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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > TV on DVD Reviews > Six Feet Under - The Complete Third Season

 

Six Feet Under

The Complete Third Season (HBO-2005)

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For the past five years, HBO has been at the forefront of television's most compelling, and thought provoking shows numbering such must-sees as The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex & The City and Deadwood. Also falling into that hallowed category of not to be missed television is Six Feet Under.

Created by Academy-Award winner, Alan Ball, who gained prominence helming American Beauty, Six Feet Under clearly puts the 'dysfunction' into family relationships with a giant exclamation point. Centering upon the day to day exploits of a family, who also run a funeral home business,
the series resonates with a miraculous blend of striking realism, witty black humor and ghostly surrealism.

The
thirteen episodes found on Six Feet Under - The Complete Three Season find the show operating in top creative form, with the family in classic crisis mode. The ensemble cast -- showcasing Frances Conroy as matriarch Ruth Fisher, Michael C. Hall as son David, Peter Krause as eldest son Nate, and Lauren Ambrose as daughter Claire -- is perhaps the strongest and most versatile on television.

Starting with season three's premiere episode "Perfect Circles," which finds Nate precariously hanging on to life after risky brain surgery, the always spectacular Peter Krause brings an engaging neuroticism and winning quirkiness to his part. His on
-and-off love interest Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) is also a perfect fit for the series.  Griffith plays the role with a studied playfulness and feral intensity.

First appearing in episode six of season three, "Making Love Work," the addition of Rainn Wilson (currently co-starring in NBC's The Office)
was a masterstroke in casting. Seldom has a character actor been more memorable and downright creepy at the same time. Wilson, who portrays funeral apprentice Arthur Martin, inhabits his role completely, infusing his role with a combination of child-like innocence and criminally deranged veneer.

Ruth Fisher, however, finds herself fascinated with the weird and peculiar Arthur in the episode "Timing & Space" where she obsessively stalks him while he's out jogging. By the following episode, "Tears, Bones & Desire," Ruth can't control her amorous feelings, repeatedly kissing a surprised Arthur, who responds with calm, robot-like apathy. Soon, like most other relationships on Six Feet Under, their twisted love affair gets tangled quickly leading to disastrous results.

In a show packed with dozens of subplots, too numerous, complex and convoluted to explain in detail (you'll just have to buy the DVD to
fully experience the peccadilloes of the Fisher family) the season's most engrossing plot line follows the moral and emotional decay of Nate's relationship with his wife, Lisa (played by Lili Taylor.) Feeling obligated to marry Lisa after she'd become pregnant with his child, Nate is ambivalent at best about the strength and ultimate longevity of their union, still harboring a crazy and passionate love for Brenda.

Following the trajectory of each episode in season three, (In "Making Love Work" Lisa and Nate, on a camping trip with their baby, Maya, attempt to patch up their relationship but the patch soon becomes unglued) one can surmise that Nate and Lisa's relationship is doomed. "Twilight," produced by esteemed actress Kathy Bates (also an occasional guest star on the show) is particularly impressive in this regard, capturing Nate on the verge of a nervous breakdown over his wife's mysterious disappearance. Part of him is happy she's finally out of his life while the other struggles with sublimating his real desires in an attempt to save his marriage whatever the cost.  

Another great hook employed in the show is the clever use of deceased father, Nathaniel (portrayed by Richard Jenkins), who appears intermittently throughout the
episodes in a series of hallucinogenic flashbacks and surreal dreams, acting as a kind of moral compass for the surviving family members. Brothers Nate and David receive the most frequent visitations of their dead Pop -- however Claire's encounter with her father in the afterlife in season three final episode "I'm Sorry, I'm Lost" is one of the most arresting and heart-rending moments in Six Feet Under lore, a mixture of surprising sentimentality and pathos.

While often the entire Fisher family seems in dire need of extra heavy doses of Prozac, the show's dynamic plays up their vulnerabilities and flaws to great effect; significantly, these all too recognizable human frailties and foibles help the viewer to forge an instant empathy and identification with the characters. In many ways, Six Feet Under, while intelligently written, brilliantly acted and superbly directed, captivates the viewer like a highly addictive soap opera
-- albeit one strewn with loads of decaying and mutilated corpses, gallons of formaldehyde, and dark, depressive humor. Indeed, Six Feet Under is an acquired taste, but those willing to visit the Fisher Funeral Home will undeniably fall under its intoxicating spell and keep coming back for more and more.

Bonus materials include deleted scenes, audio commentary plus a behind the scenes featurette, "Living On The Ledge: A Bird's Eye View Of The Third Season" which contains musical accompaniment by Coldplay.
 

Ken Sharp

Copyright 2005   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.