Six Feet Under: The Complete Second Season

When HBO mortician series Six Feet Under debuted more than five years ago, it was notable for its intense, poignant and very real look at the Fisher family, owners and proprietors of Fisher & Sons funeral home: except that as the first season opened, Pa Fisher met his maker (and a crosstown bus) while namesake son Nate struggled with his own sense of destiny. Or lack thereof. Meanwhile, diligent gay son David struggled with his sexuality while youngest daughter Claire just struggled. The whole dysfunctional clan was a mess of contradictions, conflicts and mostly internal struggle. Well, the second season (now out on DVD) brings those challenges to the surface, and all 13 episodes of 2000's second season are more confident, assured, and importantly, stray away from the Fisher Funeral Home and into the world of these wandering souls — whether their Los Angeles is real or of the imagination. Almost immediately it moves away from the business plotline of corporate baddie Kroner and into David's off-again, on-again and off-again relationship with Keith, Claire's struggle with her artistic inclinations, and Nate's burgeoning problems with his increasingly risky girlfriend Brenda. But it's the flights of fancy that have by now become one of the show's trademarks that really get to soar for the first time this season. From the very first episode, appearances from beyond by Pa Fisher marked the show, but this time a whole elaborate fantasy world is being constructed by each of the Fishers and their interconnected paramours. It's exactly this type of unfettered narrative ambition — obviously enabled by the show's "from beyond" subtexts — that makes Six Feet Under what it is: a drama not about death but living, a show not concerning mere morticians but young ambitious strivers. One that offers more answers than a box of tissues slid across a glass coffee table, but whose comforts have never seemed more appropriate. Though still typically sparse on DVD, select episode commentaries are good enough to warrant more, and a featurette on constructing corpses gives a glimpse into the working methods inside the prep room. Plus: recaps. (HBO/Warner)