David Farrier tearfully recalls the Six Feet Under finale, and makes the case for Sia’s ‘Breathe Me’ as the most perfectly deployed piece of music to ever close out a show.
At some point while TV3’s Nightline was still on air (still the best job I’ve ever had), our producer Angus Gillies got ahold of all five seasons of Six Feet Under on DVD. He told us that this was the best show he’d seen in… ever. To Gus’ delight, none of us (Carly Flynn was presenting at the time, Jesse Peach was news reporting, I was covering “arts”) had seen it, so we happily started passing the boxsets between us.
And when I say “happily”, I don’t mean “happily” at all.
Things got real dark there on Nightline for a while. We were working from 2pm to 11pm, so to unwind after work we’d all watch Six Feet Under (separately, we weren’t all living together. That would be weird), then wake up in the morning and devour some more before going to work again. It might have been the strange circumstances of bingeing on that show while working ungodly hours, but christ that shit got heavy.
I’ve never been as emotionally stomach-punched as much as when I was watching Six Feet Under. We all felt the same way, and while that stuff was going on with Brenda and Nate and oh god all of those characters we all were just feeling bummed out. Quite the news-team atmosphere.
And then, finally, we reached that final episode (‘Everyone’s Waiting’), and that final sequence, and that final song.
It is so utterly heart-wrenching I don’t even know where to start. I think it’s the first time I’ve 100% agreed with a YouTube comment:
“watched the entire show in about four weeks…never cried this hard in my entire life…”
So what we’re seeing is a key character driving off in their car. The show’s gimmick was to always start each episode with a random death (it was show about a funeral home after all, so it was all very practical I suppose) – but in that final sequence we weren’t seeing random deaths, we were seeing the deaths of those we’d come to love over five seasons-worth of telly.
These were complex characters so rich, vibrant and ultimately flawed we couldn’t help but fall head-over-heels in love. As Claire drives, the landscape shifts and pitches as time stretches out. We see how David, Keith, Brenda, Ruth and Federico all end up meeting their maker. They are all very real deaths (as opposed to some of the shows more whimsical, hilarious deaths) and they hit very, very hard.
And what we’re seeing is cut to a song that couldn’t be cut to any other song, in hindsight. It’s by Australian singer/songwriter Sia Furler, and it’s called ‘Breathe Me’. No one really knew who Sia was before Six Feet Under (they still don’t, really – but heck, they know that song), but after that, ‘Breathe Me’ became the go-to track for thrashing your emotional heart strings. From Misfits to Veronica Mars to Orange Is The New Black, ‘Breathe Me’ is impossible to escape in television.
But Six Feet Under was there first, and it used the song in a way that led to the most satisfying TV finale of all time. Other musicians were in the running for that sequence – from Iron & Wine to Arcade Fire – but Sia got chosen for a reason. She wrote the perfect song for a perfect six minutes and 29 seconds of TV.
There’s a great series of interviews over at Vulture about the conclusion to Six Feet Under, and the quote that says it best is from Lauren Ambrose:
“I cry when I hear the song. It’s Pavlovian. If it comes on when I’m at yoga or something, I’ll cry. I’m always worried people will notice and be like, Oh, is that the girl from the show?”
(Okay, so I just rewatched it again myself, and now I’m bloody crying. You’re good, Sia, you’re bloody good).