Six Feet Under final sequence: profound or farcical?
OK, Sullivan and his reader seem to have a very different reaction to the last scene of the last episode of Six Feet Under than I did. In the final part of the last episode, there's a very extended sequence where they show the death of every single character who hasn't died already. Here's the reader reaction:
I watched the finale of the show, which ended on that clip, and was floored - moved to despairing tears. These few minutes capture the inevitability of death, both the point and pointlessness of life, and the crushing surprise and lingering despair caused by death for survivors. If they handed out Oscars and Emmys for scenes, this deserved both.And Sullivan adds: "It's TV at its best".
I beg to differ. I found that final sequence to be bordering on slapstick. So did my wife. It's the most maudlin, schmaltzy, steaming pile of emotional crap I've seen on television in a long time. In fact, I think it deserves the Emmy in the category of sentimental lameness. It reminded me of a production of Hamlet I once saw where the audience just started laughing in the final scene because the bodies were piling up so quickly. Since many of the Six Feet Under characters are rather young and played by equally young actors, the death montage treats us to a parade of bad age makeup the likes of which I have never encountered. (This is an area where Hollywood really needs to improve, craft-wise.) If one death is a tragedy, and a million deaths is a statistic, I guess a dozen deaths is a farce, if shown in rapid sequence with silly background music playing the whole time.
The one thing I was curious about in this whole sequence is what the future would be like. The deaths go into the year 2085, which (assuming we've avoided the various possible planet-wide catastrophes available to us) should have some really cool technology and stuff. But they never show any of that. OK, there's some funny looking tableware and a glowing picture, but that's all stuff we could have now. And Keith's uniform in 2029 has that vaguely futuristic look that some low-budget science fiction movie would give to a villainous flunky. But this is the future, man. What about the flying cars, cyber implants, household robots, and nanotechnology devices? I mean in 2085 at least some things should look much different, don't you think?
As an aside, this closing sequence is an implicit refutation of Ray Kurzweil's notion that we will soon be able to live forever. Claire dies in 2085 at the age of 102, in what seems to be a peaceful way. And many of the life durations are very standard for today. I guess the Six Feet Under folks don't share Kursweil's optimism about advances in medical technology.
I liked the series overall very much, so this is not a general criticism of Six Feet Under as a whole, just this closing sequence. And I have lost relatives recently, so it's not like I'm completely unable to relate to the loss . And I'm not some insensitive galoot. In fact, I tend to cry at moving things in movies more than most people.
Here's the clip in question, courtesy of YouTube, er, I mean Google. Judge for yourself, though you should probably watch all 5 seasons of the show first to get the maximum "impact", not that it made it any more profound for me. In fact, the fact that I knew all these characters made these rapid-fire deaths seem rather cheap and shoddy, unworthy of the characters and the wrenchign pain that was often depicted very well in the show. The clip: