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HBO presents
Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season (2003)

"Work can be difficult when you're going through something like this."
- Nate Fisher (Peter Krause)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: May 17, 2005

Stars: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Rachel Griffiths, Lauren Ambrose, Frances Conroy
Other Stars: Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Jeremy Sisto, Kathy Bates, Lili Taylor
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, sex, drug use)
Run Time: 13h:00m:00s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 026359897825
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The Fishers have come a long way since the unfortunate and sudden death of their patriarch. From this untimely demise to Nate having a daughter with someone other than Brenda, this is a family that is constantly in flux, always striving to achieve some sort of balance and stability. So much has happened to the Fishers in the course of two seasons on Six Feet Under, that it seems as if this show could run for decades and never grow tiresome. Still, all good things must come to an end, and, with the show's final season about to air on HBO, now is as good a time as any to revisit the third season.

This amazing batch of 13 episodes gets off to a great start with the episode Perfect Circles. Writer Alan Ball wastes no time reminding viewers what happened in Season Two, instead jumping right in to show us alternate realities in which we are allowed to ponder the consequences of Nate dying, Nate becoming brain damaged due to a mishap in surgery, and even Nate's father marrying someone other than Ruth.

After the alternate realities are explored with just the right amount of creepiness, we jump right into the series' storyline having flashed-forward a few months. Many changes have apparently occurred within the family, including Nate and Lisa taking care of their new daughter, Maya, together, the newly reformed bond that is David and Keith attending couples counseling, and Ruth's love life picking up.

While these radical changes are tough to completely absorb in the season's premiere, a few episodes in, I began to settle in to the new direction of its main characters. While not as bleak and depressing as the fourth season of the show, this season is definitely a sign of the direction that Six Feet Under is heading, one full of classic episodes, yet not as consistent from start to finish as were the first two seasons.

The real standout shows this time around are the aforementioned Perfect Circles, Timing & Space (a Brenda-heavy installment, with Rachel Griffiths doing her best work yet), and the season's last four episodes. As far as the latter, once you began to watch Everyone Leaves, it'll be nearly impossible to keep yourself from watching the rest of this season nonstop, given the truly arresting way in which the story plays out. The cliffhanger of the season finale is unforgettable, but a nasty tease that will leave those who didn't see it last year on HBO clamoring for the DVD release of Six Feet Under: The Complete Fourth Season. With the fifth, and reportedly final season of the show on the way this summer, this set is literally the middle of the road for the Fishers, and by the end of these 13 episodes, each character is facing a similar crossroads to the one that faced the show's creators and writers.

There isn't a better group of actors in TV today than the cast of this series. Sure, you can argue that the cast of The Sopranos, The Shield, and Nip/Tuck are currently ruling the TV airwaves, but no group of people so faithfully capture what it takes to pull off a character that doesn't have an inherent "TV quality" to them. The characters in The Sopranos are almost all mobsters, The Shield has the quintessential tough-nosed cops, and Nip/Tuck is led by plastic surgeons, whereas everyone here is just a "normal Joe" with flaws that you and I have. The only real quirk that is written into the premise of the show is the fact that this family happens to own a funeral home, but the brunt of their characters' overall human qualities remain grounded and easier to relate to than any others on television.

With this season setting up the descent-into-hell fest that was to follow in the next, and the previous two seasons being depressing, but still full of hope, who knows what to expect from the fifth and final go-round for the Fishers. I'm sure most fans are hoping for something similar to the first two classic seasons, with a bit of seasons three and four mixed in for good measure. I'm sure the writers will try to see that most, if not all of the storylines are nicely wrapped up, with at least a glimmer of hope on the horizon for all involved, so the shows die-hards will be more than satisfied.

Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season consists of 13 episodes, presented in this DVD set in their entirety:

Perfect Circles: After experiencing a truly surreal encounter with the prospect of alternate realities, Nate awakens from his "dream" to a slew of changes in the Fisher household. Federico is now a partner in the business after becoming a licensed Funeral Director, Claire is an art student, and Ruth deals with caring for her granddaughter, Maya, and dealing with her new daughter-in-law, Lisa.

You Never Know: Lisa and Nate are struggling to find "alone time," while Claire meets a new man, Russell, and Federico struggles with his new responsibilities at Fisher & Diaz.

The Eye Inside: Lisa quits her job, much to the chagrin of Nate, while Ruth is becoming rebellious with her new friend Bettina. Claire's school work is garnering her some acclaim, and David and Keith head off to a vacation resort.

Nobody Sleeps: Against Nate's suggestion, Lisa is planning a birthday party for Ruth, who continues to open up to Bettina. Nate's strange dreams are continuing, and Claire is unable to attend her mother's birthday party.

The Trap: When Claire tells Federico that she can no longer be his gofer, Fisher & Diaz decide to hire a mortuary student, who will work for room and board. Enter Arthur Martin, a strange man who seems to fit in with the Fishers quite nicely. Lisa is growing more controlling of Nate's expenses, and she freaks out when she learns that he had lunch recently with Brenda.

Making Love Work: Nate and Lisa are camping with their friends Todd and Nina, Ruth and Arthur are becoming close after sharing a favorite movie in common, and Federico struggles to fit a larger than normal body into a casket.

Timing & Space: Nate takes Maya to Brenda's father's funeral, not trusting to leave her with Federico's wife, Vanessa. David and Keith go to a strange brunch party with David's choir friends, and Ruth begins to stalk Arthur.

Tears, Bones and Desire: David and Keith's paintball game turns ugly when Keith seeks revenge against David's choir friends. Lisa's paranoia about Nate and Brenda's relationship grows, and Ruth kisses Arthur.

The Opening: Claire and Russell's art work is in a show, but Russell feels that Claire's work is getting all of the attention over his. Nate and Lisa talk about splitting up due to Lisa's lack of trust, and Arthur doesn't seem interested in an obviously infatuated Ruth.

Everyone Leaves: When Lisa sees Nate crying after visiting with a recent widower, she is worried about leaving him when she goes up to visit her sister. After Billy tries to kiss Brenda, she visits Nate, causing feelings between them to elevate. Nate calls Lisa's sister to make sure she arrived alright, but her sister acts as if she doesn't know where Lisa is.

Death Works Overtime: Nate still hasn't heard from Lisa , but her car has just been found near a beach. Vanessa's sister is now living at Federico's house and he's struggling to cope, while Ruth meets a new man, George Sibley, at a funeral.

Twilight: Ruth's sudden romance with George is heating up, and she suggests they get married, even though he's been married six times already. David moves out after fighting with Keith and sleeping with another man, and Nate is beside himself about what could have happened to Lisa, imagining the worst.

I'm Sorry, I'm Lost: Nate, David, and Claire aren't too happy to hear that Ruth and George are getting married. Nate is becoming an irresponsible parent, drinking heavily and leaving Maya at home alone. Federico visits a strip club where he meets a stripper that provides something that his wife hasn't in quite some time, and Nate doesn't attend Ruth and George's wedding after getting a shocking phone call from the police about his missing wife.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All 13 episodes in Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Each show features the same wonderfully detailed imagery, making every frame a treat to look at. The show continues to exhibit a wide color palette that helps enhance the symbolic nature of the visuals, contrasting the darker and lighter sides of life in the Fisher home. Black levels and contrast are well done, and shadow detail flawless. The source material is mostly pristine, with only a few instances of grain and dirt.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: As with the other season sets, the audio for each episode is Dolby Digital 5.1. The show isn't very action-heavy, but the surrounds are still lively throughout the season, exhibiting a surprising amount of bass, especially during the various death scenes that open each episode. The true highlight is the dialogue, presented here with the sort of crisp clarity that can only come from a discrete digital mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Carnivale: The Complete First Season
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by Directors Michael Engler, Alan Poul, Alan Ball, and writers Eric Kaplan and Rick Cleveland
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Seasons One and Two Recap - Collection of clips from previous seasons.
Extras Review: Also similar to the other seasonal DVD sets of Six Feet Under, there is a nice collection of extra features, including five audio commentary tracks, with each one providing specific details about what went into filming them. The five tracks and their respective participants are: The Eye Inside with director Michael Engler, Nobody Sleeps with director Alan Poul, The Trap with writer Bruce Eric Kaplan, Death Works Overtime with writer Rick Cleveland, and I'm Sorry, I'm Lost with director Alan Ball.

Disc 1 features a Seasons One and Two Recap, which is a two-minute segment of clips.

Each episode on each disc also features a "Previously On..." and a "Next On..." segment, as well as a Series Index that provides information about them.

Disc 5 houses the last two extras, including three Deleted Scenes, one from each of the episodes Nobody Sleeps, Everyone Leaves, and Death Works Overtime. These are interesting clips, but nothing revelatory is here that shouldn't have been left on the cutting room floor.

Living on the Ledge: a Bird's-eye View of the Third Season is a surprisingly comprehensive (given its rather brief, 13-minute running time) featurette that details the storylines in Season Three through the point of view of the creator, Alan Ball.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

As far as dramatic television goes, it doesn't get much, if any, better than this series. With the last season on the TV horizon, it's great to be able to revisit Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season, now that it's available on DVD from HBO Home Video.


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