A month or 2 ago I started watching Six Feet Under for the first time. I checked the DVDs out of the library 1 at a time. So far, I'm on episode 3 of season 3, and, let me tell ya, I love this show. However, because time is short I'm just here to write about the first season.
I defy anyone to watch season 1 and not want to watch the rest of the show. The pilot episode was a wonderful introduction to the Fisher family, their funeral home, Fisher and Sons, and the various people in their lives. As the pilot opens, Nathaniel Fisher is on his way to the airport to pick up his son in his business's new hearse. He's smoking a cigarette, something his wife told him not to do, when the hearse is hit by a bus as Nathaniel flicks ashes away from his jacket. Nathaniel dies in the accident, and the first episode is about the family's immediate reaction at the hospital and through the funeral.
The pilot episode is also about Nathaniel's son, Nate, and his initial encounter with Brenda Chenowith. I love that name "Chenowith." Brenda, as played by Rachel Griffiths, is a somewhat off kilter hottie who Nate meets on the plane from Seattle to Los Angeles. She hits on Nate as they walk through the airport, and Nate and Brenda end up having sex in an airport closet.
I developed a huge crush on Rachel Griffiths by watching this show (and not just because of the sex scene). Her character is an amazing mix of beauty, intelligence, fire, and sexuality. Yowza.
As the season continues, Brenda and Nate's relationship develops at quite a pace. However, a central sticking point to their relationship is Rachel's brother, Billy, who has bipolar disorder and a very unhealthy attachment to Brenda. Billy is very possessive of Brenda and develops intense jealousy of everyone she dates. This problematic aspect of Nate and Brenda's relationship is intensified as Billy stops taking his medication. I felt that Jeremy Sisto's portrayal of Billy was a very realistic example of someone with manic depression.
The Nate and Brenda story line is just one of the very intriguing subplots of Six Feet Under during its first season. There's also David Fisher's struggle with accepting his gay identity, Ruth Fisher discovering the ture nature of widowhood, and Claire Fisher's struggle with late adolescence in a world that she shows great contempt for. The weakest subplot, however, is a corporation's attempt to take over Fisher and Sons.
The overarching plot for the first season, though, is the family's difficulty coping with the death of the head of the household. I really liked this aspect of Six Feet Under, because it does not pretend that major crises like these are resolved at the end of a single episode, like most television shows. Instead, it gives us an intimate portrait of each family member in light of the father's death.
Someone dies at the beginning of just about every episode of Six Feet Under, and that person is usually Fisher and Sons' next client. As the family navigates the grieving process, it becomes apparent how dealing with other people's deaths complicates that process. The resulting angst and soul searching made me feel like I was being granted a priviledged insight into an intensely personal experience.