Six Feet Under: Season 3 (2003)

Season 3
Six Feet Under

Critics Consensus

Six Feet Under's third season dials down the comedy in favor of creepier narratives -- a challenge its cast is more than up to.



Critic Ratings: 20


Audience Score

User Ratings: 182

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Air date: Mar 2, 2003

Given that the opening sequence of each Six Feet Under episode begins with the death of a future Fisher & Sons client, it's rarely a good sign to see a major character appear right after the credits. But exactly two seasons after the series pilot that chronicled his father's death, Nate (Peter Krause) bites the big one -- or does he? After poking around with his ghostly father (Richard Jenkins) in a number of alternate realities in which Nate dies, becomes an invalid, or was never even born, Nate finally settles into a timeline in which he survives his brain surgery, marries Lisa (Lili Taylor) and eases into domesticity. As for the other Fisher siblings, David (Michael C. Hall) ekes out emotional progress with Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) in couples therapy, while Claire (Lauren Ambrose) blows off art-school classes to hang out with a hot, tattooed musician (J.P. Pitoc) whom she meets in a crematory. Meanwhile, family matriarch Ruth (Frances Conroy) enjoys time with her granddaughter but butts heads with her new daughter-in-law over child-rearing methods. On the business side of things, Federico (Freddy Rodriguez) revels in his new role as full partner in the renamed Fisher & Diaz funeral home, while Lisa tries to attend to every whim of her shrill, high-strung movie-producer boss (Catherine O'Hara). As for Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), she's nowhere to be found -- except in the anesthetized dream in which Nate married her instead of Lisa. Originally broadcast March 2, 2003, on HBO, "Perfect Circles" marked season three, episode one of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Mar 9, 2003

When Fisher & Diaz is called upon to provide funeral services for a disgruntled former office worker who died in the middle of a murderous rampage, moralistic Federico (Freddy Rodriguez) tries to put his foot down and refuse the business. The resulting friction with new partners David (Michael C. Hall) and Nate (Peter Krause) fuels Rico's longstanding resentment against the Fishers. Meanwhile, Lisa (Lili Taylor) deals with a whole different sort of office politics as she scurries around attending to Carol (Catherine O'Hara), the maniacal movie-exec boss with whom she and Nate reside. Although she's supposed to be merely Carol's personal chef, Lisa's duties are so extensive that she and Nate can barely find time to have uninterrupted sex. Claire (Lauren Ambrose), however, does almost nothing but have sex with Phil (J.P. Pitoc), the muscular musician she's been dating. But while Phil's off enjoying extracurricular relationships with other women, Claire finds time to bond with Russell (Ben Foster), a fellow art student. Ruth (Frances Conroy), too, makes a new friend: Bettina (Kathy Bates), a pal of her artsy sister Sarah (Patricia Clarkson). Deep in withdrawal from prescription painkillers and under Bettina's strict watch, Sarah tries to trick naïve Ruth into giving her some relief; instead, Ruth pops pills and bonds with straight-talking Bettina. As for Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), he's had enough bonding with David during their joint counseling sessions. Attending a one-on-one session with their shrink, he finally unloads some of his relationship angst. These feelings spill out again later at a dinner party during which Nate and Lisa find themselves sizing up David and Keith's relationship, and vice versa. Originally broadcast March 9, 2003, on HBO, "You Never Know" marked season three, episode two of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Mar 16, 2003

The third season of Six Feet Under continues its long, slow setup with another episode devoted to patient character development. Claire (Lauren Ambrose) finally decides she's had enough of her hottie beau's philandering; she kicks Phil (J.P. Pitoc) to the curb and throws herself into art school, where new friend Russell (Ben Foster) and new instructor Olivier (Peter MacDissi) liven things up. Lisa (Lili Taylor), meanwhile, escapes a toxic relationship of her own by walking out on Carol (Catherine O'Hara), her neurotic movie-exec boss. A frustrated Nate (Peter Krause) resigns himself to moving his young family back into his mother's home. Ruth (Frances Conroy) is overjoyed at Nate's return, although she's also busy enjoying the hijinks of Bettina (Kathy Bates), her straight-talking, shoplifting new insta-best friend. As for David (Michael C. Hall) and Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), they struggle to loosen up and enjoy a poolside vacation together. Fun is eventually had, although their return to the city soon destroys any easygoing momentum they've attained. Amidst such minutiae, the biggest drama occurs with this week's featured death: a young woman (Megan Austin Oberle) mowed down by a car as a direct result of a cruel prank played by friends. Originally broadcast March 16, 2003, on HBO, "The Eye Inside" marked season three, episode three of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Mar 23, 2003

Although Six Feet Under often dwells on death -- such as this week's depiction of a scenic designer named Kevin Lamb (Dennis Christopher) who stages his lover's funeral as a miniature opera -- "Nobody Sleeps" also revolves around the birthday of the Fisher matriarch. Electrified by her daring, naughty new friend Bettina (Kathy Bates), Ruth (Frances Conroy) loosens up a little and actually has some fun on her special day. Part of that is thanks to Lisa (Lili Taylor), who, despite the objections of husband Nate (Peter Krause), manages to throw a lovely and somewhat rowdy party for her mother-in-law. Even David (Michael C. Hall) has fun, despite his continuing troubles with Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), which have been thrown into sharp relief by Kevin's elaborate tribute to his late partner. The only person to miss the festivities is Claire (Lauren Ambrose). She's busy having the night of her life getting drunk and talking trash with her pal Russell (Ben Foster), her art teacher Olivier (Peter MacDissi) and one of Olivier's big-wig artist friends. A drunken Nate, also enjoys some rambling conversation -- with the taunting specter of his stultified father (Richard Jenkins), whom Nate fears he's becoming. Originally broadcast March 23, 2003, on HBO, "Nobody Sleeps" marked season three, episode four of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Mar 30, 2003

Nate (Peter Krause) continues his descent into quiet desperation as Fisher & Diaz prepares to bury the recently unearthed remains of a young husband and father who disappeared without a trace decades earlier. Adding to Nate's just-married angst, Lisa (Lili Taylor) spends her time micromanaging his finances instead of finding a new job of her own. She also goes ballistic when Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) turns up to make amends with Nate as part of a 12-step recovery program for sex addicts. Nate and Brenda share a few drinks, but he keeps his guard up and expresses none of his doubts about his sudden matrimony. David (Michael C. Hall), too, is haunted by an old lover: Terry (Matt Winston), a fellow singer in the gay men's chorus, who reminds David of their brief and frenzied encounter years ago in a department-store men's room. Ashamed of his own past repression, David is relieved to realize he's finally at peace with his sexual identity. Speaking of which, Claire (Lauren Ambrose) finds her feelings in disarray when Russell (Ben Foster), her supposedly gay best friend, declares that he's actually straight and wants to date her. She considers it -- until Olivier (Peter MacDissi), her manipulative art professor, advises her to shun emotional intimacy if she wants to become a great artist. Blowing Russell off, Claire focuses on her new job as Olivier's assistant. Federico (Freddy Rodriguez), too, hires a new sidekick: Arthur (Rainn Wilson), a mortuary school student who agrees to work for nothing but room and board at the Fisher house. As for Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), he's still stuck in the same terrible job as a rent-a-cop. A disturbing altercation with a fellow security guard, however, convinces him it's time to look for other employment. Originally broadcast March 30, 2003, on HBO, "The Trap" marked season three, episode five of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Apr 6, 2003

An attractive, middle-aged woman (Donna Bullock) dies while waiting in line at a self-help seminar, the apparent victim of a massive blood clot from a long-ago nose job. But it's another corpse -- an awesomely large one that falls out of its casket in the middle of the night -- that presents a headache for Federico (Freddy Rodriguez) and his new intern, Arthur (Rainn Wilson). On watch at the funeral home while Nate (Peter Krause) and Lisa (Lili Taylor) go camping with another couple, the hapless undertakers must enlist the help of Claire (Lauren Ambrose) and Russell (Ben Foster) in returning the voluminous body to its oversized coffin. Russell is on hand because, despite her decision not to date him, Claire has somehow ended up taking his virginity instead. This turn of events pleases her until David (Michael C. Hall) insinuates that Russell is gay, after all -- a notion she dismisses out of hand. Ruth (Frances Conroy), too, finds herself falling for a man of indeterminate sexual proclivities: stuffy, virginal Arthur, whose old-fashioned manners and idiosyncrasies charm her despite their large age gap. As for Nate, he's none too charmed by the constraints that new fatherhood imposes on his camping trip with his wife. Unable to get gloriously stoned or go off on walkabout like he did as a bachelor, he instead finds himself clashing with Lisa, who's freaking out about the deficiencies in their love life since she gave birth to Maya. Eventually, she and Nate reconcile with some seriously twisted al fresco sex. But Nate is haunted by a daydream about Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) stalking him. Originally broadcast April 6, 2003, on HBO, "Making Love Work" marked season three, episode six of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Apr 13, 2003

While wife Lisa (Lili Taylor) is away at a cooking convention, Nate (Peter Krause) once again finds himself face to face with former fiancée Brenda (Rachel Griffiths). But the occasion isn't a happy or even a nostalgic one: Bernard Chenowith (Robert Foxworth), Brenda's psychiatrist father, has died of cancer, and Nate feels honor-bound to attend the funeral. Federico (Freddy Rodriguez) offers to have his wife watch the baby, but Vanessa (Justina Machado) seems so depressed and flighty that Nate just brings Maya to the funeral with him instead. Given the assorted tics of the surviving Chenowiths, the memorial proves anything but typical. But Lisa offers a standard-issue reaction to Nate's having exposed her daughter to death (and to the touch of his dreaded ex): She throws a hissy fit. Meanwhile, Ruth (Frances Conroy) is all atwitter about Arthur (Rainn Wilson), the strangely beatific junior mortician who now lodges in her home; she dotes on him so devotedly it's like she's the youngster, not him. Russell (Ben Foster) also lavishes Claire (Lauren Ambrose) with similar fervor as the youngest Fisher grows more attached to her pal-turned-lover. Elsewhere, Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) and David (Michael C. Hall) clash during a shrill if fabulous brunch thrown by David's flamboyant, Hollywood-obsessed friends from the gay men's chorus. Originally broadcast April 13, 2003, on HBO, "Timing & Space" marked season three, episode seven of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Apr 20, 2003

Threesomes, romantic triangles, and even polygamy intersect in the lives of the Fisher family when they're asked to bury Daddy (Leon Rippy), the patriarch of a commune known as "The People." Nate (Peter Krause) and Ruth (Frances Conroy) both find themselves charmed by Daddy's unorthodox clan -- Nate by one of his daughters and Ruth by one of his wives. Meanwhile, Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) and David (Michael C. Hall) bring an unconventional element into their own union: Sarge (Josh Stamberg), a burly hunk who ends up in their bed after an afternoon of paintball and an evening of hard drinking. Claire (Lauren Ambrose) isn't quite so willing to share her man; she freaks out when she suspects there may be something going on between her boyfriend, Russell (Ben Foster), and her Machiavellian art professor, Olivier (Peter MacDissi). By these standards, Ruth's furtive crush on intern Arthur (Rainn Wilson) seems downright wholesome, although her feelings don't remain hidden for long once she starts kissing him. Lisa, however, is perfectly capable of keeping a secret, and she does so after meeting Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) under an assumed name by posing as a massage client and picking her brain. Originally broadcast April 20, 2003, on HBO, "Tears, Bones and Desire" marked season three, episode eight of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: Apr 27, 2003

The suicide of a recently jilted woman hits close to home for Federico (Freddy Rodriguez) -- who continues to worry that his own wife (Justina Machado) is clinically depressed -- and for Nate (Peter Krause), who sympathizes with the woman's boyfriend's desire to end a relationship that stifled him. Nate's misgivings about his marriage come to a head at an art show featuring works by Claire (Lauren Ambrose), her boyfriend Russell (Ben Foster), and Billy Chenowith (Jeremy Sisto). There, Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) officially meets Lisa (Lili Taylor) and immediately recognizes that her massage appointment (in the episode "Tears, Bones and Desire") was actually an undercover reconnaissance mission. Brenda privately reassures Lisa that Nate is all hers, but tensions between the couple continue to run high. Ultimately, though, they realize it's time to stop pretending, and they resolve to settle for being friends, lovers and co-parents rather than picture-perfect husband and wife. David (Michael C. Hall), meanwhile, pretends to be okay with the threesomes in which he and Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) are now frequently engaging. Actually, however, he has deep misgivings about the hookups -- and the relationship. Claire feels none too secure about her own romance, especially after Billy confirms, through personal experience, that Olivier (Peter MacDissi), their mutual mentor, has a thing for sleeping with his students regardless of gender. As it turns out, though, Olivier's trysting partner for the evening is none other than Margaret Chenowith (Joanna Cassidy), Brenda and Billy's recently widowed mother. If only Ruth (Frances Conroy) were as sexually forthright as Margaret, perhaps she wouldn't end up sleeping alone, rebuffed by virginal junior mortician Arthur (Rainn Wilson). Originally broadcast April 27, 2003, on HBO, "The Opening" marked season three, episode nine of the made-for-cable drama.

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Air date: May 4, 2003

As the lives of the Fisher clan drift into isolation, the funeral of Keith's great aunt (Ann Weldon) sets the stage for a major showdown between discontented lovers Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) and David (Michael C. Hall). En route to San Diego for the memorial, the couple quarrel over Keith's continuing enthusiasm for extracurricular sex -- and David's emerging distaste for same. But the real conflict comes when Keith decides that it's time to confront his father (James Pickens Jr.) about the physical abuse he once heaped on his kids. The outraged patriarch lashes out, and when David comes to Keith's defense, Keith tells him to butt out of his family business. A disconsolate David heads back to L.A., where Nate (Peter Krause) is growing worried about his wife, Lisa (Lili Taylor), who hasn't checked in since leaving on a road trip. Nate busies himself by consoling Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) over an icky run-in with her insane brother Billy (Jeremy Sisto). Confessing that his latest antics include a stab at physical, instead of the usual emotional, incest, she nonetheless finds herself breaking her own sexual taboos during an impassioned, although abortive, kiss with Nate. Claire (Lauren Ambrose) learns that Russell (Ben Foster), too, has gone beyond the pale when he confesses to a sexual dalliance with bisexual art teacher Olivier (Peter MacDissi). The youngest Fisher dumps her boyfriend as forcefully as possible, although Russell doesn't seem to get the hint. As for the Fisher matriarch, Ruth (Frances Conroy) gets the hint that shy embalmer Arthur (Rainn Wilson) isn't capable of the physical relationship she craves. She, too, dumps her man. Originally broadcast May 4, 2003, on HBO, "Everyone Leaves" marked season three, episode ten of the made-for-cable drama.

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Six Feet Under: Season 3 Photos

Tv Season Info

Series 3 of this macabre drama opens with the Fisher family believing Nate (Peter Krause) is dead, while he awaits his own funeral.

Cast & Crew

Peter Krause
Nate Fisher Jr.
Rachel Griffiths
Brenda Chenowith
Freddy Rodriguez
Federico Diaz
Michael C. Hall
David Fisher
Lili Taylor
Lisa Kimmel Fisher
Richard Jenkins
Nathaniel Fisher Sr.
Lauren Ambrose
Claire Fisher
Ben Foster
Russell Corwin
Rainn Wilson
Arthur Martin
Justina Machado
Vanessa Diaz
Peter Macdissi
Olivier Castro-Staal
Jeremy Sisto
Billy Chenowith
The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles
Arye Gross
Frank Muehler
Alan Ball
Executive Producer
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Critic Reviews for Six Feet Under Season 3

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (13)

Right after the opening credits are over, you'll be hooked, and stunned, and strapped in for another amazing ride.

Nov 17, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

A riveting season of the show.

Nov 7, 2017 | Full Review…

I'll admit it -- last year I was concerned about Six Feet Under. This year, however, it's back to being this incredible, metaphysically physical show about life, and mostly death.

Mar 30, 2020 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Yes. Six Feet Under has been intellectualized, dissected to death and praised to the stars for its superior writing and emotional depth, all rightly so. But call it what it is -- a good soap. A great one.

Mar 30, 2020 | Full Review…

There's anger, manipulation and jealousy bubbling under in nearly every situation and it's a tribute to these actors that they carry it all off so thoroughly.

Mar 30, 2020 | Full Review…

What's remarkable about Six Feet Under is that, in spite of the unwillingness to let more than a few beams of light filter through the eternally drawn blinds, it merits watching.

Mar 30, 2020 | Full Review…

Aside from the audacity and its utterly undeniable addictive quality, it never was good TV. It's just a whacked-out, wickedly clever nighttime version of a daytime soap... It is a lot of nothing, though at least it's well-wrought nothing.

Mar 30, 2020 | Full Review…

While other dramas are stuck in ruts of repetition or take predictable paths, Six Feet Under digs deeper and returns at the top of its game.

May 3, 2019 | Full Review…

There's something fascinating, even thrilling, about the defiant unlovability of these characters. Which is why you end up loving them despite themselves.

Jun 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Six Feet Under jettisons much of its quirky humor, becoming increasingly erratic, morbid and terrifying, an entropic drift dragging the characters apart even as they walk along together, one foot in the grave.

Nov 7, 2017 | Full Review…

Though not without its flaws, [The Opening] is another strong episode that shows how well Six Feet Under dealt with very real issues that often get swept under the rug, especially in an effort to preserve a relationship.

Nov 7, 2017 | Full Review…

Season Three is technically pitch-perfect.

Sep 25, 2017 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Six Feet Under: Season 3

  • Sep 25, 2015
    Season 3 was a bit slow. We see a lot of heartbreaks as the Fischer family had to adjust to their new situations as well as various characters are all having issues waiting to be resolved. The hallucination were actually really interesting this time round.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Sep 14, 2019
    One of the most emotional experiences on Television. This season is perfect and is the moment it cemented itself as one of the best.
  • Aug 28, 2016
    continues to be great
  • Oct 11, 2014
    Season finale is great. 4rth best season of SFU
  • Jul 26, 2014
    6.5/10 Weakest season
  • Feb 18, 2014
    Slightly lesser season (only cause the novelty was running out).

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