Six Feet Under
It's been almost four days, and I'm still thinking about the HBO show Six Feet Under and its series finale, which aired on Sunday. I still couldn't sleep at night, thinking about the final montage. It's crazy. I keep reminding myself: It's only a TV show. But I can't help it.
Never have I been so deeply moved, engrossed, and affected by a piece of entertainment. Sure, I have fallen in love with and touched by a book, a movie, a TV show, or a song before, but not like this. I cried like a baby at the end of Cinema Paradiso, but not like this. Not like having insomnia for four days. What is wrong with me?
I think Six Feet Under has struck a chord with so many people at such deep level because it is so REAL. And some people don't like the show also because it's too REAL for them. The Fishers and their friends and loved ones are so dysfunctional that we could all step back and say, "Gosh, I'm glad I am not like that." Then we catch ourselves, whether it's watching David lashing out on his partner Keith, or Nate cheating on his pregnant wife Brenda, or Ruth screaming at her husband George: Oh lord, we are just like them. We have our own dysfunctional moments, our own demons and torments, our own sicknesses. And they remind us of people we know. Thus the Fishers and Co. have become our family for the past 5 years.
I love flawed people. They are fascinating. In my own work, I write about flawed people. I don't like archetypical heroes and villains -- they're boring to me. So as a writer, I have immense respect for Alan Ball, and I'm in awe of the talent he and his team of writers exhibit. And I'm insanely jealous. And inspired.
Every episode presents some brilliant writing, full of metaphors, deep meanings and nuances. It's sad, depressing and funny at the same time. I'm always in awe with the writing. Then there's the acting. Six Feet Under has some of the most talented actors (Peter Krause as Nate, Michael C. Hall as David, Frances Conroy as Ruth, Lauren Ambrose as Claire, Rachel Griffith as Brenda, James Cromwell, Matthew St. Patrick, Kathy Bates, Patricia Clarkson... the list goes on and on and on) and some of the most amazing performances. Together, the organic writing and acting (and the artful production) make the show so real.
So real that we identify with these characters as if they are -- REAL.
That's why the final episode hit me so hard. Because I believed in them and their trials and tribulations. The grief they went through. The joy they experienced. The love, loss and relationships they endured.
Most important, I can project myself and my own life to some of these characters. Every one of these characters remind me something of myself. Their stories speak to me at a personal level. I think that's what great literature is all about. And I consider a great TV show great literature.
I think it's brilliant that they delivered the shocking and climatic death of Nate (a central character) 3 episodes before the finale, then let us see the grieving process unfold within the Fisher clan. For a show about death, they chose to show us life afterwards.
And that's it. Part of the impact of the show is that it's really about life. About living.
The final 15 minutes and the montage as Claire drove through the desert hit me really hard. I watched, awestruck and breathless, as each major character met his or her demise. To me, it was like watching my family and friends die. It was like having gone to 6 or 7 funerals in 15 minutes. There's that finality. The goodbyes that are so hard to say.
But most impressively, they show us how they lived their lives. It reminds us of our own mortality, that we all die, eventually. Some suddenly and tragically, and some naturally. But we all die. It's how we live and love and take it all in and remember that is important.
"You can't take a picture of this. It's already gone." Indeed. What we have, really, are feelings and memories.
The final 15 minutes also reminds me of my own life, adventures, relationships, and losses. As Claire leaves for New York for her new life, I reflect on my own departures. How I said goodbye to my friends and family when I left for the US. The sense of loss and dread, mixed with excitement of the unknown future.
Some other favorite moments:
- Ruth grieving for Nate while watching Just Shoot Me-- it's so subversive that it's sad and hilarious
- Nate telling Claire, "Wake up, everyone's waiting."
- As Claire snaps a picture of her family, Nate saying, "You can't take a picture of this. It's already gone."
- Ruth asking Maggie if Nate was happy before he died -- that's one of the most heart-wrenching moments
- The dinner toast to Nate at the end -- it's classic
- Claire driving off as Nate runs and disappears in her sideview mirror -- the sense of "letting go" is insurmountable
- Ruth dying on her death bed, surrounded by her family, and seeing her late husband and first-born son waiting for her -- I started to well up...
- Ted coming to Ruth's funeral and reuniting with Claire -- how romantic and poetic
- David seeing the vibrant, handsome vision of Keith before he dies -- the sense of eternal love and loss is incredible; it puts a lump in my throat
- Claire dying on her death bed, all alone, but surrounded by pictures of everyone she's loved and outlived... the joy on her withered face... then cutting to the clear, beautiful eyes of the young Claire, as she goes off to the her new future
Sia's Breathe Me was a perfect soundtrack for the last 5 minutes. The haunting song gave the ending such incredibly emotional punch.
The song and these final images are branded vivid in my mind now. Can't shake them. And for four days I've been thinking about what I saw and heard, reflecting on my own life and losses. And I feel blessed.
I will keep thinking. And feeling. And loving. And living.