The Ending Of Six Feet Under Explained - Looper (2024)

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ByAlexander Billet/

"Six Feet Under" was prestige TV before we had a name for it. The story of the Fisher family and their Los Angeles funeral home gave us a portrait of grief and love that was at once darkly irreverent and profoundly moving.

This is a universe in which death is literally a fact of life. As the Fishers watch countless mourning families come in and out of their own, they also find themselves confronted with existential questions about what it means to live and be alive. There is understandable excitement at the announcement that a follow-up is in the works: after all,Time Magazine included "Six Feet Under" in its 2007 list of greatest TV shows. So did IGN, and Complex had it as number 10 on its list of Best TV Dramas of All Time. The list goes on.

Among the show's most fondly remembered episodes, though, is its finale. This makes sense. Even the best shows are bound to leave a bitter aftertaste if they can't pull off the last episode (looking in your direction, "Game of Thrones"). But when a finale hits the mark, when it gives us a chance to say goodbye to beloved characters in a fulfilling way and provides them a satisfying arc, it can be a masterclass in television. "Six Feet Under" provided just that.

Thanks a lot, Nate

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Given that the show's pilot opened with the death of Fisher patriarch Nathaniel (Richard Jenkins), it would have been fitting enough for it to end with that of his son and namesake Nate (Peter Krause) too. But life and death are never so symmetrical. Creator Alan Ball, who was inspired to write the series by the grief he felt at the age of 13 after his sister's sudden death in a car accident (via The Independent), knew that it would be more appropriate to show us all the messy emotions all of our loved ones will be left with after we shuffle off this mortal coil.

For this reason, "Six Feet Under" doesn't have Nate die in the final episode, or even in the penultimate. Nate dies, as a result of the same brain condition he grappled with in prior season, in the ninth out of twelve episodes. And of course, it is far from being as simple as saying goodbye. Nate has done some regrettable things in the days before his death. His funeral sows more discord than resolution. Brother David (Michael C. Hall) now has the family business entirely on his shoulders. His sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose) is petrified by the sight of Nate's body, and spirals into a drunken bender at his graveside. Driving drunk, she ends up totaling her car, the signature green hearse she's driven the whole series.

Nate's pregnant wife Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), whom Nate had asked for a divorce right before his death, is tormented by images of him and the insistent presence of the woman he had committed adultery with, Maggie (Tina Holmes). Maggie also attends the funeral. And matriarch Ruth (Frances Conroy) is depressed and caring for Nate's daughter Maya, who Nate also had with another woman.

Mother's support

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At the beginning of the final episode, "Everyone's Waiting," Brenda has her and Nate's baby. Willa Fisher Chenowith is born two months premature, and Brenda is wracked with despair and anxiety: first that the newborn won't make it, and second that she will be an unfit mother even if Willa survives. Brenda, like most other characters in the show, has struggled with her mental health, and the many health problems that her daughter may have simply confirms to Brenda that she is irreparably damaged. But when she has a vision of both Nate and Nathaniel caring for Willa, she takes it as a sign that Nate would have wanted her to take care of their daughter. Not only does she resolve to do so, but she takes Maya back from Ruth, who sinks even deeper into her own depression.

What finally brings Ruth out of her despair is calling up Maggie and asking her, bluntly, if Nate was happy in his final days. Maggie, who has left town after failing to make amends to Brenda, is seen in a hospital waiting room when she takes the call. This has led some fans to speculate that she too may have been pregnant with Nate's baby (via Screen Rant). We will never know of course, but the call is enough for Ruth to move on, too. When Claire tells her mother that she is going to turn down a job as a photography assistant in New York so she can take care of her, Ruth is insistent that Claire go. She also decides against moving in with her boyfriend (and Maggie's father) George (James Cromwell). After a life of being dependent on men, she instead opts to move in with her tough-as-nails friend Bettina (Kathy Bates) to start a doggy daycare.

Settling old business

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Meanwhile, David — still reeling from his brother's death, unable to sleep, and likely suffering from PTSD — is ready to bail on the family business. What at the start of the series had been Fisher & Sons is now Fisher & Diaz, ever since Nate and David brought Rico (Freddy Rodriguez) on board as a partner. Now Rico, dissatisfied with the direction of the business, wants to start his own funeral home with his wife Vanessa (Justina Machado). He encourages David to liquidate the business after finding out his 25% share would be worth around half a million dollars.

David initially agrees. But after dreaming of his father Nathaniel, who reminds him that the funeral home isn't just his inheritance but his birthright, he changes his mind. David and his significant other Keith (Matthew St. Patrick) decide to buy Rico out, wishing him well. After struggling with his responsibility and the family's legacy for years, David, Keith, and their two sons move into the funeral home, redecorating and making it their own.

Farewell

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Despite her mother's well-wishes, Claire is still torn about leaving Los Angeles for New York. The job falling through gives her another reason to stay at home. Ultimately, it is not her family keeping her at home, but her own fear. Standing outside the family's home, she hears Nate telling her to go anyway. "Claire, you want to know a secret?" he asks her. "I spent my whole life being scared. Scared of not being ready, not being right, not being what I should be. And where did it get me?"

And so, Claire decides to leave and start her life anew. The family's final dinner is a cathartic farewell to her and Nate. And as Claire drives away -– not in a hearse, but a Prius -– we see every character's future and death play out in front of us. Not all of them are fair. Keith is killed in a robbery. Brenda is basically talked to death by her self-absorbed brother Billy (Jeremy Sisto). Claire has thick cataracts at the time of her own death at the age of 102, robbing her of the sight that made her such a keen photographer (she can't even see the many photos of her family that surround her when she finally slips away). But there are also birthdays, reunions, weddings, chances to do things over, and more people left behind to remember, too.

Best finale ever?

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After news of its follow-up was announced, Kyle Munzenrieder of W Magazine wrote "Six Feet Under remains the gold standard for series finale episodes." It is easy to grasp why. For one thing, Ball made the deliberate decision to end the show when it was at its strongest. As Lauren Ambrose told Vulture, "When Alan told me it was going to be the last season, he said how it was a good thing to go out on top... We've gotten to stay this gem of a show."

The finale also highlights the show's central themes in a way that unmistakably wraps up each character's arc. To have the series finale break from previous episodes by starting not with a death but a birth, as well as having so much of it focused on motherhood, parenthood, and family, sets the scene. What's more, for several characters, it is either Nate or Nathaniel — or at least their memory — that encourages them to move on. The inevitability of life ending in death runs both ways as death gives way to life and grief gives way to affirmation. It isn't neat or symmetrical, but it gives us the chance to make our own decisions about what is really important.

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The Ending Of Six Feet Under Explained - Looper (2024)

FAQs

What happens at the end of 6 feet under? ›

Claire (Lauren Ambrose) decides to move to New York to attend NYU and begin a photography internship. And finally, Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez) decides to move on and create his own funeral home using what he has learned at Fisher and Sons. Without Nate's death, it is implied, none of this would have happened.

Do we ever find out what happened to Lisa on Six Feet Under? ›

Nate buries Lisa as she wanted, while giving her family the cremated remains of an unclaimed body from several decades earlier. At the end of season 4, it is revealed that her brother-in-law, Hoyt, with whom she had had an affair before marrying Nate, was with her on the beach the day she drowned.

Was Maggie pregnant Six Feet Under? ›

This has led to speculation by some that she might have been pregnant by Nate at the time, and visiting the doctor for a checkup or an abortion, but this is not the case. Remember that Maggie is a pharmaceutical representative, and her job is to go to doctor's offices and make calls.

Who does Claire end up with in Six Feet Under? ›

In the final episode of the series, they end their relationship when Claire moves to New York but after she returns for her mother's funeral in 2025 they reunite and seemingly stay together since it appears he dies before she does in 2085 as he is not present during her death.

What happens to Claire at the end of Six Feet Under? ›

They separate when Claire moves to New York but reunite when he shows up at her mother's funeral years later, and by the end of the series they have married. She outlives the rest of her family, dying in 2085 at the age of 101 years old.

Why is Six Feet Under ending so good? ›

Instead the episode is all the more satisfying, and uplifting, for coming on the heels of so much misery, because it's all about the Fishers finally breaking out of the patterns we've seen them locked into for five seasons - the self-destructive compulsions that had gradually weighed the show down over the years.

Why was Nate killed off Six Feet Under? ›

Ball, on a conference call to discuss this Sunday's series finale and the series in general, said he felt compelled to kill off the self-absorbed Nate (Peter Krause), who died after cheating on wife Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) with step-sister Maggie (Tina Holmes).

Did Nate love Lisa Six Feet Under? ›

Lisa is an old friend of Nate's from Seattle. She and Nate had a "friends-with-benefits" relationship, often sleeping together but never officially dating. It is implied that Lisa was always in love with him though Nate never reciprocated and had even been pregnant by him before but had aborted the pregnancy.

What happens to Hoyt on Six Feet Under? ›

Barb overhears Hoyt's confession and when Hoyt realizes she is there, he kills himself, leaving Nate with many unanswered questions. Upon his return home, Nate asks Brenda to marry him.

What happened to Maggie and her baby? ›

Maggie's disappearance was explained later that season; at some point during a six-year time jump, she and her son, baby Hershel, left Hilltop to join up with the mysterious Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) and her group.

Why did Maggie never look pregnant? ›

"Time doesn't really... it moves linearly, but it doesn't move in clips that can be tracked," Kirkman reasoned. "You may have seen that she's been pregnant for two seasons, but those two seasons could take place over two months, just by Chandler Riggs' continued aging.

Who is Nate's daughter in Six Feet Under? ›

Maya Fisher is the older daughter of Nate Fisher, born following a one-night stand with old friend Lisa Kimmel.

Does Claire remarry? ›

When Claire returns to Scotland in the 17th century, she eventually becomes stepmother to Jamie's son by Geneva Dunsany, William Ransom, and his stepdaughter, Marsali MacKimmie Fraser, from his marriage to Laoghaire MacKenzie. She is later married to Lord John Grey.

Is Maya Nate's Daughter? ›

Nate, a devastated and confused widower with a young daughter named Maya, fights Lisa's family to give her the burial she told him she wanted: in the wilderness without any chemical or preservatives.

Why does Claire remarry? ›

Under normal circumstances, Claire would have likely returned to Fraser's Ridge and just dealt with Jamie's affairs and given herself time to grieve. These weren't normal circumstances. She was going to be arrested for espionage, and Lord John Grey had to protect her knowing that she wouldn't be a spy.

What happens at the very end of five feet apart? ›

It ends with Will meeting up with Stella, who leads him to a room for a surprise dinner party, put on by Stella and Poe, Stella's best friend and a fellow CF patient. After that, Poe dies and Stella is sad because she never got to hug him. Stella decides that she is living her life too strictly.

Did Claire have kids on Six Feet Under? ›

Claire never has children; she once again has to break the patterns her brothers set out for her and forge her own path. In so many other shows, the three disparate siblings from the pilot would be as close as could be by series end; Six Feet Under didn't do that.

What is the summary of 6 feet under? ›

Many of us know the plot premise: Six Feet Under follows the lives of the Fisher family, who live in and run a funeral home, and who are thrown into disarray by the sudden death of family patriarch, Nathaniel. There are many issues we don't deal with well, as individuals and as a society.

How did Nikolai break his legs in Six Feet Under? ›

The two eventually become a couple but Nikolai is seriously in debt, owning a large sum of money to Russian gangsters, who beat him up and leave him with broken legs.

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