Six Feet Under is Alan Ball’s TV show on HBO, about a family who lives and runs a funeral home. The show stars Peter Krause as Nate, Michael C. Hall as David, Frances Conroy as Ruth, Lauren Ambrose as Claire, Freddy Rodriguez as Rico, Mathew St. Patrick as Keith, Rachel Griffiths as Brenda, and features guest stars like Jeremy Sisto, James Cromwell, Kathy Bates, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Jenkins and Lili Taylor.
In this article I’ll be discussing my favorite top ten episodes, in no particular order. Possible spoilers ahead!
Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): Mr. Fisher gets hit by a bus and dies. Upon this happening, Nate comes home, Claire smokes crystal meth, Ruth admits to having an affair, and David struggles with the loss of his father and Nate’s homecoming. Nate and Brenda keep in touch after their encounter at the airport. This episode touches on the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. It also brought up the future fate of Nate.
Everyone’s Waiting (Season 5, Episode 12): Brenda has her baby, Willa, prematurely, and is unsure about the baby’s condition. David and Keith fight about David being sent away because of his mental health (due to Nate’s death and David’s abduction). Claire and Ted rekindle their romance and discuss Claire’s future. Brenda is still haunted by Nate. Claire contemplates going to NYC for a photographer’s assistant position. Rico and Vanessa talk about their future careers. Ruth still grieves over Nate. David finally realizes that the villain he’s been scared of is himself. Keith and David agree to buy Rico out and live in the Fisher home. Claire says her goodbyes to her family and puts on a mix tape that Ted made her. “Breathe Me” by Sia plays as the future of the Fisher family flashes on the screen. I really enjoyed how the writers chose to end the show- by showing when and how each character dies. Happily, for the most part, the characters die of old age. “Breathe Me” by Sia was the perfect song choice for this ending.
Parallel Play (Season 4, Episode 3): A young girl dies while prank calling with her friends. Brenda continues her relationship with Joe. Rico continues to support Sophia financially. Nate meets a single mother at Maya’s class and sleeps with the woman. Claire hangs out with Anita and Edie at Jimmy’s party. Ruth accuses Arthur of sending her poop in the mail, and Arthur resigns from Fisher & Sons. Keith starts working as a guard for singer Celeste. Claire decides to burn all the stuff not sold in the garage sale. She takes photos and plays Radiohead’s “Lucky” while the family watches the fire. The lyric in the song, “I feel my luck could change,” particularly ties into Nate, who’s still struggling to purge himself from the memory of Lisa.
Terror Starts at Home (Season 4, Episode 6): David tries to hide his feelings of terror about his abduction, telling his family it was a simple carjacking. Ruth learns more about George’s shady past with women. Nate gets a job working with dogs. Brenda and Joe look at a new house. Claire, Anita, Edie, Russell, and Jimmy take an ecstasy-like drug, and Claire shows up high to David’s birthday dinner. Claire gets close to Edie. David has a panic attack, and later confides to Claire that he was tortured. My favorite part of this episode was when Claire and her art friends sang Deathcab for Cutie’s “Transatlanticism”. Claire finally seems to have found a group of people she clicks with in this episode.
Untitled (Season 4, Episode 12): A man is cut in half by an elevator. Claire does cocaine at her art show. George continues to have thoughts about the end of the world as his mind unravels. David confronts his attacker in jail. Claire refuses to share credit with Russell regarding her collage pieces. Nate is more than curious about a photo he finds of Lisa, so he goes up to Lisa’s sister’s house to find out that Lisa was having an affair with her sister’s husband. When the husband discovers that he is caught, he shoots himself. This was one of the more violent, disturbing episodes of the show, and it was effective in providing some background into Lisa’s past but still no closure about how Lisa died.
Perfect Circles (Season 3, Episode 1): Fisher & Sons becomes Fisher & Diaz. Nate barely survives his surgery, but is now a husband to Lisa and a father to Maya. Throughout the episode he has flashbacks of what happened to him in the “in-between” period when he was straddling life and death. Claire meets a guy named Russell in art class and has to practice drawing a perfect circle. David auditions for a men’s chorus. Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” plays at the end. I particularly liked the beginning of this episode when Nate is in limbo, as the show gets philosophical, spiritual and scientific. Nate’s father asks him questions like, “Do you believe your consciousness affects the behavior of subatomic particles?” and “Do you believe the universe is constantly splitting into billions of parallel universes?”
The Last Time (Season 2, Episode 13): Nate comforts Aaron before Aaron dies of cancer. Claire breaks down at her interview for art school. Nate continues to struggle with AVM and ends up having a risky surgery. Nate meets his daughter, Maya, for the first time. Nate and Brenda discuss their relationship, and Nate decides to end it; Brenda leaves town. David and Claire decide to skip Claire’s graduation to go to Nate’s surgery. My favorite part of the episode was the end, which shows Nate running when a bus stops; if he gets on the bus, he’ll die (or so I believe). Symbolic of how his father died, and also of being in a state in-between life and death, I thought the show produced this scene creatively and properly.
I’ll Take You (Season 2, Episode 12): Claire really connects with the environment of a prospective art school. Rico gets a large sum of money from a deceased elderly woman. Brenda’s parents renew their vows. Nate finds out that everything Brenda wrote about in her novel really happened. They have a big fight. Lisa tells Ruth that Ruth is a grandmother. The best part of this episode was Nate and Brenda’s fight. The chemistry between them is reflected in the passion of their fight; it’s hard to agree with one or the other because they both make good points about each other’s flaws and weaknesses.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Season 2, Episode 8): Christmas marks the anniversary of Mr. Fisher’s death. The Fisher family has flashbacks of their father during past holiday seasons. A biker dies and his loved ones throw a party at his funeral. Billy comes home from the mental institution. The biker’s wife leaves Nate the biker’s motorcycle. Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays at the end.
All Alone (Season 5, Episode 10): The Fisher family deals with the aftermath of Nate’s death. David and Ruth disagree about where Nate should be buried. Ted comforts Claire on a drive and tells her some of his family’s history. Bob Dylan’s “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” plays at Nate’s funeral. David struggles with his speech at Nate’s funeral as he’s still haunted by his abduction. Despite George’s shortcomings, he gives an accurate, touching eulogy at Nate’s viewing. Nate is buried at a nature preserve. Claire recalls a memory of Nate from when Kurt Cobain died. Billy comforts Brenda. Nirvana’s “All Apologies” plays as the credits role.