Feet Under, the third episode of the fifth season, 'Hold My Hand.' It's really difficult to objectively address this episode because part of me is just so damn happy to finally see a new episode. Still, sometimes time absence does not make the heart grow fonder for a series, what will it be in this case?

Well, I really enjoyed this episode, it felt good to be back in the world of SFU, and while it's certainly not one of the best episodes of the series, it's one of those necessary episodes that advances the plots to the point where major events can occur in future episodes. It's critical to view series like Six Feet Under as one big story told in chapters. So, some chapters will have a lot of big events, some won't, but there's no need for each chapter to really tell a story in and of itself. This is an episode that you wouldn't really remember when your each the end of the season, but I'd imagine will be crucial in furthering the character arcs.

And, in this show, the characters are so interesting that spending an hour with them is something I love to do. The best series reach a point where the characters can be doing the most mundane things and the show is still riveting. Buffy is a good example, I loved when they scaled back the slaying bits, and focused on the characters. In this show, the funeral services used to serve as the standalone plot for each episode, but any plot other than personal issues has basically been removed from the series.

This is something that bothers a lot of people, who say things along the lines of lighten up and stop whining. It's true that the early years of the show were much lighter, but if you're going to have bad things happen to the characters, it wouldn't make sense to have them be carefree. I guess what the complaint is is that there used to be a balance between the darkness and the lighter material, but I still get a lot of laughs from the show. It's just that the laughs are more isolated amidst a core of darkness.

But what about this episode? I find it interesting how in this season every plotline revolves in some way around wanting to have children and the affect of parenting. David and Keith are struggling to get a baby for themselves, while Nate and Brenda deal with the difficulties of carrying a child to term. On some level, they all see a child as a chance to make up for their mistakes and reinvent themselves. For David, it will legitimize his life as a gay man, Keith will get a chance to be a different, better father than his own. For Brenda, having a child would complete her transformation from rebellious and wild to domestic, it would make her pure again and erase the things she'd done in the past. But, Nate's thoughts here tell us that he doesn't think she can do that, she's not a domestic, and never will be. I found that scene a bit cheesy in context, but it says so much about the character's state of mind that I'm glad they included it.

But, this entire mindset is called into question by Maggie, with her tale of losing her son at age two. The idea that these characters' greatest hope could become their greatest tragedy creates a foreboding around all the events that follow.

Then, there's the difficulty of being a child and dealing with parents. George is still dealing with the awful treatment he got from his mother, and now he wants to hide his weakness from Ruth, fearing that she will abandon him as his mother did. I like the idea that because of his disease, his timeline will break down and Ruth and his mother will become esssentially one person.

Claire also is struggling with Ruth, wanting to be truly independent, but ironically the only route to independence is through her father's trust fund. Ruth is on the defensive in both storylines. I loved the scene where she argues with Claire, the history between the characters is what gives it such power.

Claire's storyline was one of the highlights of this episode. Since I'm still young, it's a bit tough to relate with all these characters' desire for children. So, the fact that Claire wasn't going after a kid was refreshing. I love her breakdown in the camera store, the way she feels that she's entitled to this money, and is totally unable to see why anyone wouldn't want her to have it. She's created an entire world around herself in which she is learning from real life experience, with no mind to the fact that society basically requires you to have a college degree. And now that Billy is off his meds, she's got the perfect counterpart to live in this fantasy with. The Sharper Image scene at the end is a great way of making us wonder about how long Billy can last without his meds.

The other highlight of this episode was the Rico storyline. His affair at the Quality Inn was hilarious, largely because of Illeana Douglas, who plays the scenes to the extreme. Her enthusiasm was a great contrast to the dour mannered behavior of everyone else in the episode. The details were what made this story, with the fritos, and particularly the reference to the orange crackers. It was also nice to see Rico's skill rewarded.

The other scenes I really liked were Brenda's, particularly the dinner scene, where she sees, perhaps for the first time, a 'real family,' that loves each other and is fully functional. I think she would have rejected this idea of family as a 'cliche' that doesn't exist, but there it is in front of her, and this forces her to reevaluate what she wants from her relationship with Nate. What it comes down to is does she really want to lead a family life, and if she doesn't, how long will it take for her to revert to who she once was?

So, there's a lot to deal with, and luckily I've got episodes 4 and 5 on tape, so those reviews will be coming up later this weekend, and from there, I'll have to get people to tape the other episodes for me. I should be caught up pretty soon. But, sadly, there's not that many episodes left, and I'm dreading that final fade to white which means the end of one of the greatest TV shows ever made.

No comments: