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Classic Television Rundown: Six Feet Under, Season Two, Episode Two, "Out, Out Brief Candle"

Six Feet Under
Season Two, Episode Two: "Out, Out Brief Candle"
Written by Laurence Andries

Directed by Kathy Bates
Joshua: I want you to look at me. Look at me.
As much as I loved going back to the first season of Six Feet Under to find that, in a pleasant surprise, it was as much about David as it was Nate, the first two episodes have made it abundantly clear that Season Two shifts the spotlight long and hard on Nate. This isn't an entirely bad thing. For as much flack as I give Nate's character, the AVM twist introduced at the end of the first season helped to recast his character as not just a self-righteous jackhole, but a self-righteous jackhole with the same worries about death that most people have. In fact, this episode does a great job of reminding me what makes Nate an ultimately magnetic central character: his interactions with his Memory Ghost father, and the deeply sympathetic and caring soul he can occasionally show himself to be.

Unfortunately, this episode takes its time to get to that place while ultimately navigating through some fairly uninteresting subplots. First is the return of the Krohener plot (noooo!) Matt Gilardi's character appears to be quickly disposed of in a hastily-arranged scene, where the no-nonsense Mitzi Dalton-Huntly, introduced to us in "Knock, Knock" randomly decides to fire him on his way into work(*). This plot development sits alongside the revelation that Rico and Vanessa are looking to buy a house that they cannot afford, but that Vanessa is super excited to buy, which also sits alongside another seemingly disparate plot strand involving David getting really excited about buying a Casket Wall(**).

(*)Wouldn't an HR department have something to say about someone getting fired on their way to work?
(**)David, meanwhile, gets way too cartoonish here. As awesome as it was to see him vulnerable and human in "In The Game", it was disappointing to see him act like a total caricature here.

These plots, alongside Ruth's new entry into a New-Agey new seminar called "The Plan" and Claire's continuing problems with Gabe, seem to have no relation to each other(***)(****), until a few things happen: one, Mitzi's new role as the Krohener person reinforce Krohener's interest in buying Fisher & Sons (snooze), which means the Coffin Wall that David impulsively purchases is an impediment to giving Rico a loan for his house. That it took a few different plots to get one plot to move forward just seems clumsy, and seems to cheapen David and Rico at the same time, all while replacing one irritating side character (Gilardi) with one who is even more irritating (Mitzi).

(***)Both are plots that are better-written in the next episode, so I'll put a hold on discussing them for this week.

(****)On the other hand, the scene with the dude with one testicle who has a drug freakout in the middle of the high school hallway proves that an Alan Ball show is one that will more likely go for the Big Freakin' Moment than the Subtle Beautiful Scene that a Friday Night Lights would utilize.

Thankfully, the stronger elements of the episode are quite strong. Nate, still fresh off his AVM diagnosis, is haunted by the Death of the Week, the football heat stroke victim Joshua Lagmead who helps the viewer see how scared Nate is of death. Throughout the episode, Nate peeks around the corner to see Ghost Joshua crying, tormenting him constantly. Nate and Brenda, meanwhile, invite Brenda's ex-boyfriend Trevor and his award-winning author wife over for dinner (Trevor was mentioned by Billy in last season's "A Private Life"), where we get a glimpse into some seeds of discontent into Nate and Brenda's relationship. Nate oggles Trevor's simple, mainstream suburban life, while Brenda, while pleasant, wholeheartedly rejects the normalcy they present. And, after the party is over, Nate imagines himself spilling his guts to Brenda about the AVM diagnosis (which, unfortunately, he doesn't really do.)

Near the end of the episode, Nate confronts Ghost Joshua in the porch, and, in turn, confronts his own mortality. Coming to peace with the fact that he, too, will die some day, Nate confides in David about the condition that he lives with, and the episode pulls a whole Break Qualler's Heart And Make Him Feel Peace At The Same Time thing that the show can do so amazingly well at times. Writer Laurence Andries was also responsible for the bromance-heavy and ghost-heavy episode "Familia" from season one, and eventually, he pulls out similar elements to that episode. Even if it took too long to get to this point, I can't complain too hard about an episode that sticks its landing as well as this one did.

Grade: B+

Memorable quotes and other trivia
  • "What did you think, you were immune to this? Everybody dies. Everybody. What makes you so fucking special?" -Nate, to Ghost Joshua, nay, himself.
  • "You know, just because I fucked you, doesn't mean we're on a first name basis." -Mitzi, Matt Gilardi's replacement. According to Alan Ball's commentary in "Knock, Knock", she was cast because she's a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners badass southern woman. And by that, he of course means a horrible caricature.
  • "Do me a favor and don't even mention the word 'cremation.'" -David "Okay, can I mention the word 'condescension?'" -Nate. Ah, bickering brothers never get old.
  • "Impressive? It's fucking gorgeous!" -Cartoon David, on the Casket Wall. Sigh.
  • I would be remiss if I didn't mention episode director Kathy Bates and her terrible-looking (and terribly reviewed) new NBC show Harry's Law. Too bad David E. Kelley's a douche, because she's actually a good actress who is now trapped on a show specially designed for the 55+ crowd who thinks Ebonics are the most ridiculous thing ever invented.
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