Six Feet Under: Season 3
As six feet under began its third season every character was in a state of complete tumult. The most serious problem was of course with eldest son Nate (Peter Krause) who was diagnosed in season two as having Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM). In a notable twist the opening death scene that has become a trademark of the series shows Nate’s death. As Nate is suspended in that neither world between life and death he hallucinates about alternate realities, what if he had a baby with Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), supposed his father (Richard Jenkins) married someone other than Nate’s mother Ruth (Frances Conroy). While Nate fights his way back to life the others in his family are undergoing their own problems. For one thing Nate’s new wife Lisa (Lili Taylor) is living in the Fisher household with their new baby. Ruth is definitely not used to another maternal figure under her roof and with between the loss of her husband a couple of years ago, he other son on the verge of death and her younger son David (Michael C. Hall) openly gay, this new baby seems to be her last chance at raising a child. This naturally causes a conflict between Ruth and her daughter-in-law, one that will be explored throughout this season.
Even those in the extended Fisher family are facing new situations. Since Nate and David had to take on their employee Federico (Freddy Rodríguez) Fisher & Sons is now Fisher & Diaz and Rico is not to be easily dismissed as a silent partner. He wants to be more than then financial bail out for the Fishers, he begins to demand is own place and say in the business decisions. This allows some exploration of a few moral issues such as when the Fishers agree to hold funerals for a murder man and his killer. Rico finds a difficult time adjusting his sense of morality to accommodate a working business.
Claire (Lauren Ambrose), now finally out of high school is reaching for her dream to become a serious artist by attending LAC-Arts. She quickly catches the eye of one teacher Olivier (Peter MacDissi) who offers Claire a job as his assistant, far better than driving bodies from the morgue. She also begins a relationship with a fellow student Russel (Ben Foster) who winds up having some sexual identity issues of his own.
David is now in couple’s therapy with his boyfriend Keith (Mathew St. Patrick). While both are willing to work on making their relationship work they continue to be hard pressed to make a real life together. David is repressed, uncertain of letting his homosexuality known to everyone while Keith is far more aggressive, more certain of his own feelings.
While many of the problems seem somewhat bizarre they are fundamentally the same as anyone could face. The only real different here is the back drop, a funeral home. This is what allows the audience to become emotionally invested with this highly dysfunctional family. Like any good soap opera it doesn’t matter how strange the situation is as long as you can sell it as reality by placing some degree of realism in it. This is what this series does so well; it pulls you into the multitude of story lines. We all at some point in our lives face those little personal critical moments like when an in-law comes for a visit and winds up staying or having to face life after the death of a loved one.
What has held this series together for three seasons is without any doubt the extraordinary cast. Each member of this ensemble contributes but never over powers. Peter Krause gives us a very personal view of Nate. Here is a man that is riddled with unanswerable questions. He has to console people day after day but his own mortality looms before him. Now, with a wife and child his days as a free spirit are behind him. Frances Conroy is a fantastic actress. She is proof that more parts should be written for older women. Ruth is still recovering from the death of her husband; she has to learn to live for her self not as someone’s daughter or wife. Lauren Ambrose is always a delight to watch. She tempers Claire’s constantly changing emotional state with just a touch of the little lost girl. No matter how bad she thought high school was the real world is even scarier.
This season also introduces a couple of imaginative recurring characters. Kathy Bates moves from the director’s chair to in font of the camera as Bettina, a friend of Ruth’s determined to help her out of her shell. Bettina is the wild child that never really grew up. One really strange new character is Arthur, the mortuary science intern that now lives and works with the Fishers. Rainn Wilson portrays Arthur with just the right touch of Norman Bates, including a serious mother complex as he begins an unlikely relationship with Ruth.
The series nicely continues the dark vision of creator Allen Ball. The same quirky black comedy that made American Beauty such a ground breaking film is extended here. His choice of directors are able to each bring their own take on the situations and characters while at the same time maintaining a sense of continuity rarely found in any television series. Each episode still begins with the death of the ‘guest corpse’ who’s back story somehow relates to what is going on in the lives of the main characters. Sure some of the ways these people meet their ends can be a bit out of the ordinary but after all that’s life.
Warner Brothers in association with HBO has once again provided a worthy DVD for this third season. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video has an excellent color balance even when the director decides to push the color for effect. There was no edge enhancement and the video is free of defect. The Dolby 5.1 audio is great. It fills the room using the rear speakers mostly for back fill but there are a few nice touches they Foley artists put in to keep things lively. Selected episodes contain a commentary track by Ball and the episode’s writers and director. Each adds a little background to enlighten the viewer. There is a season over view, nice but mostly fluff and a very interesting interview with Allen Ball. For fans of this series this is a must have season.