Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Everyone's Waiting

I'm going to preface this post with a huge spoiler warning, and advise everyone to skip this unless they've already seen Six Feet Under's series finale, or have no desire to do so.

While the final season of HBO's Six Feet Under had some truly rocky and forgettable moments, the final ten minutes of its series finale are hands down the BEST television I've ever seen, and one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen on or off a screen. I could easily write the five page paper on this scene alone, but the next few paragraphs will have to suffice.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows the Fisher family, starting from the time of its patriarch's death. It's a normal looking family, but for the fact that the family business is a funeral home. The phenomenal ensemble cast takes us through their journey--love, loss, growth, betrayal, maturity, births, and deaths. In fact, almost every episode begins with the depiction of a death, which is tied into the episode. It's this kind of black comedy that makes the issues relatable.

Anyway, I first stumbled upon the show during a sleepover with a friend in late middle school. We watched an episode, but I wasn't impressed. About two years ago, shortly after I had been hit in the face with the realization that mortality affected my family and loved ones too, I saw the DVDs at the library. It seemed like a fitting way to grieve, so I took a chance on the pilot, and was instantly transfixed.

In a matter of months, I had made my way through five seasons and 62 episodes, and was up to the 63rd (and final) one. It was incredibly strange--I had come to know the characters better than some of my real life relatives, and had to prepare for the realization that they were just that, characters, and that their stories were coming to an end. Before watching the finale, I never could have guessed just how right I was.

At the point in the story in the following link, Claire, a formerly rebellious and fucked up teenager is preparing to leave home and her family in California and move to New York, even though there's nothing waiting for her there except for the great unknown and her passion for photography.

As she's taking one final family portrait, her dead brother speaks to her: "You can't take a picture of this--it's already gone." For a show that features death as a central theme, it's fitting for it to end with it, but nothing could have prepared me for the manner in which it was done. As Claire begins to drive through the desert, on her way cross country, we fast forward in the lives of every central character--happy times, and finally, deaths. Every single death is perfectly appropriate and ties into the intricacies of each character's story. There isn't a major storyline that goes unresolved, and yet, all this mortality is juxtaposed with Claire's journey--she truly has her life ahead of her, but only we are the ones to see how it ends.

This entire sequence is a phenomenal example of temporal editing--what better way of commenting on "the subjective nature of time" than ending with finality? Arrangement is also significant, as the deaths don't occur in a linear fashion, and some happen prematurely and unexpectedly.

In preparing for this post, I watched the clip again, and was shocked at how my emotions got the best of me. I had barely even thought about the series or characters in well over a year, and it was like they had never left.

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