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Rewatching Six Feet Under: 1x09 & 1x10

"You counsel people about death every day, Nate, when death is what you're most afraid of. What's wrong with this picture?"

1x09  Life's Too Short

This episode starts off with probably one of the most shocking deaths of the entire season, when Gabe's little brother Anthony discovers a gun in his mother's room and shoots himself. The death of a child is always a taboo and something that our society doesn't really want to address or acknowledge. To lose a child that has barely gotten to live, it's, as Brenda puts it, too painful to put in words. Both, Nate and David have their problems to handle the death of the boy, but their problems come from two different places. With Nate it's mostly his anxiety of death in general and his anger about everyone having to die, while for David, who is usually quite comfortable when dealing with death, it's mostly the preparation of the body. In this episode we also see a bit more conflict between the brothers again, after they have been more peaceful with each other in the previous episode. In the end they come around to each other again though, when David reveals to Nate that he also failed the funeral director's license test at first.

I really enjoyed the dinner scene with Brenda, Billy and Nate where they talk about the child's death. Billy is a little bit toned down in this episode. I assume he was toned down so that he wouldn't overshadow the more serious death of the week, but his creepiness is still very much apparent and the tension between him and Nate carries the scene wonderfully. Billy's research of death customs underlined how much of a threat Nate is to him and while one can understand why Billy would think that a man is what he does for a living, he neglects the other parts of Nate's personality entirely.

Brenda's unorthodox method of trying to help Nate out by visiting three different funeral homes under false pretenses, so that Nate would learn how to deal with his customers, was so many different things at once: On the one hand it was terrifyingly entertaining and morbidly hilarious, on the other hand it was  inappropriate and disturbing. Nate was right to be angry about it at the end, as Brenda did manipulate him by confronting him with his worst fear. It's a bit surprising to me that Brenda would do this to Nate, after what she had gone through in her childhood. Claire meanwhile is quick to forgive Gabe for the toe situation from the beginning of the season, when she discovers what happened to Gabe's little brother. It's admirable of Claire that she is able to put all their issues from the past behind to be there for a person in need, but her friend Parker is right that it would be quite a messy situation if Claire got involved with Gabe again. 

While Gabe is partially responsible for Anthony's death, after all he was supposed to be looking after him when the incident happened, it's tough to see him cope with his guilt, as it is not only his fault. It wasn't his gun, it wasn't him who let a charged gun lay around in a house with a child. Sadly nobody in his immediate family and not even his friends acknowledge that. His mother doesn't pay much attention to him, as she is angry at him for not having been responsible enough to look after his brother, though a lot of that anger is probably misdirected at him from herself, as she is probably even more angry at herself for allowing it to happen, but if she blamed herself, she would probably fall apart entirely, so it's easier for her to put all the blame on her irresponsible screw-up of a son. Just like Gabe's stepfather assigns all the blame to him as well. While Gabe has done his fair share of bad things, he is really trying to do the right things in this episode, which makes me as the audience much more empathetic towards him and I felt really bad about his feelings of loneliness and guilt.

David continues his affair with the young square dance teacher, who introduces him to ecstasy. It's a way to blow off steam and to distract himself from his emotional work, but in the end David is looking for support and love. He ultimately realizes that he is not getting it from him and blows him off, but only after they run into Keith, who makes his first appearance since the break-up in episode 4. I think seeing Keith again made David realize just what he really wants and what he is not getting. He's still hung up on Keith and seeing him with another man doesn't help to restore his inner peace. He's utterly lost.

Ruth meanwhile goes on a camping trip with her lover Hiram, where she accidentally takes one of David's ecstasy pills, which leads to an otherworldly experience for her. Her fantasy sequence with Nathaniel gives us an impression of what their relationship might have been in the early days of their relationship, while also giving us a Ruth who is at ease with herself and not as repressed and closed-up as the Ruth we are accustomed to see. It also plays well on the theme of the episode, namely that life's too short. Even if, unlike Anthony, you have a lifetime together, life is still too short and loss of any kind, not just of a person, but also of time and youth, is always painful. I also want to mention the scene, in which Nate and David counsel a woman who has just lost her mother at the age of 63. When she says how young her mother was, when she lost her, one can't help, but roll one's eyes with Anthony's death in mind, but the death of her mother is genuinely the same kind of pain and I think it's telling that we react that way in a our society. We don't really acknowledge our mortality  and when terrible deaths happen, like the death of a young child, we may think it's worse than death in general, when it's really not. The pain is the same.

Rating: 9/10

1x10 The New  Person

After the more serious death in the previous episode, we once again have a more comedic one in this episode, when a housewife clubs her husband to death with a frying pan, because he was boring. Nate's and David's realization at the beginning of the episode that they're both sometimes boring, but don't want to be murdered with a frying pan for that, was hilarious to me. The episode in itself is much less hilarious. Of course we have Billy's delicate photography of Nate pissing against a wall, which resurfaces when both, Claire and David, want to see it, but the focus of the episode is on much serious matters. The fall-out between Billy and Brenda as a response to the photography takes its toll on Billy, who fears that he might lose his sister to Nate, so he is trying to exact revenge against the psychiatrist who analyzed Brenda on her behalf. After he vandalizes his office, he gets into an argument with his parents. His dad doesn't care much for his antics, but it gets to his mother Margareth. It's interesting to see a more vulnerable side to her character, as she is usually just inappropriately wacky. Seeing her vulnerable for the first time makes her much more of a fully rounded character and a real person. Billy's behavior scares her, which is why she and her husband try to talk Brenda into convincing Billy of committing himself into a psych ward. Brenda of course doesn't want to hear any of it, until her mother reveals the truth about Billy's suicide attempt to her. Brenda doesn't take it well, as she has given up her entire life to take care of her brother, not knowing the truth about his actual state of mind. This episode really is mostly a Chenowith episode in which we see just how deep the abyss of the family's problems really is. It gives both, Jeremy Sisto and Rachel Griffiths a chance to shine and they both work well with the demanding material that they are given.

The storylines for the Fishers fail in comparison. Claire is still taking care of Gabe, but when Gabe doesn't show up for an appointment, she fears for the worst. Her best scene was probably the breakdown she experienced when she was with Nate, when she let all the pain just out. We also discovered that she feels much more like an outsider, even within her own family, probably because she was born later in her parents' life, when both Nate and David were nearly grown up, so it's not such a stretch that she feels like an afterthought. It was an incredibly emotional and well-played scene. David meanwhile tries to reconcile with Keith or to at least get a final farewell fuck, but what seems like the beginning of a reconciliation is put on hold, when David treats Keith like a piece of meat and doesn't respect his beliefs. David is just so far off the deep end and while Keith can see that, he just doesn't want to put up with it at this point. Ruth continues to enjoy her life and explores her options with Nikolai and comes to the conclusion that she doesn't want to jeopardize her job just yet.

And then there is Illeana Douglas as Rico's short-lived replacement. She obviously was the best candidate of the applicants that we saw, but in the end she was just too different from the Fishers with her forthrightness and curiosity. Even Nate can't deny his Fisher roots, when Angela steps over the line with him by listening in on his phone conversation with Brenda and openly assuming that he has a pissing fetish, not knowing that they are talking about an actual photography of him pissing against a wall. It's pretty much a question of how much of your private life you want to have in the open and even Nate wants only so much of his life in the open. It's also interesting to see the effect the Fishers have on Angela. Usually unapologetic, honest and open-minded, she slowly adapts to the Fishers and feels like it's best to repress conflicts or problems and that's why she doesn't tell anyone about the glass she broke. It's kind of heartbreaking to see how such a confident woman is made insecure by her surroundings. In the end it's probably for her best to have been fired, though it probably would have been quite interesting to see how her character would have developed in the long run. Her exit however creates the opportunity to get Rico back, who is not happy with his work situation at Kroehner. I must admit that it was a bit easy for Nate to lure Rico back to the Fishers, but he's a series regular, so I can understand why he's back. It just invalidates the twist of the previous episode where Rico leaves and we think that the Fishers will have a few problems now.

Rating: 8/10


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