Empire (UK) - - The Box - BEN TRAVIS

HAS A SHOW ever com­mit­ted so deeply to the no­tion of an end­ing as Six Feet Un­der? Across five sea­sons, Alan Ball’s fu­neral home-set fam­ily drama de­liv­ered a stark, dif­fi­cult truth: ev­ery­thing ends and ev­ery­one, even­tu­ally, dies. In the dy­ing mo­ments of the show it­self, that no­tion is crys­tallised with per­fect clar­ity; as Claire Fisher drives away from her LA fam­ily home to move to New York, flashes of the Fisher clan’s fu­ture lives re­veal each fam­ily mem­ber’s fate – in­clud­ing their even­tual, in­evitable deaths. Af­ter in­vest­ing 63 hours into these love­able, deeply flawed, ut­terly hu­man char­ac­ters, it’s noth­ing short of dev­as­tat­ing.

Just like the deaths that open ev­ery episode of the show – from tragic ac­ci­dents, to med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, and ab­surdly comic twists of fate – each Fisher’s fi­nal mo­ment is dif­fer­ent. Some are ex­pected and un­avoid­able (Ruth’s pass­ing of old age, sur­rounded in hospi­tal by her fam­ily), oth­ers sud­den and sense­less (Keith be­ing shot on his se­cu­rity job, Rico Diaz’s sud­den heart at­tack on a cruise with his wife). One even re­tains Ball’s play­ful dark hu­mour – Brenda Chenowith is seem­ingly bored to death by her crack­pot chat­ter­box brother Billy, drop­ping off as he blath­ers on at her. And there at the end of it all is Claire, the fi­nal Fisher, sur­rounded by her life’s work hav­ing suc­ceeded in her am­bi­tion of be­com­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher, slip­ping away, blind, at the age of 102.

For all that it’s a har­row­ing con­clu­sion, like the rest of Six Feet Un­der it’s not cheap, taste­less or played for shock value. It very sim­ply is what it is: a head­stone. Here lies Six Feet Un­der, the show that told you that ev­ery­one dies, show­ing ev­ery­one dy­ing. It’s painful, and it’s sad, but it’s beau­ti­ful too

– in the snip­pets of life and the re­la­tion­ships glimpsed in be­tween the deaths, from David and Keith’s wed­ding (Ball pre­dict­ing the le­gal­i­sa­tion of gay mar­riage in 2005 be­fore it be­came a re­al­ity in 2008), to their sons’ grow­ing fam­i­lies, and Claire’s own nup­tials. The mile­stones fly by, time ac­cel­er­at­ing as the se­quence goes on.

The open­ing of ‘Ev­ery­one’s Wait­ing’ is as per­fect as its end­ing, sub­vert­ing the show’s usual ‘corpse-re­veal opener’ and kick­ing off with Brenda giv­ing birth to daugh­ter Willa. It gives the fi­nale its own sym­bolic struc­ture – it starts with new life, closes with death, and de­picts en­tire life­times in be­tween.

Six Feet Un­der’s fi­nale doesn’t sim­ply con­clude its char­ac­ters’ sto­ries, it also man­ages to per­fectly dis­till the show’s pro­foundly per­sonal themes. The end­ing feels like a di­rect mes­sage from Ball, an im­per­a­tive for view­ers: life is short, re­la­tion­ships are ev­ery­thing, and noth­ing can be taken for granted, so make the most of it. For a se­ries about death, griev­ing, and the value of life, it’s fit­ting that the fi­nale pro­vides all the clo­sure you could ever ask for. RIP, Six Feet Un­der, 2001 – 2005.


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