Nate pays final respects to Lisa -- The bad news is official for the Fishers, but Nate emerges as a stronger man, says Liane Bonin

By Liane Bonin
Updated June 14, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Six Feet Under: Art Streiber

Six Feet Under

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Nate pays final respects to Lisa

I’ll admit it: I frequently found Lisa Fisher (Lili Taylor) — with her nutty twiggy eating habits and reluctance to flush the toilet — vaguely annoying. It’s always discomforting to have that reaction to someone whom you suspect is a much better person than you are. And it wasn’t entirely reassuring that her husband, Nate, seemed to share my mild dislike for her. So when she disappeared and was presumed dead, I shrugged it off as a convenient, even fortuitous, plot twist.

But after the season premiere of ”Six Feet Under,” in which Lisa’s grim fate was revealed to the rest of the family (with, thankfully, a minimum of gore), I found myself feeling truly sorry for the granola girl. Her life, as short as it was, certainly wasn’t filled with joy from what we could see: a ”hydra” of a mother, a shrew of an ex-boss, and finally, a wishy-washy husband who never stopped loving another woman. That she not only met with an early end, but one which left her body dental-records-necessary mutilated, seemed just plain unfair.

I don’t even want to think about how she drowned, although I’m sure that will be yet another bit of bad news revealed in a future episode (I’m wondering if her missing limbs are the work of sharks or other, two-legged predators). Heck, even the ugly moment when David stuck her shrimp-nibbled remains into the mortuary van only for both David and Nate to be overwhelmed with her noxious scent seemed like another cruel joke at Lisa’s expense.

So when Lisa’s buttoned-up mother and seemingly personality-free father arrived with plans to stick her cremated remains in a cold marble crypt, I found myself rooting for Nate to leap across the table and slap both of them back to the Stone Age. How could they not see that Lisa, being the tree hugger that she was, wanted only to be buried under a willow somewhere? Really, her body had already met the fate she had hoped for it — as fish food. Too bad those kids strolling the beach called the authorities instead of just pushing her back into the current.

Last season Nate’s mood swings and inability to find happiness in his marriage were often understandable, but more often infuriating. However, I suspect that Nate-the-sullen-whiner was buried with Lisa in this episode. His brief interlude with Brenda showed nothing of the hormonal teenager he’d been with her in the past, but a grieving man seeking momentary comfort, no matter how fleeting. That he had the presence of mind to ask Brenda not to attend Lisa’s funeral, and that Brenda gracefully accepted that decision, suggests these two may be able to make a fresh, mostly sane go of it someday. Depending on how things work out with Brenda’s new beau Joe (Justin Theroux), of course.

I like Joe. He feeds cats, he brings over Chinese food without asking, he plays the freakin’ French horn. So why do I feel like everything in Brenda’s new relationship is set up to go horribly wrong in a few episodes? Maybe because it’s really hard to dump a guy who can peek in your windows at any time of the day — or maybe it’s because, in Fisher World, someone so darn normal seems like the real freak show. Given that Theroux has a history of playing bad guys, I can only hope some sort of mild weirdness bubbles to the surface just to make Brenda feel at home.

Though Claire kicked off the episode with a self-absorbed rant railing against Nate and the general awfulness of her life, her scenes were a worthy reminder of why life really can suck when you’re young and confused. Alone in a house full of tortured lovers, she knew only one person who could understand her pain: the guy who caused it. And, of course, her meeting with Russell spiraled downward with Drano efficiency. Also being young and REALLY confused, Russell made Claire’s abortion all about him. And in the end, Claire felt more alone than when she started. Let’s hope that at least she ”breaks her eye” open and gets some great artistic vision from this ”f—ing awful” mess.

On the bright side, things are looking up, sort of, for David and Keith. Even though their latest ”starting over” conversation ended on an up note, I’m still taking it with a grain of salt. Short of a sit-down with Dr. Phil, I don’t really see how these two will ever get over their tendency to bicker about, well, everything. At least they aren’t quite as joyously (and obnoxiously) happy as Ruth and George. Besides the fact that they’re waking up the whole family with their wails of coital bliss, their happiness still rankles so soon after Lisa’s death. But maybe I’m being too tough on Ruth. Not only does she deserve some happiness, she might be able to spread it around. After all, she was the only Fisher to give Nate a damn hug after he revealed that Lisa’s body had been found. She may be goofy in love, but I say she’s onto something.

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