91. A Mother’s Love, “The Silence” (Episode 5.07)
Margaret: “All couples have these types of disagreements. You think I didn’t want to abort you and Billy?”
When Brenda and Nate discover that their unborn baby could possibly have a birth defect, the troubled couple once again splits on how to treat the situation. Nate thinks they shouldn’t risk it and should have an abortion, while Brenda believes she will love the baby no matter what. Margaret Chenowith once again shows up, with her unique blend of inappropriate reveals and maternal wisdom.
92. Durell FTW, “Singing For Our Lives” (Episode 5.08)
Durrell: “You look like a witch.”
Ruth: “I assure you I’m not.”
Durrell: “I didn’t say you were. I said you look like one.”
In the final season of Six Feet Under, the kids often steal the show. Nate and Brenda’s unborn child plays a huge part near the end and Maya is adorable enough to distract from much of what is happening around her. But when David and Keith decide to adopt two brothers—Durrell and Anthony—it introduces a gigantic shift in their life. Anthony is a sweetheart, but Durrell looks for any excuse to disrupt the lives of his new parents. It only get worse later in the episode, when he drives Keith’s car and smashes a neighbor’s car window by accident.
93. George’s Farewell, “All Alone” (Episode 5.10)
George: “The loss of a young person is always a terrible blow, but in this case, it’s even more cruel, because Nate was an idealist and he struggled all through his life to be a good man. He wasn’t perfect, then whom among us is? And he never gave up on himself or the people he loved, or even love itself, in all its vexing, beautiful forms.”
Nate’s death is a gigantic blow to everyone in the Fisher family. At his viewing, David tries to speak and has a panic attack, and Rico’s speech ends with him crying uncontrollably. George is just close enough to the family to be able to speak eloquently about Nate, and also distant enough to do so without breaking apart. In just a few well-worded sentences, George gets to the core of who Nate was: a flawed human being who tried his best and searched for love his entire life.
94. The Day Cobain Died, “All Alone” (Episode 5.10)
Nate: “Kurt Cobain died today.”
Nate: “He killed himself. He was just too pure for this world.”
Claire: “Well, his music will live on.”
Nate: “Yeah. Yeah, it will.”
Nate has died and everyone is dealing with the loss in their own ways. Claire seems to be taking it even harder than anyone else, not even able to dress properly for the viewing. When Claire has a memory of a younger Nate finding out Kurt Cobain died, it seems to bring her a sense of relief. In the moment, Nate is emotionally distraught, but it’s Claire’s reminder that Cobain’s legacy will live on that soothes his sorrow a bit. And Claire’s flashback makes her own pain just a little more bearable.
95. The Life You Create, “Static” (Episode 5.11)
Nate: “I’m just saying you only get one life. There’s no God, no rules, no judgments, except for those you accept or create for yourself. And once it’s over, it’s over. Dreamless sleep forever and ever. So why not be happy while you’re here. Really? Why not?”
In the last few episodes of Six Feet Under, Claire has a huge decision to make: does she stay where she is, to remain close to her family, or should she move across the country and start a life that is more in line with what she wants? When she speaks to the recently deceased Nate, he pushes her towards the latter, and it’s the push she needs to do what her heart is telling her to do. Sure, Nate is just a representation of what Claire wants to hear, but it’s incredibly likely that if Nate was still alive, he’d give her the exact same advice.
96. Wisdom from On High, “Static” (Episode 5.11)
Nate: “Stop listening to the static.”
Claire: “What the fuck does that mean?”
Nate: “Nothing. I just mean that everything in the world is like this transmission, making its way across the dark. But everything—death, life, everything—it’s all completely suffused with static. You know? But if you listen to the static too much, it fucks you up.”
Claire: “Are you high?”
Nate: “I am actually, yeah, quite high.”
In the last season of Six Feet Under, Claire is desperately struggling to figure out where her place in the world is. Instead of doing what she thinks is right, she’s forced into a crappy job, and is paying far too much attention to what everyone around thinks about her. When she talks to Nate in the penultimate episode, he tells her to tune out the small stuff, so she can pursue what really matters.
97. Less is More, “Static” (Episode 5.11)
Brenda: “I used to think that I’d have more people in my life as time went on.”
Billy: “Mh, it doesn’t work that way.”
Brenda: “I’m starting to realize that.”
Billy: “It’s almost like as we get older, the number of people that completely get us shrinks.”
Brenda: “Right. Until we become so honed by our experiences… and time and…”
Billy: “Nobody else understands.”
No two characters get each other quite as well as Billy and Brenda do. It makes sense that, in the final moments of the following episode, Brenda is dying while listening to Billy talk on and on, once again. There’s a sadness to this, but there’s also some consolation in knowing that no matter who they lose and how hard things get, they’ll always have each either—literally until the end.
98. The Glorified Past, “Everyone’s Waiting” (Episode 5.12)
David: “We’ve been clutching so desperately to the past, and for what?”
Ruth: “Because that’s when there was hope.”
In the final episode of Six Feet Under, David, Ruth and many other characters learn to finally let go of the past. David feels freed by deciding to sell the funeral home (which he will later go back on), while Ruth is still grasping at the past—when her family used to feel whole. It’s hard to let go of the past, but it’s also hard not to idealize it, convincing yourself that it was better than it might have been.
99. Take the Leap, “Everyone’s Waiting” (Episode 5.12)
Nate: “Claire, you wanna know a secret? I spent my whole life being scared. Scared of not being ready, of not being right, of not being who I should be. And where did it get me?”
Right before leaving for a exciting new job in New York City, Claire gets a phone call and finds out that the job simply no longer exists. She panics about having to tell everyone that the trip is off and that the new life that she was hoping for doesn’t exist anymore. But Nate visits and points out the silliness in being afraid to make a big leap. His words remind us of another quote we heard before: if something scares you in life, you should probably do it.
100. The Letting Go, “Everyone’s Waiting” (Episode 5.12)
Claire: “I wanna take a picture of everyone.”
Nate: “You can’t take a picture of this. It’s already gone.”
So much of this excellent series is about letting go of the past, while trying forge your path to the future. When Claire starts to leave L.A. to begin a new life in New York City, she keeps trying to stay behind, talking herself out of doing what she needs to do. She tells her mom that she’ll stay back if she wants her to, and considers not going to New York when her job falls through. In the last words spoken in the entire series, Claire takes a picture of her family and her childhood home, crying at what she’s leaving behind. And in this moment, Nate lets her know that there’s nowhere to go but forward—even in the present, the past is already beginning to slip away.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.