Six Feet Under Season Four
Starring: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Mathew St. Patrick, Freddy Rodríguez, James Cromwell, Rachel Griffiths
Series Creator: Alan Ball
*WARNING: REVIEW INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR SEASONS 1-3*
Following the tragic events of season three, season four finds the Fischers, especially Nate (Peter Krause), dealing with the death of Lisa (Lily Taylor). Luckily, he already hit rock bottom before her body was found at the end of season three, so we don’t have to spend another season watching Nate collapse. Sure, he’s not mister-happy-go-lucky, but he does start to turn it around as the season develops, after taking some time away from the business.
Along the same lines, after spending a season and half being miserable, Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) finally turned it around this season, getting a security job for the stars, eventually being assigned to teen pop star Celeste (Michelle Trachtenberg). It was good to get back to seeing a calmer, happier Keith, instead of the constantly annoyed one that he’s been.
Even Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) wasn’t too messed up this season. Her relationship with Joe (Justin Theroux) was even close to healthy for awhile there (albeit ultimately doomed). She obviously still has her problems, but she was closer to being season one Brenda, the one I liked, such that I was happy to see the decision she and Nate come to at the end of this season, instead of thinking it a terrible one (as it was in season two).
Of course, things can’t go well for everyone at once on this show, so as Nate, Keith, and Brenda were turning it around, things started to go sour for everyone else. Claire’s (Lauren Ambrose) increasing independence is a good thing, as is her increasing success with her art. But, the show is starting to show the dark side of her new lifestyle and success that don’t portend well for her in the final season.
What was fun and refreshing late last season, the marriage of Ruth (Frances Conroy) and George (James Cromwell, now a full-fledged cast member), quickly disintegrated into the bad idea it probably was at all along. After the honeymoon period ended (leading to the departure of Rainn Wilson‘s Arthur, *sniff*), Ruth quickly found out that George might not be what she’s looking for in a mate. Hard to believe from a guy with 6 ex-wives.
Rico (Freddy Rodríguez) was simply a fucking idiot this season. After his indiscretion with Sophia (Idalis DeLeon) in the finale last season, he made the problem worse by continuing to see her as a “friend”, looking after her and her daughter financially. I’m guessing he was driven by Catholic guilt, but the result was that he was basically having an affair on his wife Vanessa (Justina Machado) even when he wasn’t having sex with Sophia. I was very unhappy with Rico this season.
But the show saved the worst for David (Michael C. Hall). After going through the ringer in the first season, David spend the next two season as probably the most stable member of the cast, while still having his fair share of troubles with his relationship with Keith. The result was that he wasn’t as interesting as he had been, or as his more dramatically-charged brother Nate. That all changed with “That’s My Dog”, the fifth episode of the season. In one of the most difficult hours to watch this series has had to offer, David was held hostage by a carjacker he had picked up in an act of good samaritanism. He spends most of the episode forced to drive his attacker around Los Angeles, in constant fear for his life.
As a result of this traumatic experience, David is shaken for the rest of the season, afraid of the outside world. Practically, I think the series used this as a reason to bring Nate back into the fold. But an added bonus was reminding everyone what a great actor Hall is, slowly peeling back the layers that David usually wraps himself in for the outside world. It’s a pretty devastating performance, in an incredibly devastating storyline.
It was a very different type of episode for the series, serving as an example of the lengths this series can go to tell compelling stories about one family. As an audience member, it feels almost as much as an invasion for me as it does for David, as my attachment to him and all the characters of this series. I’d say I’m as attached to these characters almost as much as any show I’ve ever watched, which is the best reason to watch a show. I kinda hated the show for doing that David, while still appreciating the dramatic impact and execution.