Six Feet Under, Episodes 7-10: Master of (Opening) Ceremonies

THIS WEEK'S EPISODES: "Brotherhood" | "Crossroads" | "Life's Too Short"

From here on out, I’m going to appropriate a bit of Star Trek parlance for these Six Feet Under writeups. I was never a Trekkie, but the term has come up on both Futurama and in Galaxy Quest, so you may be familiar with it: Redshirt. It’s a character who, in the original Star Trek, existed just to be killed. He would usually wear red for some reason, setting him off from the rest of the crew (he'd also be played by a guest star). In short, it was a given that a Redshirt wasn't going to last, and sometimes it was kind of fun to anticipate how he'd bite it.

Anyway, since each SFU episode begins with a new character who you know isn’t going to last through the opening credits, I’m going to call such characters Redshirts from here on out. And all three Redshirt scenes in this set of episodes were particularly strong. While I don’t think the Redshirts are meant to function as themes of the episodes they die in—I think the opposite, in fact, that their deaths are arbitrary in order to show how arbitrary death in the real world can be—I’m going to write these episodes up with a focus on their intros. Cool? Cool.


There was some M. Night Shyamalan on a good day-level material here. An optimistic young soldier in Iraq was making a home video to send to his parents back home. He didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger; his friends were horsing around and kept interrupting him. The cheeriness in his voice only raised the tension: He was so young, so earnest, that his pending death was going to have to be violent and so unjust. (And while making a video for his parents, no less.) Then, boom! We learned that he’s actually a vet from the first war in Iraq, and that he did just die, but a decade later—in a hospital bed, while watching old tapes of himself in his army days. Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.

"Brotherhood" was a military-heavy episode, and the references didn’t all connect. Did you guys notice that when Claire visited her guidance counselor, there was a prominent “Join the Marines” pamphlet display? Since she kept saying she didn’t want to follow the set path and go to college, I kept thinking the counselor was going to suggest she join the service. We saw plenty of our redshirt’s army buddies at his funeral, of course. And best of all was David’s cheesy army porn, which Nate caught and laughed about. That itched David’s need to try and keep his family more open, so he made sure to hug his brother and tell him he loved him; because nobody knows, someone could die tomorrow.

Regarding David living his life in the closet, how are you guys taking David’s refusal to push for a progressive priest? Is he actually doing the sensible thing by ensuring his church stays intact? Is he a coward?

Also, two of Ruth’s three kids can’t help but imagining her having sex with Hiram. And the third, Nate, was with Brenda when her brother walked in on them, which Brenda said was only fair because Ruth had recently seen the two together. For a family so closed-off from each other, they sure do spend a lot of time in consideration of each others’ junk movement.

One other note on this episode: Claire’s imagination has gotten great; she’s taken to dealing with the crappiness of high school by letting her imagination run wild. She’s like a high school-age, HBO live-action-show-about-death version of Calvin.


In stark contrast to the opening of "Brotherhood," the opening of "Crossroads" was all fun. Here, as three late-fortysomething ladies celebrated a divorce in the controlled space of a limo, you knew it was going to be a shocking, freak-accident kind of thing. When one of the women had her face smashed in by that man in a cherry picker, admit it—you laughed. (Right? Don’t tell me you didn’t and I’m a bad person.) Six Feet Under is kind of like a slasher flick, where half the fun is seeing the creative ways the show comes up with to kill unimportant characters.

And just like how, in the blink of an eye, that woman went from forced celebration to not having a face anymore, a lot of our characters here suffered emotional whiplash of their own. Nikolai, the Russian florist, loves having Ruth around, and seemed to be fine with not dating her—until Hiram showed up, at which point he got extremely angry. Ruth, in turn, imagined an affair with a Cossack, mustachioed version of her boss. Brenda invited a naked Australian man to sleep in her bed for a few days, which is extreme even for her, and Nate flipped out on her, which is maybe even more unusual. (Who wouldn’t flip out, though, on such a bad marijuana trip?)

And finally, Fredrico left. To be honest, I was finding it a bit strained to imagine he would have stayed this long with Fisher & Sons, anyway.

One note: This was the first redshirt who was a Kroener client, not a Fisher one. And none of the recently deceased have come back to chat for a few episodes now.

"Life’s Too Short"

The redshirt here hit a lot closer to home than I expected. Gabe’s little brother found a gun in the house and shot himself, and the only people in their house were Gabe and his friend, getting high. (What is it with these marijuana-addled deviants?)

So began the druggiest episode yet. First, David went clubbing and tried ecstasy; then, in trying to hide his hangover from his mom, accidentally left a few pills in his mom’s pill bottle, which she took camping. That means, of course, the ol’ “unsuspecting old person accidentally takes a drug!” trick—which resulted in Ruth communicating with nature, following a man in a bear costume through the woods, and conducting a sweet, nostalgic conversation with her dead husband. When she woke up the next morning, Hiram informed her that what actually happened was that they'd made love more ferociously than ever. Bruce Willis was dead the whole time!

Meanwhile, Nate failed the funeral directors' exam—so Brenda, hoping to make him better at his job in some other way, took Nate on a tour of other funeral homes, to see what they do right (and wrong). When Brenda acted like a cancer patient, Nate finally snapped. He deals with death daily, and has for much of his life, but he can't take the thought of Brenda dying. He's totally going soft on her.

Questions for you guys:

... Ruth using the word “mens-tru-ating.” Thoughts?

... If you accidentally fed your own mother ecstasy, would you act the same way as David did here?

... How big of a coward is David? Or do you think it's admirable that he put what he sees as the church’s needs above his own?

... I feel like Nate and Brenda’s spat is one of those litmus tests about how you treats relationships. Whose side do you take? Should a man give a woman space when she wants to have an ex-boyfriend come stay over? Or is it totally cool for an ex-lover to sleep, naked, in her bed?

Ed. note: You can stay up-to-date on DVD Club news and find a listing of all related discussion stories in the Summer DVD Club Archives.

Follow writer Kevin Collier on Twitter: @KevinCollier

Comments (3)
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DVD club????
Have you heard of torrents??? Haha!
I think Ruth using that word is not normal, and that it is an attempt on her part to further move past the death of her husband and on to something new in her life, like the entire camping outing. If I accidentally fed my mother ecstasy, I'd own up to it. But then my mom is quite different from Ruth; she'd yell her head off at me for, oh, about a half hour and conclude it with a "what were you doing with ecstasy?" question that she'd leave hanging to let me stew in my own guilt at what I'd done. I think it's admirable what he's done with his Church. That said, I think he may need to find a new church though and have the conversation with his mom. I'm a little bit of a jealous man and would NOT be happy about an ex-beau sleeping naked in the same bed as my current girlfriend. And by that I mean, that would lead to a serious argument. I understand emotional connection of exes, and I would not say to turn him out, however, the couch/floor (that she argued against), is JUST FINE in this case. Also, I would hang around a lot, and my girlfriend would probably hate that, too, which also might lead to an argument. But then, people are people and they behave how they behave (which is part of what this show is all about).
This just reminded me how much I loved this show. I have to start a rerun...and maybe I should watch "The Sixth Sense" again and pay more attention :P

I'd like to read more "Redshirt scenes" reviews :)

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