Thursday, December 01, 2005

Six Feet Under: Nate

In my last post, I covered one of the series' more insignificant characters. Maggie, while she does have some intriuging characteristics, is most interesting in the context of her relationship to Nate and what she tells us about him. So, rather than continuing this elliptical analysis, I shall go straight to the source and discuss the show's central character, its tragic hero, Nate Fisher.

The first time we see Nate is on a plane going home for Christmas, and in that scene, he meets the person who will dominate his life for the next five years, Brenda. However, the series gives us glimpses of what Nate's life was like before this. As a child, he seemed to have a deep fear of death, whether it be his dead dog, or the bodies his father was working on, Nate had an understandable fear of the dead. Living in a funeral home, this caused a problem, and is likely one of the major reasons that he left home. He didn't want to live in that atmosphere, bound by the restrictive rules governing behavior in the Fisher family. The person who most like was his father, however Nathaniel always maintained a distance from his family, so Nate was never able to get close to him. He learns more about his father in the first few episodes of season one, most notably 'The Room,' than he did in all his childhood.

So, Nate runs away and winds up in Seattle, where he apparently lives a life devoted to his own pleasure. He doesn't expend himself to get a great job or a committed relationship, instead he takes easy work, at the food co-op and drifts from person to person, with Lisa serving as a frequent stop along the way. Nate had moved away from the rules and regulations of family and made a new life for himself, literally, a life that would provide him with the greatest pleasure for the least expense of effort. He had always vowed never to become his father, and this seemed to be the biggest move he could make from the funeral business.

However, when he goes home on Christmas after his father's death, Nate will never again really leave his family and the life he ran away from once. At the end of the first episode, after realizing his skill for counseling the bereaved, Nate agrees to stay and help with the business temporarily. However, considering his name comes first in the credits of the show, we know that this is not a temporary arrangement.

Nate at first enthusiastically embraces the role of funeral director, even stopping David from selling the home to Kroener. Had he allowed the sale to go through, his whole life would have been different, he may have returned to Seattle or at least found a job that was less taxing. However, he stopped the sale and as a result, wound up drawn further and further into a life he never really wanted in the first place.

I would argue that it's largely Brenda who's responsible for him agreeing to stay in L.A. They have an instant connection, and there's a fire between them. This same fire that first attracts them is ultimately what makes it impossible for them to stay together. But in the early years, Nate is the responsible one, apparently seeking a long term, committed relationship with this woman he'd just met, and he continues to pursue her even after the peculiar events with Billy and the naked Australian guy.

Two years later, Nate would blame Ruth for keeping in L.A. He says it was her fault that he stayed and as a result, she was responsible for the awful events that befell him in year three. I think right to the end, Nate longed for his old life, even as he knew that it was impossible. Once Maya was born, there was no way he could go back to living solely for himself, and he accepted that.

Season two sees Nate once again placed in close proximity to death, as a result of his AVM. 'In the Game' ends with Nate sitting on the beach with his father, who asks him if he's in the game. Nate imagines walking out into the water, disappearing into the waves, but we flash back to him on the beach, deciding that he will make that journey later, for now, he is in the game. This is another trying season for Nate, as he attempts to work a relationship with Brenda that she is rebelling against through her sexual escapades. Nate here is seen as the one who wants to settle down and get married, but Brenda distances herself from him, and in one of my favorite scenes from the series, he throws the ring at her, the passion that fueled them now turned on each other in a vicious emotional assault.

Nate ends season two getting on a bus, and at the start of season three, we see him wandering through a variety of parallel universes, each one holding a different vision of what his life could be. I think this sequence is stunning, but it's illuminating in the way it reveals Nate's fears. None of these lives are good. He has the choice of being mentally ill, struggling to relearn basic language, a white trash middle aged guy with a big gut watching TV, married to Brenda with kids, smoking up before visiting Ruth, or married to Lisa with Maya, or dead.

Now, this episode is rather ambiguous in that it is unclear whether Nate is given a survey of all the lifes he could lead and chooses the life with Lisa, or if he just peeks into some alternate universes and winds up on the path he would have been anyway. The way the episode is structured implies that in one reality, Nate did die. However, he passes into some kind of nexus between worlds and winds up with Lisa. Considering the state of things at the end of season two, it makes sense that he would go with Lisa. Nate always had a strong sense of moral obligation, he wants to do the right thing, and that's what makes him initially agree to help Lisa with Maya. Considering the other realities, the only potentially appealing one is life with Brenda, but at the end of season two he was very unhappy with her, and would not likely want to go through with marrying her, and in the process give up his commitment to Lisa.

At this point, the series splits off into a parallel universe, this is just one direction that could have been taken. I suppose you could say that about every choice, in both reality and fiction, but the start of 'Perfect Circles' is what makes it even more apparent. Regardless of the parallel universe stuff, we can still consider Nate's choice to marry Lisa. This is a classic example of Nate wanting to do the right thing. He gives Lisa what she wants, and though he may not really love her then, I think he figures that he'll eventually get used to this life.

Here is when Nate takes another step on the road to exactly what he didn't want to be, his father. Clearly, this was a major thing for him, Tom Wheeler mentions it in season five, the irony of Nate of how Nate ended up being exactly what he claimed to not want to be when he was in high school. Much like Nathaniel, Nate impregnated a woman and married her because it was his obligation. And now he finds himself trapped in a marriage that he finds imprisoning, and as the season progresses, he starts to recede from Lisa and have his own secrets, much like his father did. This comparison is made most apparent in 'Nobody Sleeps,' when Lisa throws Ruth a birthday party and the two of them bond, blending in Nate's mind. He removes himself from the festivities and stands outside alone, hearing his father remark on how similar to the two of them are.

I think season three is the best of the series, largely because of how Nate struggles to preserve his self identity against the overwhelming pressure that is Lisa's desire to be very close. Lisa too is living something of a lie. She used her pregnancy as a way of finally locking Nate into a committed relationship, and in light of what happens later, it's quite possible that Nate is not even the father of Maya. However, she saw an opportunity to get what she wanted, and assumed that Nate would learn to love her like she loved him. Nate finds himself being smothered in a life he didn't really want, unable to live up to what Lisa expects of him.

At this point in season three, Brenda re-emerges and causes some major jealousy issues with Nate and Lisa. She seems to be giving him a way out, but Nate rethinks things, likely still stung by the way that he and Brenda parted. this lead to perhaps the best chance Nate ever had for a viable relationship is after he meets with Lisa in the pyramid at Claire's art show. They both acknowledge that they are never going to be a perfect couple, and instead choose to just embrace what they do have. I think this is pretty much what Nate wants, someone who will be there when he needs her, but will also give him the space to do his own thing. A large part of why he resents Lisa early in season three and Brenda in season five is the fact that they both are trying to make him conform to the role of traditional husband, to subordinate his individuality to the family unit, and he's not ready to do that.

If I had to guess, at some point when Lisa was angry with Nate, she restarted the relationship with Hoyt, and this would be where the conversation he refers to in 'Untitled' occurs, where Hoyt says that Lisa told him how hard it was being with Nate. Most likely after he was drawn to Brenda, Lisa went up to Hoyt for a chance to get out her anger. However, after the pyramid discussion, I think she went to break things off, she wanted to come clean so that she and Nate could move forward from a good place, but Hoyt didn't like this and as a result, he kills her.

What this does for Nate is set up an incredible three episode journey, as he goes closer and closer to the edge, consumed by guilt that his wish that he would be free of Lisa has led to her going missing and eventually winding up dead. Nate has got what he wanted, but it destroys him. This is when the conversation I referred to earlier occurs and Nate lashses out at Ruth for keeping him in L.A. and leading him down the path to this pain. Nate seeks comfort from a customer at the funeral home, then lashes out at her when she asks to see him again. He inflicts similar pain on Brenda and his family, pushing them all away and isolating himself. He uses his pain as something distance himself, as if they are not worthy of interacting with him, their problems all petty in comparison to the pain that he is going through. The cycle of degrading events leads to the bar hookup with a woman at her dingy apartment, and ultimately culminates in Nate allowing himself to be beaten by one of the bar patrons, and ends up taunting him, asking for more pain to make up for the guilt he has about Lisa. Only by suffering himself can he be absolved of his sins.

This leads to the astonishing car scene, where Nate drives with Nathaniel and Lisa in the car, urging him to kill himself. His guilt is manifested in Lisa, who says the least he can do is kill himself. However, Nate survives and winds up back at Brenda, once again drawn to her at a moment of extreme grief. These two characters are inexorably drawn to her, and the return of Brenda in mid season three helps to make Nate's marriage more tolerable. It gives him an out. Anyway, he winds up at her door because there's nowhere else he can go, no one else who understands him, and though it is degrading for her, she still willingly goes along with helping Nate.

Season four sees things inverted for Brenda and Nate, as Nate is now the one who has to deal with issues, tempting Brenda from a stable, potentially workable relationship. For Nate, the entire season is about overcoming his guilt about secretly being happy that Lisa is gone. This is a vulnerable, broken Nate, in a way we haven't seen before, most notably when he is rejected and recedes into the Arctic in 'Parallel Play,' and in his psychic dog episode in 'Can I Come Up Now.' He definitely seems to be losing it, however, by midway through the season, he gets things together and gets on the road to getting back with Brenda.

As I mentioned before, Nate and Brenda have a very passionate relationship, and this passion can be destructive. Brenda has casual sex with Nate, but they both know that between them, there is no such thing as meaningless, casual sex. They have been through too much and are too deeply emotionally committed for that. So, Brenda begins to distance herself from Joe and they break up in a great scene where Joe calls Nate "a cripple."

Is this characterization accurate? In light of what happens in season five, it does seem prescient. Nate is unable to make the emotional commitments he would need to maintain a long term relationship. He cannot give of himself in that way, and that probably does make him a cripple. His greatest flaw is that he constantly finds something to distance himself from emotional involvement. With Lisa, it was the fact that he was more attracted to Brenda, and in season four, it is his need to mourn Lisa that prevents him from fully embracing the new relationship.

This conflict is particularly evident in 'The Black Forest,' when Nate, Maya and Brenda travel to Idaho to inter Lisa's ashes. Nate keeps Brenda seperate from the events, as if her presence there will somehow surry the proper mourning. This is not an entirely bad idea, and when Barb and Brenda cross paths, it's evident that they feel that Nate has not mourned Lisa for long enough.

This all comes to a head at the end of the season. In light of Nate's improper burial of Lisa, Barb is attempting to take Maya away from him. Considering his character, I'd imagine if Maya actually were to be taken away, on some level, he would view it as a blessing, because that would allow him to live for himself again. However, I think he genuinely does love Maya, and for all his flaws, he was a great father to her. Maya is the only person he always values over himself.

But what Barb's effort does do is force Nate to confront the direction of his own life. He continually pushes Brenda away, even as it becomes more and more apparent that she can be a mother to Maya. So, he leaves Maya with Brenda and goes North to confront Hoyt about the picture of Lisa.

This scene provides the emotional closure that finally allows him to get over Lisa. When he finds out she was having an affair, it essentially absolves him of the guilt over wanting Lisa gone. It was not his fault at all, Lisa was flawed, and it was her bad choices that led to her death. When Hoyt shoots himself, what really happened that day is resigned to mystery. Nate can never know for sure, and at that point he can either dwell on the mystery or move on. So, echoing the end of season three, Nate once again returns to Brenda, this time deciding that is time for them to get married and have kids.

When I first watched the show, I thought that the Lisa arc was primarily designed to show that Nate really belongs with Brenda, and that the reason he was unhappy with Lisa was that he loved Brenda more and actually wanted a life with her. This would imply that things would go well in the last season. That was not the case.

'A Coat of White Primer' is the first in a series of brutal emotional assaults in this final season. In this episode, Nate has to be a rock to Brenda, who is emotionally distraught over her miscarriage and fear that she can never live up to Lisa in Nate's head. Nate remains cool throughout the episode, telling David that he wants to give Brenda a baby because it will make her happy and he seems to have things worked out. Here we get flashes of the charismatic, together Nate from seasons one and two. However, at the end of the wedding, we're left with the ominous image of a bird eating their wedding cake. And in the final scene of the episode, we finally see Nate break down, his facade of strength crumbling when he's finally left alone. The thought of all the pain they will go through on the road to parenthood and the loss he has already experienced is too much.

'Dancing for Me' sees Nate is confronted with memories of his youth and a reminder of his own mortality. His friend Tom Wheeler talks about how seeing his daughter's friends awakens some lost youth within him. Justifiabily, Nate is disgusted by this and tells him it's wrong. Here, Nate claims that his life is right where he wants it to be and that he's not worried about turning forty. So, Nate is still keeping up this facade of everything's fine. I would argue that the reason Nate cannot relate to Tom's feelings is that Tom is locked into an apparently stable, boring relationship, and has consigned himself to that life. Nate still does not see himself in that role, he never did when he was with Lisa and he doesn't this time. It's evident when he imagines yelling at Brenda that she's a rebel and shouldn't conform to this role. He doesn't need to imagine being young, because in his mind, he still hasn't grown up.

The next major event for Nate is the breakdown at his fortieth birthday party. This is when the facade starts to crack, when he gets angry at Brenda because she gets angry at him. She is starting to sense that he doesn't really want another kid, he's just doing it for her, and this bothers her, and Nate doesn't really have a defense. As he told David, he is giving her this baby, and though it is his child, I don't think he has any particular desire to have a second kid, which is a bit ironic in light of the fact that Maya may not even be his. Nate keeps up the facade throughout the party, except for when he talks to Maggie.

Nate sees his homelife as something that's chaotic and troubled, and he can never seem to live up to Brenda's image of what he should be. However, Maggie is a sanctuary for him, she can share his pain and because she's alone in L.A., she demands nothing of him but companionship. Nate, though he is an understanding person who usually tries to do the right thing, seems to want relationships where nothing is expected of him. That's why he and Brenda work the first time, because they were both so self conscious about not wanting to conform to expected social ideals that they could remained distanced from each other. Asking for real commitment would be 'so cliche.' With Maggie, it is her calm demeanor and willingness to listen that makes her an essential outlet during this troubled period in his life.

Another outlet is beating a bird to death with a broom, and that's what Nate does at the end of the episode, his resolve finally cracking and his rage getting fully expressed. In the series' symbiology, birds are synonymous with death, so after staring down death at his wedding, Nate fights back and destroys this bird before it can destroy him.

The next episode sees Nate make a logical decision and fully embrace Brenda as Maya's mother. This is crucial in light of the events that happen later. However, this brief peace does not last, and in the next episode, Nate is making overtures to Maggie, telling her that Brenda and Maya are out at his mom's house and he's home alone. Nothing comes of it, but things come crashing down in the next episode when Nate finds out that their baby could be born with Downs or another genetic disorder.

Nate has so far managed to maintain a modicum of independence, kept his free spirit despite being married and a father. In Brenda, he hoped to find someone who would strive to be a rebel, unlike Lisa who was an entirely traditional mother, much like his own. Yet, Brenda neglects her old ways and fully embraces the new life she has leading. This means that Nate is left out as the one who's doing things wrong and unable to commit. Back in their first go around, she was always the one screwing things up, he was morally in the right, but here, he's the one unwilling to commit. The prospect of a 'special needs' child strikes fear into Nate's heart. This would completely alter his life, and he's seen in Maggie the pain that such an experience could cause. At this point, Nate is about seeking peace in his life, and he seems reluctant to go through all that potential pain. He doesn't want to suffer any more, while Brenda is ready to suffer whatever it takes to ensure that she has a child.

One of the notable scenes here is when Maggie tells Nate that, though it was hard, she never regrets having her son. Yet, Nate skews the information, telling Brenda that Maggie said it was very difficult and trying. Nate sees Maggie as a pure soul, someone who seeks the same peace that he is after, largely because she is the only on who has been through comprable suffering. The fact that he thinks so highly of Maggie, and speaks of her as an authority, is what bothers Brenda and causes her to lash out at Nate for the relationship they have. Maggie has the purity that she is so self conscious about lacking.

This leads to 'Singing for Our Lives,' where Nate is drawn to Quaker spirituality, the quiet, introspective moments he spends in the Quaker church a refuge from the troubles he has at home. Even though he brings Brenda with him to the church, he is more engaged with Maggie while he is there. This irks Brenda, and causes her and Nate to discuss her views on spirituality. Her confirmed atheism seems so hollow next to Maggie's deep spiritual commitment, and with his new peace-seeking incarnation, Nate cannot respond to the negativity inherent in a view of the world where nothing we do matters. Nate is always searching for a higher purpose, that's what drives him away from home, and it's what makes him unable to sustain longterm relationships.

In 'All Alone,' Brenda tells Maggie that Nate wanted someone who would make him feel like a better man than he was, and that's a large part of what draws him to her. He idealizes her, much like he idealized Brenda when he was with Lisa. Maggie is peaceful, giving not demanding, and seems to genuinely like him, whereas Brenda seems only to demand things from him. When Nate finally does sleep with Maggie, they both see it as a sacred union. It's not tawdry adultery, it's the merging of two souls in a peaceful place. However, Nate's decision to sleep with Maggie is another example of him running away from problems. Even though Brenda had nothing but disdain for the Quaker church, she saw how important it was to Nate and decided to make a sacrifice and go to the service for him. Nate is unable to make a similar sacrifice for her, he acts on his own selfish impulses, never content with where he is, always searching for a better, more fulfilling life.

Nate's collapse at Maggie's is timed such that it seems to punish him for what he's done. In breaking his bond with Brenda, he has been struck down. However, he survives and with this second chance, he would have the opportunity for redemption, to apologize to Brenda and heal his life.

However, in one of the most controversial things surrounding the character, even as he lies in a coma, Nate imagines another alternate life, one where he and Maggie are together and he breaks up with Brenda, deciding to move to a place of peace. I think Nate genuinely believes that he and Maggie are perfect for each other, even more so than he once thought Brenda a perfect partner. However, in both cases, he has constructed idealized images to suit what he needed at the time. In seasons one and two, Nate was getting drawn into a more and more conventional life and it is Brenda who provides the rebellious fire that keeps the drifting part of his soul alive. By the fifth season, Nate has been through so many awful occurrences and is continually confronted with strife at home, so he turns Maggie into this peaceful sanctuary. In the long term, it's likely her own insecurities would come to the surface and cause Nate to seek someone else, however, part of me wants to believe if Nate did survive, he and Maggie would have made it. They are both at a similar place in their lives and want the same thing.

The events of 'Ecotone' clearly demonstrate that Nate is not sorry for what he's done. He flirts with Maggie in his hospital bed, and then, in a very cutting scene, breaks up with Brenda, his pregnant wife. His points are logical, they have been through so much trauma, maybe they aren't right for each other. Brenda tells him that he's just a narcissist, and will never be happy with anyone but himself. In light of past experience, this is probably true. His two long term relationships have failed miserably, all because Nate was unwilling to give of himself to make them work.

So, this brings us to the inevitable, this show's driving force, death. The final scene of Ecotone is one of my favorites in the whole series. Continuing the birds as death motif, we see David and Nate watching a nature documentary about bird migration. From there, they enter into an odd shared dream sequence. The meaning of this dream is rather unclear, but I'll give my interpretation of it. The world we see is another parallel universe, but like in Perfect Circles, Nate has memory of the 'real world,' in which he lived during the series. However, the Nate of this world seems to be one who hasn't been through all the traumas that Nate has been throughout the series, it's a fantasy of a world where he and David have no problems and can go surfing.

He's wearing the running clothes that he wore a lot at the beginning of the series, and very rarely in the later years. So, this indicates a younger, freer Nate. Perhaps this is the life he always really wanted. The version of David here is a bit tougher to figure out, I think he's partially meant to be a composite of David and Claire. The orange hair and weed smoking indicate Claire, though she's not quite that surfer. So, perhaps this is David's fantasy as well, that he could be freed of the inhibitions and guardedness that locks him during the series.

These characters actually seem to belong to a younger David and Nate. Despite all that's happened to them, I don't think that David or Nate would actually want to undo the past five years, Nate for Maya and David for Keith. But at the same time, they can relax into these old fantasies, visions of a simpler life, and together in the back of the van, they're happier than we've ever seen them. I'm pretty sure the van they're driving in is the same van from 'That's My Dog,' and the reconfiguration of it here as a tricked out hippie van indicates more revisionism, undoing the dark events of recent years, replacing it with this idealized fantasy version.

They reach the ocean and here we return to the metaphor of 'In the Game.' Land is the life they live, their world, the ocean is the great unknown that is death where "there might be sharks." This time, Nate cannot return to reality, he is done with that and instead moves beyond, into what they've been waiting their whole lives for. In this moment, Nate consciously chooses not to hold onto the pain and suffering. While I wouldn't say that Nate is happy to die, I do think that at this moment he is at peace. He is no longer trying to live through the conflict with Brenda, he has freed himself from that relationship, and no longer has the energy to fight.

It's sad, but Nate is really worn down over the course of the series. The person who feared death so much early in the series, because he had so much to live for, has been reduced to someone who runs from the fire. That is why he goes off into the water. The implications of this are made clear when we see regular David return and get offered crack by Nathaniel. So, refusing to go into the water, he's again confronted with the pain of this world, the worst thing he ever experienced. I think it's this moment that causes him to have a whole bunch of problems in the next couple of episodes rather than the pain caused by Nate's death.

But, that's for another post. So, it would seem that Nate's journey has reached an end, he's willing to accept death and goes off into the great unknown. A critical character point is revealed in 'All Alone,' when Maggie goes to apologize to Brenda, but Brenda tells her "He didn't really love you, he only loved himself." I'd consider this central to the character's failings, he was enchanted with her becuase she was everything he didn't have, but once he did have it, then he would want something else. He was always searching, never content to compromise and live with what was given to him.

I don't think this is such a bad trait, and even though what he does to Brenda at the end is extremely harsh, it's the first time he's really being honest, he's telling her what he could never tell Lisa, honestly expressing his feelings about their relationship in a peaceful manner, rather than a shouting match.

As the series ends, we see everyone making compromises to create relationships that work. George may not be perfect, but Ruth finds love with him. Brenda has to give up some of herself to raise Maya and Willa, but she does it. At the end of the series, we see a new family constructed. Nathaniel's absence cast a shadow over the entire series, and Nate was continually being forced into the role of patriarch, a role he did not want. He was not a family man, he was an idealist, always searching to better himself, and that meant he could not make a relationship or family work. He needed more. In his absence, a new family is built, and only when Nate died could that happen. Ruth and Brenda connected in his absence, and the Chenowiths and Fishers finally really came together.

While Peter Krause does appear a whole bunch of times in those final episodes, there are only two appearances I would consider to be the real Nate. One is the scene where we see Nate holding Willa, and telling Brenda how much he loves her. Because Nathaniel is there, and specifically mentions that Brenda had never seen him, it implies that this isn't her mental projection, it's a visit from the spirit of Nate, telling her what she really wanted to know, that he loved Willa and was glad that Brenda had the baby. Telling her this, Nate assuages her fears and allows her to mvoe forward.

The final appearance of Nate is in Claire's rearview mirror, when once again we see the young Nate, running. This is the crucial image of the character, encompassing his flaws and attributes. He was never content to stand still, he ran from his family when he was young, he ran from Lisa and he ran from Brenda, and while this running hurt him, it also shows that he was never content to stay with what was known, he wanted to move forward into the unknown, and wading into the water, that's what he did.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Six Feet Under: Maggie

I'm going to do a couple of posts about some specific elements of Six Feet Under that I find interesting, and this one is about the character of Maggie. Maggie is someone who's full of contradictions and mystery, and even after spending a season with her, we have a better idea of what Nate sees her as than who she really is. So, what does our limited time with her tell us about Maggie and who she is?

The primary trauma in Maggie's life was George abandoning her and Brian when they were children. Clearly, they were close, as evidenced by their song in 'Untitled,' but in 'Static,' we get an idea of what has really lingered from her childhood. Maggie was abandoned by George and that scarred her deeper than she'd like to admit.

Maggie turned out ok though, got married and had a son. Here is where her life once again goes bad, her son died and she is once again deeply scarred. This is the kind of traumatic event that can destroy a life and what it seems to lead to is Maggie distancing herself from her emotions and immersing herself in a job that keeps her travelling all over. With no real home, she's never forced to reflect on her life, instead she runs from her problems, and has an essentially meaningless relationship with a doctor in Phoenix that dissolves by the time she makes it to L.A.

The start of season five sees George getting worse and Maggie drawn to a permanent residence for the first time in a while. George's mental illness has pushed Ruth to the edge and that means that Maggie has to stay in L.A. to ensure that George is ok. It's what she has to do and once again responsibility is forced on her. She's forced to care for the man who abandoned her, all the while keeping up a happy exterior to keep her dad feeling okay. He's so proud of her, she feels unwilling to let him see her flaws.

As the season continues, Maggie is drawn closer and closer to Nate. In Nate she sees a kindred spirit, someone who has also suffered misfortune at every turn. With Nate at a crisis point in his life, getting drawn more and more into a life he doesn't really want, he sees an out in Maggie, someone who shares his desire to move past the problems of the past and find some peace.

What is it that drawns Maggie to this damaged soul? It's primarily her loneliness in L.A. She knows no one there, except for George, and that means she's very alone. You can see this in the extremely sad scene in 'The Rainbow of Her Reasons,' where Maggie is sitting in her car alone, calling Nate because he's the only person she can relate to. The two of them are drawn closer together and though she knows it's a dangerous path, her loneliness draws her closer and closer to Nate.

To Nate, Maggie peace, someone who has life figured out. She can counsel him on the prospect of having a disabled child, though he alters his advice when he conveys it to Brenda. Part of the attraction for Nate is that Maggie has no other responsibilities, she can be solely devoted to him, demanding nothing but companionship. This is a stark contrast to Brenda, who is increasingly demanding of Nate.

So, her loneliness draws them to the fateful night where her car breaks down and Nate agress to give her a ride to the service. I wouldn't be shocked if the car breakdown was just an excuse to draw Nate closer to her. I think Maggie felt guilty about what she was doing, but also wanted more from Nate. He's the only person she has. When he kisses her, she initially resists it, but quickly that resistance fades and she sleeps with him. She doesn't really know Brenda, she has almost always seen Nate without her and without Maya. That's part of what allows Maggie to go through with what she does.

And when Nate collapses, she winds up at the hospital and is forced to acknowledge what she's done to everyone, most notably Brenda. There's the brilliant exchange where Maggie says they were talking and Brenda replies "About what, his daughter and pregnant wife?" Maggie, who has always presented herself as a moral person, it is her strong morality that draws Nate to her, is now forced to sit there, the guilt of the adultry mixing with guilt about apparently killing him.

However, while she is sorry, I think she does have strong feelings for Nate. This is one of the few people who can understand what she's been through, and her final scene with Nate, I think she imagines a future with him, the life of peace he's been seeking. They've found each other in the same place, just with the unfortunate fact that Nate is married to Brenda. Maggie never apologizes for what she's done because she knows that it's what Nate wanted at that moment. Would it have worked long term? I don't know, but at that time, Maggie acted on what she wanted.

With Nate dead, Maggie finds herself completely alone, and goes to Brenda seeking some absolution for what she did. She wants Brenda to say that it's ok, and forgive her, but instead receives only harsh words and the promise that Nate didn't really love her. Brenda refuses to grant Maggie clemency and instead brings to light the fact that Maggie has broken up a home, the same thing she could never forgive George for. She has become that which she hated most.

That's why in 'Static' she rails at George. When she criticizes him she is actually criticizing herself for becoming George. And the scene also reveals that the peaceful character we've seen over the season is a facade that has broken down in light of the horrific events. She won't lie to George anymore, smooth over the past, instead she confronts him with the impact of his actions, much like she just had to face the impact of what she had done to Brenda.

When last we see Maggie, she has again moved on, back to the solitary drifter life she lived before the brief stopover in L.A. Her final scene raises the question of whether she is pregnant with Nate's child. She is a pharmacutical rep so there's certainly logical reason for being in a doctor's office, however, the way she's called indicates that she's a patient. It's left ambiguous, but I would say it's quite possible she is pregnant, which would mean that Nate has given her what she lost years before, and another chance at being a mother.

Watching the drama with Maggie unfold was harrowing because it seems that Nate has finally found the perfect person, except that it means betraying his wife. She becomes a sanctuary for Nate, someone who he can share his problems with, and he becomes her only companion. They both make a bad choice, because even if they should be together, that wasn't the way to do it, and seeing the two of them together juxtaposed with Brenda alone in the Quaker church is heartbreaking. These are two people who strive to be good people, yet continually stumble. I really liked Nate and Maggie together, and part of me wanted them to get together, but seeing it actually happened, I hated Nate in that moment, and that's the problem. Maggie wants something she knows she shouldn't have, and the fact that she never steps back and looks at what she's doing is what dooms her.

Would Nate and Maggie have made it? Probably not, as Brenda said, Nate was always looking to the next thing, and Maggie's darker side would eventually well up, destroying the peace. But as Maggie tells Ruth, in that moment, Nate was happy, they both were happy. They were at peace.