It’s time for round five of ‘Six Feet Under’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2005

For those of you who think I just watch sports all day, well, you’re pretty much right. But several Sundays a summer, you’ll find me in front of HBO, checking out &uot;Six Feet Under.&uot;

For the past four years, the Fisher family of sons Nate (Peter Krause) and David (Michael C. Hall), daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose) and mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) have been giving us an in-depth look at what it’s like to live in a funeral home. Through the life, the deaths, the tears, the laughter, the hugs and the occasional thrown punch, the series has been running strong.

Well, now it’s about over. This is the final season for the show, which moved to Mondays starting this week. Before we embark on the farewell tour, let’s look back at last year…

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When the third season ended, David and his boyfriend Keith had patched up the relationship trouble that plagued them over the first two years. Claire had just had an abortion, and was looking for something to do. Ruth had just gotten married to George (James Cromwell). Restorative artist Rico (Freddy Rodriguez) had just drowned his own marital problems with a one-night stand with a stripper named Sophia. Nate had found a sad end to a marriage he didn’t want to be in when his wife Lisa (Lily Taylor) died, leaving him to raise his daughter Maya. When we last saw Nate, he’d been beaten in a bar fight and gone to the home of his old girlfriend Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), who’d recently begun a relationship with her neighbor Joe.

&uot;Falling into Place&uot;

Death: Lisa and Bruno Baskerville Walsh, who jumped off his dorm roof on an acid trip in 1972 (you’ll understand later)

Synopsis: After perhaps the most awkward sex scene in television history, Nate goes home, only to find Ruth and George living it up like teenagers. Nate and David get Lisa’s decomposed body, and Nate battles with Lisa’s family over burial (she wanted to be buried, they want her in a mausoleum). To solve the problem, Nate gives the Kimmels ashes from Walsh’s cremation and buries Lisa in the desert himself.

Opinion: Great start. Nate was back to his likeable self, the plot twist at the end was great, and everyone was hitting on all cylinders. That didn’t stick around, but it was great while it lasted.

Grade: A-

&uot;In Case of Rapture&uot;

Death: Dorothy Sheedy, hit by cars when she mistook floating inflatable dolls for angels and went into rapture in perhaps the most hysterical death scene of the series

Synopsis: It’s now a few months later, and things have settled down. Keith interviewed with a bodyguard firm, Brenda started studying for her psychology degree. Nate, angry at a mourner’s lack of sadness, abruptly quit. George got an unwelcome gift in the mail (O.K., it was feces!). But this one belonged to guest star Mena Suvari as Claire’s lesbian friend Edie, who owned every scene she was in from here on.

Opinion: For the most part, we moved away from the main characters. Last year, Rico’s wife Vanessa was the &uot;Supporting Character Who Gets a Ton of Time,&uot; but now it was Keith. Edie was the most interesting recurring character the show ever had, so this one gets a passing grade right there.

Grade: B+

&uot;Parallel Play&uot;

Death: Kaitlin Elise Stolte, a 14-year-old who… fell off a bed? Who thought THAT was a good idea?

Synopsis: Nate, per usual, got another beautiful woman to fall into bed with him, but no one even wasted time here, because she’d dropped him midway through. Claire started to have feelings toward Edie that were more than friendship. Joe admitted to having a dominatrix complex (what guts!), and George got another present.

Opinion: The death scene hefted a dark cloud over this one (were really supposed to think that watching a young girl suffered such a tragic death was entertaining at all?), so this one was, no pun intended, dead out of the starting gates.

Grade: C-

&uot;Can I Come Up Now&uot;

Death: Lawrence Henry Mason, struck by lightning

Synopsis: If the death scene in the last episode killed it, Brenda’s dominatrix act alone made this one a keeper. Nate started to get psychic-like vibes from a dog – perhaps the good brother of the Son of Sam – that Lisa might not be dead after all.

Opinion: Those two stories carried this one well. What else was there wasn’t all that, but they were plenty.

Grade: B+

&uot;That’s My Dog&uot;

Death: Anne Marie Thorton, who fell in the shower

Synopsis: While everyone else treaded water, David was suddenly accosted by a hitchhiker who carjacked him, threatened his life and terrorized him at every turn, to the point where we honestly believed that he might not make it out.

Opinion: No real lasting value or anything, but worth a look just because a) it was unlike anything they’d ever done before and b) Hall got more screen time that any other single episode and showed that he could carry one if need be.

Grade: B-

&uot;Terror Starts at Home&uot;

Death: Robert Carl Meinhardt, shot during a home invasion

Synopsis: Keith had come home to comfort David, who encouraged him to return, only to suffer a panic attack. A sympathetic Nate returned to the business, while Brenda, Ruth and Claire struggled with their relationship feelings.

Opinion: Nothing outstanding, but it served the purpose. This was the perfect time for everyone – and the series – to stop and regroup.

Grade: B

&uot;The Dare&uot;

Death: Joan Morrison, who succumbed to stomach cancer

Synopsis: They should have called this one &uot;Awkward Sex.&uot; David drowned his anxiety in a one-evening-stand with a former Lothario, while Claire finally had sex with Edie to decide once and for all about her lesbianism. We found out that Brenda and Nate were having an affair, and a rift with Vanessa finally pushed Rico into the lusting arms of Sophia – and who didn’t know THAT was coming?

Opinion: The alternating scene between David and Claire’s homosexual encounters was hysterical, and Kathy Bates was here. What more could we need?

Grade: A-

&uot;Coming and Going&uot;

Death: James Dubois Marshall, who drove to the funeral home and died in his car, proving that, even in death, he took care of everyone

Synopsis: Nate and Brenda couldn’t keep their relationship a secret from Joe, while Rico, thanks to some serious foot-in-mouth disease, couldn’t keep his fling away from Vanessa. Keith also got &uot;lucky,&uot; seduced away from homosexuality by the Britney Spears wannabe he was guarding, only to get fired by her in the end. Ruth finally had enough of George’s crap, leaving him with just a note.

Opinion: Average (by now a recurring theme), but leaning up, as the screenwriters were at least having fun.

Grade: B+

&uot;Grinding the Corn&uot;

Death: Lawrence Tuttle, crushed by a bookcase while reaching for a comic book

Synopsis: The show’s humor hasn’t been as consistent as it was during the first few seasons, but it was here in abundance, and it’s something we need to see again. David’s &uot;bare breasts&uot; scene and the comic book robbery at the end were falling-off-the-couch funny, but Nate’s dream about his dad dressing as a cartoon character and taking away everything he had was ludicrous, nonsense, and totally wacked mixed all together.

Opinion: This one had &uot;Best Episode Ever&uot; in its grasp until the last 20 minutes, until it slipped away in a &uot;What The Hell Was That?!&uot; fest. We knew that the point was to get Nate and Brenda back together, but it didn’t have to be made with a bazooka. Still better than anything since the second season.

Grade: A

&uot;The Black Forest&uot;

Death: Robert Wething, dead of alcohol poisoning outside a church

Synopsis: Nate and Brenda went to a memorial service for Lisa, and were found out by her sister Barb. This derailed Brenda’s desire to have Nate’s child. David was in the same boat, finding out that a local adoption agency didn’t accept gay couples. Eventually, he took it out on a rude bar patron, which resulted in a lawsuit that could leave him either jailed or bankrupt.

Opinion: Unflashy, but necessary. Save for David’s outburst, there was nothing overly notable about this episode itself, but it set the stage for what was coming.

Grade: B+

&uot;Bomb Shelter&uot;

Death: Edward and Coco Gorodetsky and their two children, Michael and Amanda, killed in a car accident.

Synopsis: Barb tried to take Maya, but Nate wasn’t having it, while Brenda and Billy were reunited, which did two things: 1. It made us remember that scene where he tried to have sex with her last year, still one of the more disturbing things on TV that year not involving Paris Hilton or Tony Soprano, and 2. It eventually gave Claire something to do (literally) later on. It was like they were trying to redeem Billy just because he’s a central character, but what they didn’t seem to realize was that important and likable don’t have to go together in a TV show. Meanwhile, George bought enough water to fill the Grand Canyon and fixed up the bomb shelter – he was heading over the edge at high speed by now – and Keith arranged a I’ll-sleep-with-you-if-you-drop-the-charges deal (and who hasn’t been there?) with the guy David beat up.

Opinion: See previous episode.

Grade: B+

&uot;Untitled&uot; No, really, that’s the actual title

Death: Kenneth M. Henderson, head crushed in an elevator

Synopsis: It was on. George started talking to imaginary friends, and by the time the credits rolled we knew he needed to be institutionalized. Rico and Vanessa seemed headed toward divorce. Claire and Billy got together, contrived to make us care about them. David’s carjacker was arrested, and he and Nathaniel shared quite the moving chat to end this. And Nate found that Lisa’d been having an affair with her brother-in-law, prompting the guy to commit suicide.

Opinion: I got the impression that the stars thought that this season was the end, only to have the director come up to them afterward and say, &uot;See you all next year!&uot;

I’m absolutely terrified of George’s Armageddon prediction coming true and the series ending with a meteorite taking out the planet. This should have ended the series, and now they’re in the unenviable task of starting a new story, making it work, and ending it in 13 episodes.

Grade: A-

Well, it’s time for the fifth and farewell season, and it’s tough to feel bad. The problem here is that the show’s gimmick is dead, no pun intended. Over the first few seasons, it was about the funeral home, and the way it affected the characters and their daily lives. By the time we were halfway through this year, the home was an afterthought, and it was just a bunch of people going through their lives.

That’s not to say that this made &uot;Six Feet Under&uot; a bad show – just an ordinary one. If Tony Soprano stopped killing and cussing, how long would his show stay around?

Later, &uot;Six Feet Under.&uot; It’s been OK.