Brenda: "I could give you a ride."
Nate: "Oh, that's alright. I'm sure he'll be here soon enough."
Brenda: "I wasn't talking about that kind of ride."
For instance, every episode begins with somebody's death (this person ends up becoming a "client" for Fisher and Sons Funeral Home). Now what is so intriguing about this gimmick, is that you have no idea who is going to die, and how they are going to die… the only thing you know for certain is that somebody is about to perish. The best way to explain this concept is by giving an example (please note that I made up this scenario, and this in no way is a spoiler). Picture a couple friends getting together to play a game of softball together. The guy at bat is overweight, and pauses the game because he's having chest pains. Beads of sweat form on his brow, but he decides to keep playing. You figure he's the one who's about to die, right? The pitcher lobs a ball at him, and he hits a line drive right into the shortstop's face. The shortstop is dead. That's the brilliance of "Six Feet Under."
Unlike most dramas today, "Six Feet Under" doesn't rely on clichés, rather it focuses in on real issues, like family dysfunction, confronting one's sexual preference, and growing up around death, among others. Before I get into an episode synopsis, let me introduce you to the main cast of "Six Feet Under." Please be forewarned, as there may be some spoilers contained in the below character summaries:
Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) – Living in Seattle for the past few years, he decides to come back home for the holidays, but ends up sticking around to help the family business. He's very laid back, and enjoys a good jog every morning. He's constantly at odds with his brother David, who feels that he bailed on the family, leaving him behind to shoulder all of the responsibility. His relationship with Brenda is very loving, but complex.
David Fisher (Michael C. Hall) – Born into the family business, David is probably the most conflicted character on the show. Only recently is he coming close to coming to terms with his homosexuality, but to the dismay of his closet gay lover, Keith, he isn't progressing fast enough. Usually the most tactical and anal of the bunch, David becomes more reckless as time goes on, and eventually ends up in hot water.
Ruth Fisher (Francis Conroy) – The matriarch of the Fisher clan, Ruth comes off as a nervous wreck most times. She longs for a deeper relationship with her children, and often has to force herself on them. But behind her motherly attitude is a woman who longs for some excitement in her life, in the form of a man named Hiram, and a job at Nikolai's Flower Shop.
Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) – The youngest of the Fisher children (she's at least 10 years younger than David), is also going through the rebellious teenage phase. She drives around in a green hearse, and has an on-again off-again relationship with Gabe, her sometimes boyfriend. Claire is undecided about her future, most notably if she wants to go to college or not.
Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths) - Brenda, Nate's sexually adventurous girlfriend, is a genius. Touting a mysterious tattoo on her lower back that reads "Nathaniel", Brenda is still lashing out at her parents, two obnoxious know-it-all psychiatrists. She has a special relationship with her brother, Billy. He is mentally unstable, and she has sacrificed a great deal of her life to be there for him.
Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez) - More commonly referred to as Rico, he is the Fisher and Sons Funeral Home restorative artist (he makes the body look presentable for the funeral). Often feeling that he does most of the work for little pay, Rico yearns to be a partner along with both Nate and David.
Keith Charles (Michael St. Patrick) - Keith is a black, out-of-the-closet LAPD officer who David has been dating secretly for some time now. This doesn't sit well with Keith, who wants David to finally admit to the world what he really is.
Now that you know the main characters, let's discuss the episodes. "Six Feet Under: The Complete First Season" features 13 episodes, each with a running time of approximately an hour. Below are summaries. Be forewarned again, there are some potential spoilers in their descriptions.
The Will - Nate decides to stick around and help his brother David around the funeral home. Unfortunately for David, Nate doesn't know many of the laws pertaining to the business, which results in financial trouble for Fisher and Sons Funeral Home. Meanwhile, Ruth breaks things off with her lover, and Claire is talked into sucking the toes of Gabe, her boyfriend. Episode Grade: B+
The Foot - Nate and David contemplate selling the family business to Kroehner, a rival competitor. When things don't go their way, Kroehner decides to purchase the abandoned house across the street to set up shop and put them out of business. After Gabe tells everyone at school about Claire and what she did to his toes, a scorned Claire finds a creative way to get even with him. Along with her best friend, Ruth decides to visit a horse track and do some gambling.
An Open Book - A porno star dies, and Fisher and Sons handle the funeral (check out the oddballs who show up for it). David's decision to take a more proactive role in church unsettles David, his gay lover. Ruth decides that she isn't spending enough time with her daughter, and they both take a trip to their cousin's sickeningly sweet house. Meanwhile, Nate is tricked into having dinner with Brenda's parents, who just so happen to be know-it-all psychiatrists. And last, but certainly not least, we are introduced to Billy.
The Room - Claire meets Brenda's brother Billy, and there is an instant, although unsettling, chemistry. Nate learns that his father had quite a few secrets, including a mysterious room that he used when he wanted to get away. A super annoying and pushy member of the church, Tracy Montrose Blair, attempts to hook her claws into David. One thing I really liked about this episode is the performance from the actor who plays the grieving widow. He's the perfect jerk with love in his heart.
Brotherhood - A battle between a brother and the Army brews over whether a young soldier should have a military funeral or be cremated, and the Fisher brothers are caught in the middle. Bored with life, Ruth decides to take a job working for Nikolai, but has zero experience working as a florist. Finally, Billy's mental "breakdown" spoils Brenda and Nate's plans for the weekend. One of the more mediocre episodes in this set, although it did a good job of building up the dependant relationship between Brenda and her brother.
Life's Too Short - Through tragic circumstances, Gabe is thrust back into Claire's life. Brenda looks to sharpen Nate's salesmanship skills, and takes him to various funeral homes to help him learn the trade. David goes clubbing, and Ruth goes camping with Hiram. A good episode, as we begin to witness David's reckless side taking over.
The New Person - Now employed by Kroehner, the Fisher brothers decide to hire a replacement for Rico in the form of an exhibitionist named Angela. The Fisher family is invited to see Billy's pictures at a gallery exhibit, and nobody is more surprised than Nate at what's on display. A real step from the last four episodes, as the dark comedy was in full force here.
A Private Life - The murder of a gay man causes David to confront his identity issues. Billy pays separate visits to Nate and Brenda, each with disastrous consequences. Ruth bonds with Robbie the florist in an unusual way, while Claire is less than forthcoming with the school psychiatrist. This is an awesome episode; highlighted by the Brenda/Nate/Billy story arc hitting it's high.
Knock, Knock - Tracey Montrose Blaire is back, and she's a funeral director's worst nightmare. Nate takes his funeral director exam again. David impresses Keith with his newfound confidence, and Rico celebrates the birth of his son at a christening party held at the Fisher and Sons Funeral Home. Obviously, there's a lot more going on here than I let on. This episode is filled with intense moments, especially when we see another side of Claire's boyfriend, Gabe. Excellent finale.
On Disc 1, we are treated to a "Deleted Scene" with two optional commentaries (both by Alan Ball). Also included on this disc is a featurette on the creation of the opening titles entitled "Under the Main Titles" (say that three times fast). It's around 16 minutes long, but unfortunately, didn't hold my attention past 4 minutes. Still, it's better to have it than not have it.
On Disc 4, A "Behind the Scenes" featurette is also included. The cast and filmmakers are interviewed, and discuss the direction of their characters, as well as their favorite moments from season 1. This featurette clocks in at over 20 minutes. An interesting bonus is the inclusion of two isolated music tracks; one is the "Six Feet Under Title Theme" by Thomas Newman, and the other is "Kid Loco's Gravebeat Mix" (a remix of the "Six Feet Under Title Theme). In addition, each disc of "Six Feet Under" contains "Cast & Filmmakers", "Awards & Nominations", a "Series Index", and a "DVD-ROM/web link"