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''Six Feet Under'': Nate's surgical complications

On ”Six Feet Under,” Nate dies after cheating on his wife and telling her he wants to leave her

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Peter Krause, Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under: John P. Johnson/HBO

”Six Feet Under”: Nate’s surgical complications

Watching long-suffering Nate in his hospital bed tonight, barely able to muster an ounce of thankfulness even after surviving a cerebral hemorrhage, I was reminded of a great line spoken by Patsy to her ailing mother on an episode of Absolutely Fabulous: ”Oh for God’s sake, just die!”

I mean, here’s a guy who was pretty much getting his karmic comeuppance at the end of last week’s episode, going all ”Narm!” and hitting the hard-wood floor after cheating on his pregnant wife, and yet, somehow, he receives one final chance at redemption. And what does he go and do with it? He makes goo-goo eyes from his hospital bed at his scoop-neck-wearing mistress, who also happens to be his soon-to-be-ex-stepsister — and then he breaks up with the aforementioned pregnant wife in front of his toddler daughter. If Six Feet Under‘s writers were in some way asking permission from their loyal viewers to throw the series’ central character onto the scrap heap, then by George, I think they got it.

And so, we say goodbye and good riddance to Nathaniel Samuel Fisher Jr. (1965-2005). Nate, you’re the only TV character in recent memory who managed to annoy me even when you were deep in a coma, blabbing to Brenda in that unconscious fantasy that all you wanted was ”peace between a man and a woman.” What a crock! Brenda couldn’t have diagnosed you better than with her scathing parting shot: ”You’re a narcissist. I don’t even think you’re capable of committing to anybody or anything — even yourself.”

Snap, snap, and double snap, Brenda! Sure, the Lady Chenowith has never been a candidate for sainthood, but in Six Feet Under‘s final season, she has proven her worthiness as a wife and mother. Who’d have blamed Brenda if she’d decided to call it quits on her marriage after figuring out Nate’s idea of giving a ride to Maggie didn’t involve a car trip to her Quaker church service? But, as Maya’s caring stepmother, and well into her own troubled pregnancy, Brenda now realizes her needs don’t always come first. Maybe that’s why her story arc the last two weeks — first sitting alone in that quiet church pew, trying to save her marriage, then getting slapped with the olive branch she was extending to Nate when he regained consciousness — was all too heartbreaking.

Still, while the old Brenda might have fallen apart from this week’s double whammy of rejection and death, I think Brenda 2.0 is strong enough to survive. As she sat in the hospital waiting room, sizing up ”that sappy little ferret,” Brenda’s inner lioness finally emerged. (Beautiful camera work and acting, by the way, with the Other Woman in the foreground, hoping to dissipate into a ball of dust and float away, while the Woman Scorned sat in the background, filled with righteous fury.) And leave it to Six Feet Under to score a laugh amid the darkness, with Brenda’s scathing ”It must’ve been a great conversation. What were you guys talking about, his daughter and his pregnant wife?”

Speaking of women scorned, I feel like Vanessa and Rico’s tortured but beautifully written walk toward reconciliation might get overlooked in light of Nate’s kicking the bucket, but that’d be a shame. Here’s a couple, despite all their faults and mistakes, that really seem worth rooting for. Compare Vanessa’s admission that Rico is closer to her than her own skin, and her husband’s genuine remorse for betraying her, to Nate’s flippant ”I’m not sorry for anything” (and crass jokes about his head exploding during sex) during Maggie’s hospital visit. It’s strange to me that even though Vanessa and Rico have often seemed like the series’ most expendable characters, they’re now the ones who seem like they’d be most fascinating to watch if the series’ got a sixth season. Can there really be trust after your husband cheats with a stripper? Could Vanessa’s clinical depression be returning — and could it be cured Tom Cruise-style, with vitamins and exercise? (Joking, joking!) And might Fisher and Diaz finally get hip to its growing Latino customer base?

We may never get answers to these questions, since next week’s previews are focused on the funeral, but wouldn’t it be great if Six Feet Under‘s final few episodes fast-forwarded past the required grieving period and let us peer into the major characters’ futures? I don’t think Claire and Ted’s political quarrels bode well for their romance, but the youngest Fisher sibling finally seems to be crawling out from under her rock of self-absorption. (Although not so much that she didn’t kind of make Nate’s hospitalization all about herself, what with the ”thank you for the worst f—ing news I ever heard!” and ”she could still show up for her own son’s coma!” remarks). I can’t get enough of watching my favorite nontraditional TV family: Keith, David, Durrell, and Anthony. And even Ruth, caught up in one of the season’s more ludicrous but still funny subplots, offers one of TV’s few unflinching portrayals of a middle-aged woman with an active sex life.

These are the characters whom, to paraphrase Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I think I’ll miss most of all when I finally say goodbye to Six Feet Under. I guess in a way, after so much time, they’re all Scarecrows to me. As for that Nate guy, too bad that, in the end, he never really got a heart.

What do you think? Do you hate Nate for his actions in his final episodes? What do you think will happen with Brenda, her baby, and Maya? And which characters will you miss most of all.

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