Badass Drama: Six Feet Under

“Time Flies”
Written by Craig Wright

Billy (Jeremy Sisto) and George (James Cromwell) are “satellite characters” orbiting the protagonist family in Six Feet Under. Both characters have been plagued with numerous mental disorders which have been damaging their relationships with families and lovers.

A birthday party brings them together for the first and only time in the series.

There is nothing more exciting in TV drama than interactions between unrelated characters. The writers of Six Feet Under know this and take full advantage of the moment.

For five seasons, we have watched Billy Chenowith grow and regress as he fights mental illness and the temptation to go off his meds. Because of the epic timespan provided by TV, we experience Billy’s struggle and pain as he cuts a tattoo off his back, creates and destroys his own art, checks into a mental institution, and kisses his sister on the lips.

This is a loaded character. Because of his tremendous performance in the first four seasons of this show, Jeremy Sisto barely needs to act anymore. We already know what he’s thinking. We already understand his pain.

But why is this scene special? What do we learn from Billy’s brief interaction with George?

We see Billy’s future.

Season five is the last act of Six Feet Under, and it’s almost time to wrap up our favorite characters in an interesting and satisfying way. As George talks about shock treatments and meds, Billy (and the viewer!) have a moment to reflect on the greater implications.

But the genius doesn’t stop there. Instead of ending the scene after the point has been made, the writers add a moment of heightened reality that will cement the scene in the viewer’s mind: Billy and George sing.

It’s an impromptu moment that would never work in a lesser show, but the actors, writers, and director pull it off exquisitely. It’s a song that George would have known as a kid, yet it’s famous enough to transcend the generation gap. It’s a song that demands a response from someone who understands. It’s a song with simple, poignant lyrics, and it provides an abstract moment in a brutally honest show.


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