Everyone’s Waiting

Warning: this post is about the series finale of Six Feet Under. If you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading.

The wife and I gathered around the computer monitor last night to watch our downloaded copy of the series finale of Six Feet Under (we don’t have HBO, so I’ve been downloading each episode using Bittorrent). We have watched this show since the very first episode. It hasn’t been a perfect television series, but it has come pretty damn close over the years and we were excited to see how Alan Ball would tie everything up. Well, I join my wife in proclaiming that Mr. Ball did an amazing job.

This was one of the most rewarding final episodes to a television series I’ve ever seen. It was life affirming, crushingly sad, funny, bittersweet, joyful, inspiring, hopeful and entirely original. It transcended television and became art. Like all good art, it momentarily changes your perception of the world and gives you a richer, fuller view of life around you. Getting ready for work this morning, I was still thinking about the show, still in the haze of its effect. I feel that this show will stay with me for some time.

The wife commented that it was nice to see how all of the characters ended up, and I agree. Seeing how each one of them died was a fitting end to a show about, but not fixated on, death. I can’t explain it, but the final montage scene as Claire is driving to New York felt to me like a very realistic view of a lifetime. The shortness of life, all of the cliched ‘you only live once’ sayings, carpe diem, etc. It really came home to me during that scene. I felt the finality of death stronger than I ever have before. I will die some day. Will it be like Federico, collapsing from a heart attack on a cruise ship? Will I be shot by some random person like Keith? There’s no way to know. The only certainty is that the day I die is rapidly approaching from an unknown distance.

The final scene really gave you a sense of closure too. It was a great way to say goodbye to these characters that were so original and true to life. After watching this episode, there really aren’t any unanswered questions. Unlike the death of a person, where the survivors almost always feel cheated in some way, the death of this series was oddly satisfying. Yes, it was sad, but only in a sense that we won’t be able to watch these characters ever again. Salon‘s Heather Havrilesky sums it up nicely:

But instead of feeling sad over the loss of these characters, the last episode of the show somehow pointed forward, allowing me not only to let go of them, but also to abandon years of conditioning to expect or even require a concrete happy ending, and to simply hope for the best for them — and for myself, somehow.

This series finale elevated a sometimes uneven television show into one of the best television shows ever, in my opinion. It tied everything together so perfectly, that I’m willing to forgive some of the crappier episodes throughout the years. This was a truly inspiring television series that managed to grab you, shake you, and tell you that, as Nate would say, “You only get one life. Don’t fuck it up.”

Thank you, Alan Ball, and everyone else who contributed to this amazing show.

Read more about this episode:

Character Obituaries [hbo.com]
Buried Alive [salon.com]
An Alan Ball postmortem [salon.com]
Six Feet Under Finale [towleroad.typepad.com]
Six Feet Under, 2001-2005 [stevenberlinjohnson.com]

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