SIX FEET UNDER
EVERYONE’S WAITING (SEASON 5, EPISODE 12)
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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