In a death-haunted episode of ''Six Feet Under,'' Brenda learns she's pregnant again, Nate kills a bird at his birthday party, and Billy flies off the handle

By Michael Slezak
Updated June 25, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
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”Six Feet Under”: Brenda’s pregnancy fears

The beauty of each and every episode of Six Feet Under is that no matter what else happens, someone’s going to die. This week’s victim, Lila Simonds Coolidge, passed on more peacefully than most of the show’s fatalities — expiring on the loo, with a kettle on the stove, morning TV show in full blare, knitting needles sitting mid-project. Pretty funny stuff, in a bleak Six Feet kind of way, but the underlying message remains the same: No matter your age, you never know when the Grim Reaper might pay a visit.

Let’s just hope the Fisher family and their loved ones are in tune with this overarching theme, because I just can’t shake the feeling one of them is going to buy the farm before the season’s out. Maybe it’s the eerie birds — the first one white, the second one blue — that have come to haunt Nate and Brenda’s happiest occasions together. (Speaking of which, what’s up with Brenda’s origami birds?) Then again, maybe it’s Lila’s elderly friend casually making a remark that death is okay; in other words, ”It happens.” Or perhaps it’s just the sight of Billy off his meds and the way it made me flash back to his former, more violent self. I can’t be the only one waiting for the other shoe to crush somebody like a bug, can I?

Not that regular Six Feet Under viewers need any kind of omen to feel that someone’s expiration date is coming due. After all, the series began with the death of Ruth’s spouse, Nathaniel, the Fisher family patriarch, and since then, the show’s writers have killed off one of Nate’s love interests (Lisa), and one of Claire’s (Gabe). The only Fisher who hasn’t suffered such a cruel fate, in fact, is David.

Uh-oh.

Let me just say this about that: I am going to be so pissed if the Six Feet Under staff has been lulling me into a false sense of security all season by making David and Keith the relatively normal, happy couple, the source of the series’ comic relief, only to kill off the one character who seems to have really grown comfortable with his life, his partner, and himself. Watching Keith sit on the bed with Brenda and Maya and express his own hopes and fears about fatherhood was exactly the amount of sweet this very dour episode — and frankly, this entire series — needs to sustain my interest.

Now I know that a lot of EW.com message board posters have complained that David and Keith’s contentedly comic capers have somehow relegated them to the show’s back burner, but I disagree. There’s inherent drama in this couple’s efforts to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship, especially when you consider they’ve faced disapproval within their families, their community, and even their own hearts. Sure, I laughed when David fended off the hunky hairdresser’s advances in his typically freakish way — ”Keith and I are doing this whole surrogacy thing, it’s really confusing and hard. [Long pause.] Plus, I got, like, abducted last year.” — but it was also oddly sweet to see him (at long last) place some faith in his relationship, and in effect, in himself.

Seriously, if I can’t root for David and Keith, then who’s left? Well, possibly George and Ruth. Sure, George’s struggle with mental illness (and his use of electric-shock treatment) has been the unpleasant, um, jolt of the season, but it’s also become the juiciest. Ever since George’s descent into the bunker at the end of last season, he and Ruth have been operating on separate planes, but their bedroom confrontation and George’s crushing admission that ”I hate that I’m the lucky one” were pure heartbreak for Ruth, for George, and for the viewing audience. They may not make it in the end, but it was nice to see Ruth’s hardened facade crack just a little as George revealed that beneath his illness lies the same man Ruth once loved.

Even more exciting than George and Ruth’s reconnecting, however, was the sight of Rico and Vanessa unexpectedly falling back into bed. But is this a reconciliation or a trip down memory lane? Surely, Rico will interpret it all as love in bloom, just as he did with his not-yet-dead ex-girlfriend Sharon. But Vanessa’s mid-tryst observation that the boys ”sleep through it now,” as well as her decision to make Rico leave the house before their sons awoke, makes me think her heart is leaning in another direction.

Speaking of estranged couples, am I the only one not completely buying Nate and Brenda’s relationship meltdown this week? Can Nate be so insanely insensitive that a short time after his wife’s miscarriage, he would practically shrug off the news she’s pregnant, then beat a bird to death in front of her and all their friends at his birthday party? Could Brenda, after years of on-again-off-again love with Nate, be ready to call their marriage quits after one colossal fight? Do neither of these people ever consider the implications their relationship might have on barely verbal toddler Maya? I’ll commend the show’s writers for finally having Claire notice that Billy’s off his meds — and for getting her the heck out of the apartment when Billy made that grotesque move on her — but I’m not going to drink my Kool-Aid when it comes to Nate and Brenda. After all we’ve been through with them, they deserve a better story arc. Their latest act, I fear, is for the birds.

What do you think? Do you also sense that someone important to the show is going to die? Who do you think it will be? And is the show in general getting too gloomy, or is gloom what Six Feet Under is all about?

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