<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d16149408\x26blogName\x3dThe+Blogulator\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://chrisandqualler.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://chrisandqualler.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d7090024357285529333', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

« Home | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next »

Classic Television Rundown: Six Feet Under, Season Two, Episode Seven: "Back to the Garden"

Six Feet Under
Season Two, Episode Seven: "Back to the Garden"

Written by Jill Soloway

Directed by Daniel Attias

Rabbi Ari: Maybe your soul mate is the person who forces your soul to grow the most. Not all growth feels good.

After last episode's half-bad, half-good introduction to Ruth's sister Sarah, played with aplomb by Patricia Clarkson, Six Feet Under drops us into some more Sarah stuff, which goes down considerably better than the shaky first scenes that we were thrown into. Well, I should back up - the episode throws us into Claire's visit to Sarah's place in Topanga Canyon. And cleverly gets David and Keith to the precipice of getting back together. And re-introduces us to Nate's crippling fear of death. And explores Brenda's "dark sexual journey" (as described by episode director Dan Attias.) And looks into Ruth's continued loneliness. And explores a surprising revelation at the Diaz household (man, I am sounding like a TV Guide episode description writer with that sentence, aren't I?)

Luckily, an episode this busy with wildly different plotlines happening at the same time works out pretty well. I could compare an episode like this to a couple modern examples, first being NBC's Parenthood (which also co-stars Peter Krause and features a big family with a lot of different people with different personalities but is really about "the family" at its heart.) Parenthood regularly has six different plots going on at the same time, but generally has some kind of center (and when it doesn't have that center, like in the season finale, it can get a little sloppy). Likewise, HBO's Treme never has fewer than six different plots going on in the same episode, but usually has some kind of theme (like this past week's possible series high point "On the Way Down", whose theme was "Crime brings us all down!")

Is there a center, or a theme to "Back to the Garden"? I'm not quite sure. But a lot of things worked pretty well here.

For starters, David and Keith's story was probably the best possible way that they could start to inch their way back to each other's arms. The episode opens up with a somewhat surprising dream from Keith's perspective(*), which is followed by Keith abruptly dumping ( ) and calling David at work to tell him about it. Natch, David's reaction is all "Quit playin' games with my heart, Keith" which, in all fairness, Keith totally was. Keith asks David to dinner then to talk about it, but their dinner wasn't to be, as Keith couldn't make it to the restaurant because of Taylor's tummy ache that was actually appendicitis. Of course, David, being the stand-up guy that he is, makes a mad rush to the hospital to join Keith. It's not like it's particularly unexpected that the two of them would start getting back together, but for a series that can occasionally venture too far into the crazy side, the story of David and Keith is pretty damn touching.

(*)Pretty sure this is the first time we saw inside Keith's subconscious.

In the totally separate latest chapter of Nate Facing His Fear Of Death, he befriends the wise, and just a little bit, no, a lot bit, hot Rabbi Ari, played by Deadwood's Molly Parker, who is administering the funeral of a Jewish business man who dies via autoerotic asphyxiation(**). As is usually the case, Nate starts asking Ari a bunch of questions about the "Jewish" answer to the spiritual questions he seems to be asking himself in light of his AVM diagnosis. Of course, Ari finds herself somewhat surprised that he hasn't told Brenda about his condition yet. And Nate's juuust skeezy enough to also be sorta hitting on her while wrestling with his spiritual questions. That he pictures a crying Brenda watching the funeral of the dead guy of the episode further signals his growing concern about his own mortality and how it will affect those he loves in his life.

(**)Pretty sure I've seen enough TV depictions of this and read enough stories of celebrity deaths to never, ever want to try this, ever. Gross.

Brenda, as mentioned earlier, though, is further away from Nate's wavelength than she's ever been. Like director Dan Attias mentioned in his director's commentary(***), Brenda's "dark sexual journey" is one that is separate from Nate. No doubt it is triggered by her temporary loss of her brother Billy, who she had such struggles taking care of in the first season but now likely feels adrift. That her lunch with her mom is another depressing chapter only adds to Brenda's growing frustration. Obviously her engagement to Nate isn't helping anything, and are in fact growing even further apart. Their final scene together, coming off of a crazy fantasy Brenda has with the guy making eyes at her at a stoplight, is one depressing, sad one, with Nate trying to connect with Brenda in a spiritual way, and Brenda trying to connect to Nate in a sexual way, with neither of them close to each other's wavelength. It's one of the more gut-wrenching relationship scenes on the show to date.

(***)Turns out, director's commentary is a lot more boring than writer's commentary. It's all about how scenes are shot, lighting, etc. Snoozefest!

As has been explored in prior episodes this season, most notably "The Invisible Woman" written by Kate Robin, Ruth's a deeply sad, lonely person, even moreso this season, now that her kids all seem to have even more independence than they did last season. But it's not all terrible being alone, as she finds out in an awkward dinner with Robbie, where she tells him once and for all that she's "not interested in talking in house metaphors any longer." (Good for her.)

As for Rico... well, he's there. And the more the series goes on, I'm straining to find an interesting storyline that involves Rico. At this point, his two storylines are "I'm mad that I don't have a share in the Fisher & Sons business" and "Building this house that Vanessa bought is straining our relationship." This week, we add to the "Rico is a homophobe" pot when he discovers his cousin isn't sleeping with Vanessa like he suspected but is (gasp!) gay. Aside from comic relief that he does provide pretty well, at this point Rico just seems like a time filler.

Finally, we get Claire's visit to Topanga Canyon, where her aunt Sarah has a wild hippie party. Magically, one of the wild hippies has a son who is handsome and around Claire's age (played by Stark Sands of the Generation Kill miniseries) and totally doesn't want to use her the way douches like Gabe do. It's actually kind of sweet seeing Claire act so shy around Sarah and so unsure of herself. Despite her brattiness throughout the first season and a half of the show, the last two episodes have really demonstrated Claire's insecurity, and it's nice to see when people do nice things to her. When Sarah sits her down and tells her that her mom is a deeply unhappy person who deserves to be treated well, suddenly those family bonds made a lot more sense. And, likewise, Sarah became an even better guest character.

The episode is tied up with a poignant scene on that wavelength, where Ruth picks up the mix tape that Claire brought home with her from Sarah's place and observes Ruth singing, word for word, the song "Back to the Garden" by Joni Mitchell. It's a surprisingly stark, touching piece of character development for both Claire and Ruth, both of whom are arguably the lesser developed Fisher family members at this point of the series. By, shall we say, "tending the garden" a bit by aptly servicing all of these characters, "Back to the Garden" settles into a lovely little episode.

Grade: A-

Memorable quotes and trivia

  • The people in the porn movie the guy watches before he dies are real porn actors! Hooray!
  • "In case you haven't hung out with any 15-year-old guys lately, they're like total hornswogglers." -Claire
  • "No mom, I won't be having dinner with you." -David
  • "Someone's in a real snoot." -Robbie
  • "That's the Jewish Friend in there." -David
  • "Oh, I got this for you. It doesn't need watering or caring about in any way." -Brenda, on the plant she gives her mom.
  • "Yeah, I'm scared that I'm going to die." -Nate "Yeah, me too." -Ari "Really, what do you have?" -Nate "A body." -Ari (You kinda walked into that one, Nate.)
  • This episode got me to buy frozen waffles at Trader Joe's recently, what with Claire eating a frozen waffle at the beginning of the episode and being offered a frozen waffle by Sarah at the end. Hey Morgan Spurlock, you should totally direct a documentary about how advertising is everywhere! That's an original idea that is not at all an obvious statement, similar to how McDonalds is bad for you!
  • Director Daniel Attias is a veteran of TV directing, having recently directed an upcoming episode of The Killing, and having also directed episodes of The Sopranos, Lost, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Deadwood, and basically every other show you've ever cared about. And (AND!) he directed many episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, including the famous "Donna Martin Graduates" episode.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Labels: , , ,

leave a response