Monday, August 22, 2005

Six Feet Under: More Final Thoughts

If you haven't seen these yet, the HBO site has obituaries for all the characters who died in the last episode, and that's basically all the characters, so it's definitely worth checking out. They basically tell us what we can figure out from the future sequences, but there are some interesting bits, like the last name of Brenda's new husband, Nathanson. She just can't get away from the name.

One really great sequence I forgot to mention was the "I Just Want to Celebrate" sequence, with Nate singing against a white background. It recalled the ads for funeral products from back in the pilot and gave a really nice jumpstart to the end of the episode. That was the first part of the finale that really had me excited.

The other thing I realized was how important it was for Nate to die before the finale. In this last episode, we see a new family being born out of what was left of the Fisher and Cheniworth families, both in turmoil since the death of their patriarchs. In the end, the families are brought together, and as we see at Willa's first birthday party, they become a functioning unit.

Thing is, Nate was never one for family life. He ran from home as soon as he could, and always resented being pulled back in to the funeral business, forced to abandon the life he had built for himself in Seattle. Over the first two seasons, Nate entertains the idea of marriage and kids, of finally growing up. However, he always has Brenda's problems as a crutch, it's not his fault that they're not functional, it's hers.

Then, in year three he finally is in a family, married to Lisa. He has a daughter he loves and everything seems to be going well, but he can't help but think of other ways that things could have went, perhaps because of the visions he has in 'Perfect Circles,' the life with Lisa is one of many he could have had, but is it the best? He becomes increasingly discontent with his life during that season, and always uses Brenda as the excuse, he married Lisa out of necessity, but he really loved Brenda, and she becomes this figure of the exciting life he could have had, instead of the dulling existence he has. So, Nate distances himself from the family unit, not unlike his own father had.

At the end of the third season, Nate gets exactly what he'd wished for, Lisa vanishing, but guilt torments him through the fourth season, and it takes that long for him to recommit. When he goes to Brenda at the end of the fourth season, it would seem that Nate can now have the life he wanted, and a family with the person he really loved all along.

However, what the fifth season shows us is that Nate isn't someone who's willing to sacrifice, he always has to do what's in the best interest of himself, and he gets bored very easily. Now that he has Brenda, there's no one else he can use as a fantasy figure, a what if, but then Maggie comes along, and in her he sees everything that Brenda isn't, much like Brenda was everything that Lisa wasn't. Nate once again abandons his family for another woman, and with this we can see that Nate just isn't someone cut out for family life. Claire is willing to give up her trip to New York to care for her mother, David chooses his responsibility to his family over the money selling the funeral home would provide, but in the end, Nate isn't prepared to sacrifice anything, and he sleeps with Maggie, justifying it to himself by saying that things between him and Brenda would never work.

And that's true, but what it really comes down to is that Nate is too selfish to ever have a successful lasting relationship. He's more about himself than others, and that's why the family can only re-form after his death. From the way Ruth talks about Nathaniel, there are clear parallels, both of them retreat from family responsibility to do their own thing. And now that they're both gone, there's the chance to form a successful family, and that seems to be what happens, to the point that when David dies, the family is at a picnic playing touch football.

I don't mean to be harsh on Nate. He's just not built for the life he tried to fit himself into. When he was in Seattle, living on his own, he was probably very happy, he's the kind of person who needs to be able to do what he wants to do. And with a family, that's just not possible. I guess Nate's tragedy is that he thought he could change and fit himself into this role, even though it became apparent at the end that he could not.

So, it's a tragic arc for Nate, but the ending shows why the dark times with Lisa were necessary, contrary to what a lot of reviewers will tell you. I think the third season was the best, but I do have an odd attachment to seeing characters suffer, and Nate certainly suffered. Still, he was my favorite character on the show, I think his problems were the most compelling, and even with his flaws, he was the most charismatic character in the series.

And once Nate's out of the way, the characters are able to put aside their differences and form a family unit. Ruth and Brenda finally reconcile, David faces his demons and Claire finds purpose, and at the end the Fisher family is reformed and stronger than what it had been before.

1 comment:

mfinder said...

I agree whole-heartedly with most of your analysis of Nate. Don't forget though that he stayed to help with the family business after his dad dies mainly for the sake of his mom? Also, he comes back to the family business again when David is not coping so well alone with the business. So, I can't see Nate's character as completely 'selfish'.