Calling all angels. Six Feet Under’s final season was full of high marks and impactful episodes, with the sixth episode of the season, “The Rainbow Of Her Reasons” being the episode that tied together the underlying turmoil from both past and present. Written by Joey Soloway (credited as Jill Soloway, they announced in June of 2020 a preference to be known as Joey moving forward) and directed by independent filmmaker Mary Harron, the episode largely focused on sisterhood and feminism, issues that while always important to the series, never had received as great of a spotlight as they did here.
As was the case with every episode of Six Feet Under, “The Rainbow Of Her Reasons” opened with a death, although in this case, it hit particularly close to home. Fiona Kleinschmidt, the artist friend of Sarah’s who had taken Nate’s virginity, was on a hike in the canyon with Sarah when she collapsed and plummeted to her death. Sarah, distraught with grief, “circled the wagons” and had all of her closest friends come to the Fisher home for a several day mourning and remembrance of their departed friend.
This gathering of women was just the excuse Ruth needed to leave George in their new apartment for a few days. Ruth herself was lost, completely adrift, not knowing what direction to turn towards and unable to see what she should be doing with her life. She was done being a caregiver, was barely speaking to her daughter and subconsciously knew that she should be near her sister Sarah, Betina and the other women that were joining them. For Ruth, this weekend would become a cleanse of sorts. She let go of her long running resentment towards Fiona for sleeping with Nate when she was an adult and he was barely a teenager. Her defensiveness towards her daughter, which was all stemmed from seeing Claire go down the caregiver path herself in her relationship with Billy melted away. She began to see what her life could be, a life surrounded by friends, healthy supportive relationships with women where she wasn’t depended upon and she could truly just be herself. For Ruth, that was something she’d never been. She spent her young life caring for her grandmother and then went immediately into starting a family at 18. She was finally getting a glimpse of what a life of her own could look like.
Claire also had a prominent role in this episode, attempting to adjust to having a desk job, surrounded by people who knew nothing of art. Claire was at a strange crossroads of sorts, questioning if she truly was an artist or not. One of the highlights of this episode was a trademark Six Feet Under musical number, this time with Claire daydreaming to “You Light Up My Life”, turning it into an anti panty hose anthem, “You Ride Up My Thighs”, which Lauren Ambrose sold like a true pop icon. Out of all of the amazing musical numbers throughout the series, this one takes the cake as not only the most memorable but also the most poignant. Why exactly were women expected to wear those torture devices? Taking a detour like this in an otherwise heavy episode is part of what makes “The Rainbow Of Her Reasons” as good as it is.
Nate, all season long, had been staring death right in the face. Just two episodes prior, one of his best friends from high school had died and now, the woman who he first had sex with. With Brenda going to join the grieving women at the Fisher home, which now included feminist sex writer Suzy Bright (always referring to her as a feminist sex writer was a great ongoing gag throughout the episode), Nate was unexpectedly joined by Billy at his home. This was one of those great full circle moments, with these two characters who have had such a tumultuous history together, here in the final season, having what would be their final scene together, alone. No Brenda or Claire related tension added in, just these two men, both in pain, being there for each other. As Nate explained his feelings over Fiona passing away, Billy was truly there in the moment for him, listening intently. Nate explained that Fiona gave all of herself to him, let him see her fully, a feeling we can all relate to. That first time another person fully exposed themselves to us is almost more significant than the sexual act to follow. It’s intimacy, it’s trust, it’s a revealing of oneself. Billy, a character who had been such a source of aggravation for Nate over the years, sat here and listened to the heavy hearted Nate, which in situations like this, is the best thing we can do for a person.
The final season of Six Feet Under went out of its way to emphasize that life continues to happen, no matter what. People come and people go. In “The Rainbow Of Her Reasons”, Rico was finally invited back home by Vanessa after their lengthy separation and George finally saw the writing on the wall and set Ruth free. Nate and Brenda grew further apart as Nate and Maggie’s connection (rooted in them understanding each other’s pain) intensified. Fiona left for good, as did Ruth’s resentment towards her, as did a part of Nate’s childhood.
Calling all angels. Of course this episode’s most memorable sequence is near the end, when all of the women gathered around Fiona’s body and washed her, paying tribute to their fallen friend. They broke into song, singing “Calling All Angels” while the show broke into a montage cutting back and forth between the women with Fiona and all of the other characters in their various stages of pain. This marks a pivotal moment in the final season, effectively ending the setup of everyone’s emotional turmoil and beginning the second half of the year where the narrative would soon take an unexpected turn with Nate’s death. The montage is incredibly touching, with the women giving their friend a beautiful send off, highlighted by Ruth (Frances Conroy) and her exceptional voice. The other characters featured in the montage show exactly how hard hitting this show could be emotionally, not afraid to realistically display pain and how people react to it.
The final season of Six Feet Under was a bold exploration of not only life and death, but pain and whether or not life is truly lived or not. “The Rainbow Of Her Reasons” in many ways felt like the end of the show. Everything we knew about these people and their lives was about to change drastically. This episode was the connection point between their past and their pain and to where their fates would ultimately lie. It was the last episode of the show we had known for five years and it was filled with music, genuine human emotion and a celebration of sisterhood that will never be forgotten. Calling all angels.