From the Cleavers to the Sopranos, every TV family has their fair share of dysfunction. Life is a tricky path to navigate and our families, for all their good intentions, sometimes veer us off course. So imagine trying to figure life out in a house that also happens to be a revolving door of death. Meet the Fishers of Six Feet Under.
They own a family-operated funeral home. The Fishers are experts in handling the delicate subject of death with sensitivity and aplomb. But when it comes to life and relationships...not so much. Their morgue may be pristine and organized, but the Fishers' family and romantic dynamics are messy and toxic. Still, despite all the traumas the Fishers inflict on themselves and each other, a few relationships manage to bloom, even on salted earth.
10 Toxic - Claire & Gabe
Claire has always been drawn to rebellious men, but there's a big difference between bad boy and bad news. Gabe is indisputably the latter. To prove his jerkitude, Mr. Perma-Smirk brags to the whole school that Claire sucked his toes. This leads to a barrage of slut-shaming nicknames aimed at Claire. She gets her sweet, if not macabre, revenge by stealing a human foot from the family morgue and leaving it in Gabe's locker. Hardly the foundations of a solid relationship.
Gabe eventually comes back into Claire's life, even more disturbed than before. This time, Claire realizes that Gabe is no longer just an emotional danger to her; he's a physical one as well. She gives him the boot, quite possibly with a severed foot inside it.
9 Best - Ruth & Sarah
Ruth harbors resentment for her sister Sarah due to a rather ill-fated babysitting incident. Under Sarah's care, a young Nate lost his virginity to one of Sarah's friends whilst an even younger David got lost in the woods. Next time Ruth needs child care, she should call the Babysitters Club.
This leads to a years-long falling out between the sisters. Ruth has every right to be livid. But what's at the core of their feud isn't this incident; it's the fact that Ruth resents her free-spirited sister. Ruth has always done what she "should" do whereas Sarah always did what she wanted. But the series ends with the sisters patching things up and Ruth moving in with Sarah. Ruth has always defined herself in (dysfunctional) relation to men; now with her sister, Ruth is able to find herself instead.
8 Toxic - Claire & Russell
Can everyone just agree that art school Claire is intolerable? She turns into every stereotype imaginable, morphing into an unrecognizable, pretentious, pseudo-intellectual. But as bad as she is, her boyfriend Russell is a bajillion times worse.
His ambiguous sexuality is tough for Claire to figure out, though this isn't Russell's fault. What decidedly is is Russell viewing his lovers, friends, and fellow artists through the lens of how they'd read in his inevitable memoir. And the dude has insecurity pouring out of his ears, making a jealous scene at Claire's art show. Russell is one are artist Claire needs to paint out of her life.
7 Best - Nate & David
Nate and David are The Odd Couple of brothers. Nate is the granola grocer, and David is the buttoned-down family prodigy. But as much as they may butt heads, ultimately they need each other. It's Nate who convinces David not to sell the funeral home. This is a rare selfless move on Nate's part, because the home is David's life. He would truly be lost without it.
The scales tip considerably when looking at all David has done for Nate. Though he has his flaws, David is the most emotionally generous member of the Fisher clan. When Nate's wife Lisa dies, David takes over everything. His actions revolve mainly around funeral arrangements, but he also commits a felony. David lies to Lisa's family about the cremation, so Nate can honor her burial wishes in secret. The pain of that situation is unimaginable, but it's a small comfort having a brother who's got your back.
6 Toxic - Nate & Brenda
This relationship gives new meaning to the term "beautiful disaster". What's so heartbreaking is that, once upon a time, Nate and Brenda really loved each other. Both of them are people who have suffered severe emotional trauma, but instead of healing, they're committed to doing what's wrong for them.
Every pivotal moment in Nate and Brenda's relationship is a reaction to something. The biggest would be after Nate finds out that Lisa may have been murdered. This is ever the perfect segue into proposing marriage to Brenda. Not ominous at all. For seasons, fans have been rooting for Nate and Brenda to fix their hot mess-ness and be a couple. When they finally are, their marriage is more Stephen King than fairy tale.
5 Best - Ruth & Bettina
No cadaver, no matter how mangled, how disfigured, could ever be as scary as Ruth Fisher's wardrobe. Frumpy, lifeless, and sad. Ruth only seems to allow herself to transgress when it comes to men, whether it's an affair with her hairdresser or the funeral home's hilariously awkward apprentice.
Bettina lets Ruth live out her wild side with no strings attached. Usually, Ruth tamps her feelings down until they arbitrarily explodes all over her family. But with Bettina, Ruth can finally be herself. And Ruth isn't just some emotional drain; Bettina truly enjoys her company. Though they both gain so much, but their relationship is never transactional.
4 Toxic - Ruth & George
As simpering as she is, poor Ruth has suffered enough. When she meets George, he's charming and vivacious, the exact kind of man to bring Ruth out of her shell. Their whirlwind romance leads to them marrying only six weeks into their relationship. But they're so deliriously happy, the audience can't help but root for the happy couple, even though their quickie marriage screams "bad decision!"
Their honeymoon phase is even shorter than the engagement. Not only does Ruth discover that George has a lineup of ex-wives, but also an estranged, menacing son. Oh yeah, and George also hid the fact that he has major depression and suffers from paranoid hallucinations. While Ruth, or anyone, can sympathize with a person's mental condition, she made it clear that the last thing she wants is to take care of somebody. Ruth, you should really start by taking care of yourself.
3 Best - Claire & Ted
To say "opposites attract" doesn't do this romance justice. Sure, Claire's an artistic liberal and Ted's a suit-and-tie Republican. But emotionally, these two could not be more similar. Claire couldn't have a bigger heart if she tried. After Nate has his stroke, Ted not only drives Claire to the hospital, but he stays with her the entire night. That's something none of Claire's unhinged artsy exes would ever do. He's a keeper and she knows it.
Still, Claire is a lost soul. She leaves Ted and her family home to go to New York. But in the gut-wrenching series finale flash-forward, Claire and Ted reconnect. Six Feet Under may try to convince you otherwise, but happiness is possible.
2 Toxic - Nate & Lisa
Their marriage is a powder keg of a disaster. Never marry somebody out of obligation. Just don't do it. Yet only the lost soul of Nate Fisher could take a shotgun wedding and turn into something selfish. Nate has no idea who he is or what purpose he has in the world. When opportunity presents itself to latch onto a role, he grabs it with his entire might. Loving father and dutiful husband is as good as anything else, so why not?
Because you don't love her, dummy! Lisa has carried a torch for Nate since they met; Nate could not be more apathetic. Now married, Lisa finally has the power and she wields it with an iron fist. She's controlling and resentful, (rightfully) believing that Nate still loves Brenda. That being said, nobody deserves a death as gruesome as Lisa's. It's every bit as tragic as her sham of a marriage.
1 Best - David & Keith
Not only are David and Keith iconic to the show; they're iconic to TV history as we know it. Their characters have been universally praised as being the first accurate depiction of a gay couple on television. Yet they never once feel like figureheads for a movement. David and Keith are their own complex, lovable, flawed people. David is closeted; Keith is out. That right there is a huge conflict. They break up, make up, rinse, repeat. They dabble in polyamory and become fathers. But throughout their rollercoaster highs and lows, David and Keith's love for each other never dies. And in the funeral business, that says a lot.