Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Death and Darkness, My Old Friends: Six Feet Under Season 2!

The Good: Excellent acting, Great character development, Interesting story development
The Bad: Repetitive style
The Basics: In this drama about a funeral home, the characters continue sailing through life with difficulties that make viewers happier because we realize we don't have it quite so bad.

The sophomore season of any television show is usually its most important, especially if the show was a huge hit its first season, like Six Feet Under was (click here for the first season review!). When Six Feet Under initially aired, it was talked about everywhere. It was so fresh and different and clever that it immediately engaged its audience and became its own little phenomenon. Coming back for a second season, the show had a lot of pressure to perform.

Six Feet Under the second season picks up where the first season left off. The Fisher family continues to run their funeral home, plagued by the villainous big business Kroner, who is looking to put them out of business. Nate Fisher and his partner, Brenda Chenowith, slowly recover from the car accident from the end of the previous season. Nate, however, has learned he has a potentially lethal problem in his brain and Brenda is sinking into drug use to cope with her feelings after the accident. Meanwhile, Ruth, Nate's mother, continues her weird relationship with florist Nikolai, David works on his off-again, on-again relationship with Keith, and Claire works to graduate high school.

Nothing is ever simple and that is one of the true joys of the realism portrayed in Six Feet Under. Possibly the most realistic portrayal of a family, Six Feet Under is remarkably complex, with the four central family members living their lives largely apart from one another and finding things even more complicated when their lives overlap. David opens the season learning he has an STD, Claire finds herself estranged from her mother and wondering about the potentials of her future, and Ruth gets involved with a cult, all without the others never knowing about these important elements in their lives.

In the second season, the plots tend to have the same format as the first: the show opens with the death of someone whose body ends up at Fisher and Sons, the Fishers work on the body and either learn about the dead person and their impact on those still living or learn about themselves through their reaction to the corpse. It's not an incredibly complicated plot, save that it builds on itself each week. So, for example, one of the corpses is horribly mangled and the widow reveals upon looking at the body that she was beaten constantly by her husband. Later in the season, she returns to sue over the fact that she was allowed to see the body in that condition.

The real way that Six Feet Under is serialized is in its character elements and they are by far more important than the plot points. For example, Claire's association with Gabe leads her to the inner strength to stand up for herself when he goes on a crime spree. That resonates through all of her other actions in the season as she grows into a more actualized person. Similarly, watching David fumble week after week on the dating scene as an "out" gay makes his desire for the stability he seeks with Keith all the more understandable. The characters are strong and interesting on Six Feet Under and this is how the second season finds them:

Nate Fisher - Shaken by the threat to his life by his blood vessels in his brain, Nate finds himself desperately clinging to life and to his relationship with Brenda. While Nate tries to keep his medical condition from his family, he finds himself in the awkward position of having to open up to people he has never relied on before. As well, on a trip to Seattle with Claire, he is reunited with an old friend who threatens to complicate his life immensely,

Brenda Chenowith - Now living without Billy in her life constantly, she finds herself lost and without real purpose. She begins to write a book, but finds herself using drugs and having anonymous sex a great deal more frequently than writing. As a result, her engagement to Nate is threatened and she finds her life spinning out of control,

David Fisher - Now comfortable with himself, David finds himself missing Keith and wading through the dating scene. He finds himself redefining his relationships with all of his family members while taking a more firm hand in the Fisher and Sons business. And while he works to be closer to Keith, he finds himself becoming a parent-figure to Keith's niece,

Claire Fisher - Escaping the escalating violence of Gabe, Claire finds herself in her photography. She begins a complex relationship with Billy and with her high school guidance counselor and finds her potential future by applying to an art college,

Ruth Fisher - Now seriously dating Nikolai, Ruth struggles to deal with her children who she sees as increasingly separate from herself. She tries to be a part of their lives but is largely unsuccessful as they continue to keep secrets from her. She finds herself empowered by a cult that tries to tell her how to live her life,

Federico - Still annoyed over not being made a partner in the Fisher and Sons business, Federico and his wife, Vanessa, move into their own house without the financial help of the Fishers. Federico stumbles on some seriously good luck near the end of the season that allows him and Vanessa to see the world very differently,

and Keith - The uniform cop tries to make life without David work, but circumstances continue to throw the two of them together. Plagued by his sister's increasing drug habit and burdened with a sudden family in the form of his niece, Keith turns to rage at his job and that leads to disaster.

The point is, these are interesting stories and the characters who are involved in them are intriguing and make this show about death very easy to watch. There are moments of dark satire, heavy drama, (in Brenda's storylines) agonizingly bad decisions, and incredible tenderness. This is a show for anyone who likes great drama and who wants to see something edgier than most anything else that is on television.

This show is not for those who are faint of heart, especially as it comes to gore, nudity and drug use. I'm sure there are a lot of people who get uncomfortable with the show because of how much it deals with death, but the truth is it reminds us how very important life and freedom truly are.

While the second season of Six Feet Under is pretty wonderful, Six Feet Under The Complete Collection represents a far better deal. For the review of that, please click here!

For other notable sophomore seasons, please check out my reviews of:
Lost - Season 2
Star Trek - Season 2
30 Rock - Season 2


For other television program reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2007, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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