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Rewatching Six Feet Under: Season Two

Obviously, my Six Feet Under rewatch experience is somewhat failing, as I stopped rewatching for a while and when I started getting back to the show, I didn't write anything about it in my journal. That's why I'm writing about the entire second season in one single post now.

Season 2 builds on the plot elements that were introduced in the final episode of season one, as well as on the story threads that were not brought to an end in season one. Instead of breaking down the season by writing about every single episode, I've decided that it makes more sense to write about the characters' individual journeys in particular.

Nate - In season one it was arguably David who had the main storyline of the season with his journey to self-acceptance. In season two the focus shifts to Nate who received discomforting news in the finale of season one, when a doctor told him that he was having AVM, a disease that could lead to his death. As the second season starts, Nate is pretty much in denial about his state of health. While death has always been a part of his life, he is now forced to acknowledge his own mortality - something that Nate has always been afraid of. In the second episode of the season, Nate is haunted by the ghost of a dead football player, who suddenly dropped dead due to a heat stroke. The ghost serves as his subconscious mind trying to confront him with something that he is trying to repress and at the end of the episode he is forced to acknowledge his sickness and his imminent death. Instead of opening up to Brenda however, he is chosing his brother David, as their relationship has significantly improved over the course of the series. Even as he is forced to take medication and suffering seizures throughout the season, he actively avoids tackling the AVM head-on and only comes around in the end, when the only option left for him is brain surgery. Nate's journey is executed really well. Alan Ball and his writing team give us a lot of insight into his personality and generally do a great job at avoiding the clichés that come with such a plot device.

Brenda - Brenda herself is not in an emotional place where she could offer Nate a shoulder to lean on. She's still dealing with the aftermath of the whole Billy situation from last season. Not just him attacking her, but also the fact that she dedicated her life to him, based on a lie that her parents told her. In the beginning she is suffering from depression and slowly dissociating herself from the world around her, including Nate. Her relationship with Nate is getting stale, while she is reflecting on her past life choices and her messed up childhood. The daily routine of her life and her relationship is boring her, she feels smothered by Nate's love and her commitment to him, but at the same time she feels that losing him will destroy her. Soon she starts engaging in self-destructive behavior by having sexual adventures with strangers. It's nothing new to Brenda, as she originally had sex with Nate in a basement at the airport, when they first met, but this time it's different. She is in a committed relationship and more vulnerable than ever as a consequence of her experiences in season one. She gets a kick out of her kinky sexual adventures, as they distract her from confronting her fears and her pain, but in the end she is subconsciously manipulating her relationship with Nate and lieing to herself, just as much as Nate is lieing to himself. With every new episode, she goes one step further to see just how far she can go. In the end she realizes that there are no real boundaries for her and she is fascinated by crossing the lines that she's had in her head. When Brenda's mother takes Billy out of the hospital he was in, Brenda is hurt, because they've kept it a secret. When Billy expresses the wish to distance himself from Brenda, who took care of him for years, she's hurt even more. As Nate is preoccupied with his anxiety of death, Brenda doesn't have a single person that she really can count on, except for her prostitute-friend Melissa, who doesn't judge her behavior, something that Brenda probably would have needed. Many people started disliking Brenda throughout season two as a result of her actions. I however never started disliking her. I think it was an interesting journey for her, even though it was terribly difficult to watch at times. Brenda obviously made all the wrong choices, but that's what makes her an interesting character to watch and her behavior is not random, it's a direct consequence of the things that she has experienced in her life. Additionally, it's not as if Brenda was happy or proud of the things she has been doing. In every single one of her scenes, there was a tiny bit of disgust mixed into her infuriation and curiosity. She was very much aware that what she was doing was wrong, but she was so far off the deep end that it felt like it was the thing to do.

Nate & Brenda (&Lisa) - When the season starts, their relationship is technically already over. Brenda is dissociating herself from Nate, but so is he. Nate is so preoccupied with his sickness and his fear of death that it's hard for him to pay attention to Brenda's inner struggles and she is so self-involved that she doesn't even notice that Nate is struggling just as much as she is. While they're both committed to each other on the surface, both have already disengaged intimately. Nate is keeping the truth about his health from her and cheating on her with Lisa, while Brenda is seeking a way out of their relationship to punish herself and to avoid intimacy, as she is afraid of being hurt and being stuck in mindnumbing routines. While most people probably tend to blame Brenda on the failure of their relationship, I must say that both are to blame, as they both made all the wrong choices. Of course it's true that Brenda pushing him away is one of the main reasons why Nate was unable to be honest with her, but at the same time it doesn't give him permission to betray her by keeping things from her. It's the circumstances they find themselves in that drive them apart and it's terrifyingly obvious throughout most of the season that their relationship doesn't really have a future. Lisa is a character that most fans hated throughout the run of the show, I kinda enjoyed her introduction to the show, as I felt that she was a very sympathetic and damaged character. I thought she was likeable, though I must admit that I mostly pitied her. In some ways her entire existence was the saddest on the entire show. She was so pathetically hung up on Nate who clearly didn't love her the same way she did, but she didn't want to believe it  and held on to him, even though she knew that he never loved her as much as he did. She could be terribly controlling and difficult, but since she was so dependant on Nate, she was the exact opposite of Brenda.

David & Keith - David & Keith are still seperated at the beginning of the season and both are trying to move on, while still hanging on to each other. Keith's relationship with Eddie takes a bad turn when Keith starts suffering from post traumatic stress, while dealing his family troubles at the same time. Eddie is not prepared to be Keith's doormat, which is why they break up. Since David has provided Keith with support, he's eager to get back with David, who's still hung up on him and not comfortable with dating. Their relationship works, because David is willing to accept Keith as he is and because David often provides a great doormat for him, as he is so intent on being with Keith that he is willing to take it all in. Throughout most of the season, they're taking care of Keith's niece Taylor which turns out to be quite a challenge for both of them. Keith is afraid of turning into his father, as both him and his sister were beaten when they were little, therefore Taylor's presence brings unresolved childhood issues to the surface. David enjoys being a 'father' to her and is trying to be supportive for Keith, but in the end there is only so much that he can take in. In some ways their relationship was rushed. Keith called David right after he broke up with Eddie, David then moved in with him right away and they were both forced to take care of a child. It's only natural that issues would surface sooner or later. While Keith was barely in season one, he is fleshed out more in season two and turning into a more fully-developed character. While David's self-hatred was one of the main conflicts between them in season one, season two acknowledges the possibility that it's not just David who was to blame for their problems. Keith has just as much issues and is no saint either. Season 2 is basically about David gaining self-confidence and bringing their relationship to the next level. In some ways I would have prefered it if David and Keith had not gotten back together right away, as I pretty much enjoyed David's two-episode-love interest Ben (played by Adam Scott) and would have liked to see where that would have gone. I'm also not a fan of Taylor, even though she brought some interesting conflicts to the show. It was just weird how their relationship got so serious in such a short amount of time.

Claire - Claire is on a journey of self-discovery all throughout season two. At the beginning of the season she is dealing with the unresolved Gabe storyline from last season and is forced to acknowledge that there is something wrong with Gabe. She has had a hunch before that something was wrong, but early on she is confronted with the truth, when she finds out just how troubled Gabe really is. She wisely chooses to let him go, even though it's difficult for her, but she realizes that she can't help him anymore. She tried her best before and it looked like she had a good influence on him, but there's only so much she can do. Gabe is in some serious legal troubles and additionally jeopardized the family business of the Fishers and therefore their entire existence. He's too much of a responsibility and Claire is too young to take it all on. The storyline revolving around them ends heartbreaking and suddenly, but it removes a source of drama that could have gone into a direction that would probably have been too melodramatic. The rest of the season is about Claire discovering her artistic streak and preparing for her future. Not much to talk about, but a vital part of the character's development and something that almost everyone should be able to relate to.

Ruth - Since the beginning of the series, Ruth's journey has been all about self-discovery and that's also what her season two-storyline is about. In season one her journey of self-discovery was about getting over the death of Nathaniel and starting over, both professionally and romantically by letting go of the past and the cage she has kept herself in throughout her entire life. In season two it's about reevaluating her personal relationships and admitting her feelings to the people around her. It all starts with her joining "the plan", which teaches her to speak up for herself. She then is profoundly affected by the death of a woman who seemed to have lived a very lonely existence. Fearing that this might be in store for her, she tries to force intimacy on the people around her and actively clamps onto the people in her life, including her children and Nikolai, her boyfriend. The visit of her estranged sister Sarah brings up unresolved issues from her past and gives us more insight into her character. She was a woman who sacrificed most of her life to take care of her family, first her grandmother, later her children. All her life she was forced to take on responsibilities, which is why she regrets that she hasn't really had fun. Her clinginess to Nikolai leads the relationship to its natural end date and she then gets a new purpose in life when it is revealed to her that she's a grandmother now.

Frederico - Just like Keith, Frederico is more fleshed out in season two. He's probably the most conservative character on the show. He is easily upset by not being able to entirely provide for his family and being forced to accept the help of his sister-in-law. He feels emasculated when Vanessa calls on her sister for help and that's one of the main conflicts in their marriage. We also get to know just how he started out at the Fishers in a series of flashbacks in which it is revealed that he was so impressed by Nathaniel Fisher Sr.'s reconstuctive work on his father's dead body that he decided to become an embalmer. A constant source of conflict is also his ambition to become a partner at Fisher & Sons, as he wants to be treated as Nate's and David's equal.

Kroehner - While the corporate takeover-storyline is still very much a part of season two, there is a lack of progress that suggests that the writers were not particularly interested in that storyline anymore, as confirmed by Jill Solloway in an audiocommentary to "I'll take you". Mitzi Darlton-Huntley provides a more enjoyable antagonist than Matt Gilardi, who is fired in the second episode of the season, but in the end it was probably benefiting  for the show that they dropped the whole Kroehner subplot in a rather unspectacular way towards the end of the season. It's funny how a plot that was supposed to fuel tension quickly became one of the least interesting plots on the entire show.
2.1 In the Game - 9/10
2.2 Out, Out Brief Candle - 8/10
2.3 The Plan - 8/10
2.4 Driving Mr. Mossback - 8/10
2.5 The Invisible Woman - 8/10
2.6 In Place of Anger - 8/10
2.7 Back to the Garden -8/10
2.8 It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - 8/10
2.9 Someone Else's Eyes - 8/10
2.10 The Secret - 9/10
2.11 The Liar and the Whore -7/10
2.12 I'll Take You - 9/10
2.13 The Last Time - 10/10

Season - 8,3/10


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