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December 17, 2013 7:02 PM   Subscribe

The Oral History of the Six Feet Under Finale’s Death Montage
posted by guiseroom (73 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by mrgroweler at 7:19 PM on December 17, 2013


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posted by kimota at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2013


That was great. Can't wait to read the oral history of the making of the article: "The Oral History of the Six Feet Under Finale’s Death Montage".
posted by any major dude at 7:29 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm just in the middle of rewatching this with Ms Cultist who is seeing it for the first time. Exquisite writing and characters.
posted by New England Cultist at 7:33 PM on December 17, 2013


Ugh, I can't wait to read the article once I can see again. That sequence always destroys me. Best ending to a series, indeed. (I knew I should have waited to play it.)
posted by heyho at 7:33 PM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Crying. as usual.
posted by Kwine at 7:38 PM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


That was a perfect ending to that series. The whole show was a reminder that our time here is limited, and we honestly got the end, all the way to the end.
posted by xingcat at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had forgotten about this... One of those endings that was both wonderful and terrible.... Thanks for bringing it back..

A bit of a derail here...: the data point that was a bit unexpected and amazing as I watched this again was seeing Claire's death as being in 2085... I don't think I've projected those numbers for a while... When I was a kid in the 50's, it was hard to imagine being alive in the year 2000, we're a ways past that now... To imagine that there are folks alive now that will make it to the year 2100 is almost incomprehensible to me.

Mortality sucks.
posted by HuronBob at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I still wish there where a few more darkly comedic deaths in that scene, although Brenda being literally bored to death are her brain says FUCK THIS SHIT and strokes out was pretty great.
posted by The Whelk at 7:58 PM on December 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fisher): I cry when I hear the song. It’s Pavlovian. If it comes on when I’m at yoga or something, I’ll cry.

Me too!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:07 PM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I went up to Lake Arrowhead and took a couple of my dogs with me — I sort of shut myself in. I was crying when I was writing that ending. The dogs were looking at me like, What? What did we do? What’s wrong?

Poor puppies. I wonder what True Blood has done to them?
posted by bibliowench at 8:10 PM on December 17, 2013


I saw the finale, accidentally, before I saw any other episodes. You can know literally nothing about the show and it's still such an amazingly moving sequence.

And then when you've spent five seasons with the characters and even though you know what's coming (because you saw it before), you cry your face off. And then when you rewatch it you think "Ok, it won't be so bad this time..."

I've done the whole series twice and it's been a little over three years since I re watched it and I see it on the shelf and think "Shit, that's just the best show, I should watch that" - but I stop because I'm just not quite ready for the last three episodes again. The penultimate episode is the one that just guts me and leaves me ugly crying for the rest of the day. And it's so, so well done that it doesn't matter that I know what's happening because these characters get under my skin a little more...

... The last time I watched it was before I was pregnant with my son (who is now nearly 3 years old) and the line where Ruth is just *losing* it - "I want my beautiful son!" I sometimes find myself just thinking about that scene and tearing up a little bit. The first time through, I was barely older than Claire and now... I have this little boy and I'm pregnant with a little girl and suddenly I'm identifying more with Ruth or even Season 5 Brenda.

At some point, I'll have to rewatch it again, but I don't currently have enough space in my apartment for the tissues necessary for the penultimate episode.
posted by sonika at 8:16 PM on December 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


I mostly really liked the show (it got a bit too action/quirk-packed at times but such is the nature of drama) and watched all the episodes seriously. I kinda LOL'd all through this finale death montage though. It just seemed over the top.
posted by Bwithh at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a brilliant show. For any one who hasn't seen it, this is the real amazingly great best show of all time. My friend and I used to talk about Nate as if he was a real person we knew, because he *was.* These characters were as much real people who lived as any fictional characters have ever been. This show is what Breaking Bad was a cheap, surface-level falsely-"edgy" facsimile of.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:28 PM on December 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I cried so hard watching this the first time around. Wondering if I can read this...
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:33 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't recommend powering through all five seasons in one dark Portland winter. It will leave you feeling a little dark, too. Excellent show throughout though.
posted by tmt at 8:35 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


the final two seasons lost the plot more often than not but I still get shivers at Ruth shouting "YOu tricked me! You tricked me!"
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I just cried harder watching this now than I did the first time watching it. It's just so packed with so many emotions. Cathartic.

The penultimate episode is the one that just guts me and leaves me ugly crying for the rest of the day.

Oh god. I think it took me three days to watch that episode - it was just so raw and dark and painful. But this conclusion completely made it worth it.

I think I may have to rewatch Six Feet Under this winter.
posted by lunasol at 8:37 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude's girlfriend was so insane I stopped watching halfway through. But I stopped watching Weeds when the neighborhood burned down and the X-Files when Milder left so maybe that's just me.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:40 PM on December 17, 2013


I sort of interpret the final montage as Claire fantasizing about all of their deaths, not an "actual" account of them. First, the montage has really weird lighting akin to the desert she is driving through on her way to New York. Also, everyone gets ironic/funny/tragic deaths that are practically cartoons, almost exactly according to her sensibilities about them...except hers. What happens to her is she dies at what, a hundred years old? surrounded by her--obviously successful--art. Claire is self indulgent as always, here. I know they use the birth-death dates during the montage, but they've subverted that framing device before, so I don't see it as definitive anyway.

I loved the series till the end, but man I was glad it was over and I am never watching those sad sacks of crap characters again.
posted by Theodore Sign at 8:45 PM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Opinion: This is the best ending to a television series ever. I bought the whole series because it was on sale dirt cheap or something and knew nothing about it. Some good characters and dialogue in there, but the last few episodes are insanely great. I gave away my set of DVDs when I was done with them because it's just too heavy to try to watch it all again.
posted by dogwalker at 8:48 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think every series should end that way. Why not? We live with these characters for so long, it always feels like a betrayal to not know where they go, what the rest of their lives are like.

Well said. Fuck the "they lived happily ever after" tradition of story characters... that part is their life, too.
posted by crapmatic at 8:49 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I loved the series till the end, but man I was glad it was over and I am never watching those sad sacks of crap characters again.

You spent five years watching a series in which you considered the characters "sacks of crap"?
posted by HuronBob at 8:50 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


You spent five years watching a series in which you considered the characters "sacks of crap"?

Many people spent nine years watching people they thought were assholes, and there was another set of assholes that got taken off after only three years, which was way too soon.
posted by LionIndex at 8:52 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I loved the series till the end, but man I was glad it was over and I am never watching those sad sacks of crap characters again.

The reason I love it is that they feel so real. From beginning to end. Sometimes they're narcissists. Sometimes they are arrogant. Sometimes they are awful. But most of the time they are just trying to live - even as they are surrounded by death. The rest of us aren't reminded of our mortality on a daily basis, but the Fishers are - and they did a damn good job embracing life... or learning to, at least.

They all felt so real. And this final montage makes me cry like a crying thing and even thinking about it and reading this oral history makes me fight back tears.

Oh god, there I go again.
posted by crossoverman at 8:53 PM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


part of the appeal of the series was that I kinda hated everyone and I enjoyed watching awful people suffer.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


part of the appeal of the series was that I kinda hated everyone and I enjoyed watching awful people suffer.

To each his own.
posted by crossoverman at 8:56 PM on December 17, 2013


Loved the show, loved the ending, watched it again as part of the article and cried again, as I knew I would ... but also was surprised by how it was also beautiful and weirdly uplifting at the same time, like I could appreciate that it was a full resolution to these characters that I'd watched for five years and been quite emotionally attached to.

I also can't help but mention John Teti's reviews of the episodes that he's been doing for The Onion AV Club, which I've found astute and excellent; each time I would read one it would make me want to rewatch the show again. He's only done through Season Three, but they've been worthwhile so far.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many people spent nine years watching people they thought were assholes, and there was another set of assholes that got taken off after only three years, which was way too soon.

well, there's that....
posted by HuronBob at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2013


Still haven't watched this all the way through. Guess I'll have to miss out...forever.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:00 PM on December 17, 2013


Many people spent nine years watching people they thought were assholes, and there was another set of assholes that got taken off after only three years, which was way too soon.

I would actually happily wade through that whole first set of nine years' worth of assholes if it meant I got another year out of that second set of three years' worth of assholes. That's like...13 years of assholes, back to back. That's basically school all over again.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:03 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fisher): I cry when I hear the song. It’s Pavlovian. If it comes on when I’m at yoga or something, I’ll cry.

Me too!


For me, it's "I Just Want to Celebrate." I hear that and think "Narm! Narm!"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:03 PM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Guess I'll have to miss out...forever.

My ex wife used to drive me nuts... she would fall asleep half way through a movie we were watching at home and, the next morning, ask me how it ended.

Eventually I got tired of recounting the plot of every movie, and I would just say "they all died"..

In this case, that would be accurate....
posted by HuronBob at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've often thought of that image of her dead brother briefly in her rearview mirror, and then disappearing.

But it seemed to me weird that no one but Claire lived a *really* long life.

btw Peter Krause has been on two shows I really liked. (Sports Night the other.) Too bad I could never get into Parenthood, even with the added bonus of Lauren Graham.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2013


Parenthood got pretty good around season 3. Really took awhile for that show to find its footing. The current season (five) isn't as good as last year, but it's still miles above where they started.

It took me quite awhile to not see Krause as Nate though. Couldn't get into Dexter because it was too much for my brain to handle Hall in that role.
posted by dogwalker at 9:59 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


also he was SO MUCH SMALLER and that freaked me out
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 PM on December 17, 2013


The ending crushed me, but David getting kidnapped and tortured was the worst. I don't think I could watch the show again.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 PM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I will not lie.. I was absolutely devoted to that show for the first few seasons and then lost the plot when we ended up in art school / lili taylor hell. But I came back for the final season and I wept like a wee little baby at that sequence.

I may or may not have issues with death. I'll get back to you in 50 years I hope.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:11 PM on December 17, 2013


I came here to say the same thing as Theodor Sign. I thought the final montage was transparently a daydream or reverie that Claire has as she drives to New York. Everything is told from Claire's perspective and seems tinged with her special breed of self indulgence and self centredness. She gets to live to 100; gets to reunite romantically with Ted (making her mother's funeral all about her); and sees her various family rivals for attention die in humiliating ways. And like Theodor Sign says, there's that gauzy filter on the camera that renders the whole sequence dreamlike and not quite real. When I first watched it, I assumed this was what the writers were going for: everyone dies, but everyone also gets to imagine their own futures, and Claire (unsurprisingly) does so as simple wish fulfilment.

Then I listened to the DVD commentary and realised we as audience really were supposed to think we were seeing the appointed end of all the characters, and the show went down several notches in my estimation. It turned out the writers were Claire and it all made sense somehow.

I like open narratives so I guess I'm not the target audience for that sequence, but I really do hate the tendency in recent TV to try and appropriate and control all aspects of a show's reception: for TV writers to effectively write their show's own fan fiction. That's what the sequence was I thought, something backed up by the fake obituaries on the show's website (remember them?) I mean, sure, writers will have their own views about the trajectories and dates of the characters they create, but why impose those as fact (or purported fact) on the audience? Why not leave a bit of openness: a gap or breathing space within which the audience can imagine their own possible futures rather than tying everything up with a neat, writer-imposed bow?
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:14 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mortality sucks.

Sometimes. The mortality of those we care about who die before we do certainly sucks. And yeah, what happens to our bags of flesh as we approach our natural end can be... sucky.

But think about it. If we were all immortal, there wouldn't be the sense that we'd have to get anything accomplished.

There'd always be more time.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:33 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't want every show to end like that. Hell, I wouldn't want any other show to end like that. But I think a show called Six Feet Under gets to end like that. And given the entire series convention of names and birth-to-death dates, it seems pretty clear what the finale montage is supposed to be - all the characters' deaths.
posted by crossoverman at 3:35 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's really lovely to have a show actually conclude. It is a huge strength of British television. They happily make wonderful shows that shine bright, and conclude. The US seems to only do that kind of thing when making an over-hyped "mini-series". Or at least, so it was when I was last paying any attention. My TV habit is low.
posted by Goofyy at 3:37 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, yea. Forgot to add: It always struck me as hugely stupid that Clair bought a new car in order to move to NYC. I moved to NYC after college myself, but because I did not have a car, and lived where one was required to get a job.
posted by Goofyy at 3:43 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine that plays very successfully to anyone who hasn't seen the show, with the unconvincing makeup and people pitching over dead in rapid succession, but I started to tear up just reading the post title. When you've lived with the characters for so long, love 'em or hate 'em (both, mostly), it's an incredibly powerful ending. I lost both of my parents in the last couple of years, so I think it's going to be a while before I feel up to rewatching the show.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:03 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's an impressive show, and the ending really does deliver. It's so rare a show concludes so well. (Star Trek TNG and Breaking Bad are two others that pop to my mind.)
posted by chunking express at 5:44 AM on December 18, 2013


Sonny Jim: I thought the final montage was transparently a daydream or reverie that Claire has as she drives to New York.

I did too, at first, until I realized that the Name & Dates title cards anchored it firmly to reality, as that was what happened when anyone else really died on the show.

That said, I liked the ending of Lost and think the ending of The Sopranos was the best series ending of all time, so maybe don't trust my judgement on these things?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:46 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed the first season of the show. The second season I found a little dull, then the AVM plot turned out to be surprisingly triggering for me (surprising because I feel like I am pretty OK with the brain surgery I've had), and I just... stopped. Occasionally, I get the urge to pick the series up with season three and complete it. Tell me, MeFites, is it worth it? (althways understanding that this is not AskMe, and, if you are reading this thread you will probably say yes.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:54 AM on December 18, 2013


I would say it's worth picking up, but Season 5 might be especially troubling with AVM issues if previous episodes bothered you. Some episodes are... off... and the subplot around David starting in "That's My Dog" (an episode I skip on re watches because I just can't do it again) is really pretty brutal... There's a lot of really great stuff watching the character arcs, even when the plot gets a little wonky. Claire especially has some great moments in Season 5. Ruth goes through some shit that culminates in some great moments.

Overall, I think Seasons 3 & 4 are the weakest of the series and Season 5 ties it all up beautifully.
posted by sonika at 6:07 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apparently everyone on the internet laughed at "Narm! Narm!" but it hit me like a brick. And I was totally aghast at David's kidnapper - I can barely rewatch the series because of it, and I still get a flash of anger if I see him in anything else (e.g. Scrubs).

What originally turned teen-me on to it was this TV promo spot. I spent the whole series waiting for them to go to a fantastic city above the clouds or something, and teenage me was sorely disappointed when he realised it was just a visual metaphor.

I used to watch it in bed on a school night, a small TV set perched on my legs, struggling to stay awake and invariably dozing off for the last 15 minutes during the ad break. Then I'd gossip eagerly with my friend in school, who would fill me in on the final act and add heavy embellishments just to confuse me. Ah, memories.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently everyone on the internet laughed at "Narm! Narm!" but it hit me like a brick. And I was totally aghast at David's kidnapper - I can barely rewatch the series because of it, and I still get a flash of anger if I see him in anything else (e.g. Scrubs).

It's funny-horrific, the same way it was funny-horrific when my grandfather had a stroke and came over and tried to dial the phone using the TV remote. Sometimes a way to cope with horrible things is to laugh.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:04 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This show is what Breaking Bad was a cheap, surface-level falsely-"edgy" facsimile of.

Hardly.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:09 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember watching the finale and screaming "FUCK YEAH! Now that's How you end it!"

I didn't cry then. When did I cry? About a week after my kid was born we watched the episode where Brenda's baby was born. I didn't just cry, I completely broke down. I mean, I just lost it. I was so confused and overwhelmed with these emotions I couldn't control, and here I was on the couch with tears dripping off my face into my lap and I'm just bawling. Parenthood fundentally changes you in ways you just aren't expecting.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:13 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed the first season of the show. The second season I found a little dull, then the AVM plot turned out to be surprisingly triggering for me ... is it worth it?

This is definitely a case of tastes differing, but: I found that Season 2 really enriched and broadened a lot that felt kind of flat about Season 1. I liked S3 a lot too (although Catherine O'Hara--whom I love otherwise--just had a tonally poor-fit character). S4 has been described as "suddenly everyone competes to be as awful to one another as possible" and I can't help but agree.* (However, S4 ends on what I found a really shocking reveal that redeemed a fair amount of it for me.) S5 pulled things back together to the point that the ending justifiably packs the emotional wallop everyone's talking about here.

*Also, Rico has an incredibly dumb subplot that kind of felt beneath the rest of the show.
posted by psoas at 7:14 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a quirk in that I don't like to get involved with a show as it's unfolding, because I don't know if it's earned the right to my time and attention. I'm told Downton Abbey is great, and I'll watch when it's all over, and I did the same with Farscape and Firefly. Let it play out, let others do the curating, and I'll look in once the ending is written.

Several years ago, I watched the ending of Six Feet Under on youtube, then watched it again and again and again.

Is it schlocky and manipulative? Oh yes. Good storytelling often is. When it's done right, though, you just surrender to the narrative and let it suffuse you in the way the flavors of tea curl out of the bag into clear water, until it's all around you.

I sat, I mused, I wiped my eyes, and started at episode one.

This deserves my attention.
posted by sonascope at 7:15 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to watch it in bed on a school night, a small TV set perched on my legs, struggling to stay awake and invariably dozing off for the last 15 minutes during the ad break.

HBO used to have commercials/ad breaks?
posted by heyho at 8:11 AM on December 18, 2013


Oh no, Channel 4 (UK) used to have ad breaks. It worked out well in the end: when I bought the whole DVD set with my first proper paycheque, every episode now had an extra juicy never-seen-before finale to sink my teeth into.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


HBO used to have commercials/ad breaks?

I watched it via TiVo when it aired on BET (why was it on BET, again?), which also made me wonder why Claire was so upset that David had been seen giving a corsage to a policeman in the morgue until I realized that BET was airing a version censored with strangely substituted words and that "corsage" was the standard substitute for "blowjob."

This, sadly, has given rise to all sorts of jokes so inside that only I can understand them, though those in my circle who are in the know will smirk when I say "I may be not much to look at, but I'm fiendish when it comes to flower arranging."
posted by sonascope at 8:37 AM on December 18, 2013


why Claire was so upset that David had been seen giving a corsage to a policeman in the morgue until I realized that BET was airing a version censored with strangely substituted words and that "corsage" was the standard substitute for "blowjob."

what
posted by Rock Steady at 8:41 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nope, not going to watch that clip in the office.
posted by nev at 8:44 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


...but I really do hate the tendency in recent TV to try and appropriate and control all aspects of a show's reception: for TV writers to effectively write their show's own fan fiction.

I don't like that they try to do it either, but ultimately they can't. The makers of shows (or any art, really) don't get to tell us what things mean after the fact: they had their chance when they created the thing. Interpretation is the viewer's privilege, not the creator's.
posted by Theodore Sign at 8:55 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was my favorite series finale of all time. It resolved things in a way that fit with what we knew about the characters, and it made sense that the show about death told us how everybody died. And that fucking Sia song. It still makes me cry when I hear it, too.

I enjoyed this article, it's nice to know it meant something to the writers and actors, too.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:21 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry I can't stop thinking about corsages now.
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Whelk: Sorry I can't stop thinking about corsages now.

Welcome to the club, amirite?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It makes being a chaperone at prom an altogether more wry experience, I think.
posted by sonascope at 11:25 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Remember when you give someone a corsage you're also giving corsages to everyone they've given corsages to.
posted by The Whelk at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wait, what's a boutonniere then?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:04 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You pervert.
posted by The Whelk at 12:07 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, what's a boutonniere then?

Twenty dollars, same as in town.
posted by sonascope at 12:22 PM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Instant rimshot!
posted by heyho at 12:46 PM on December 18, 2013


Instant rimshot!

Okay, I'm broken now, because all words sound dirty to me apparently.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:27 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


....rim.
posted by The Whelk at 3:28 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


A brief oral history indeed.

And BET? Without googling this, I thought I recalled seeing it on Bravo in a condensed run about a year after its original conclusion.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:28 PM on December 18, 2013


You may be right—maybe it was BET showing that Wire thing and Bravo showing the queerish thing, which would make more sense.
posted by sonascope at 6:37 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


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