Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season

While the fifth season will hit cable in just a few months, HBO lags behind with the release schedule of Six Feet Under, delaying this third season in order to maximise world-wide licensing and resell value. That means that the revelations of season four are old news to some, while others await the arrival of this box to find out what happened to Nate Fisher, who went under the knife for brain surgery at the end of season two. Curiously, dealing with the cliff-hanger nature of season two's end is highlighted in the only featurette on this box set: "Living on the Ledge: A Bird's Eye View of the Third Season," which examines the construction of a heavily symbolic music video-esque promo scored by Coldplay's "A Rush of Blood to the Head." Restricted by the season two cliff-hanger, the promo explores the progress of the Fisher family relationships without giving away their future. This review is, of course, hampered by similar strictures, so an exploration of this 13-episode arc will have to remain vague: the extended Fisher family, centred on their L.A.-based funeral home, take solitary journeys this year, exploring their burgeoning sexuality (Claire), their loneliness (Ruth), their personal and professional commitment (David and Nate) and their roles in each others' lives. New friends include some spectacular guest turns from the note-perfect character actors that join the ensemble, including Kathy Bates, Patricia Clarkson, James Cromwell and Catherine O'Hara. The expansion beyond the home is crucial and revelatory, and the level of craft in every aspect of the show's construction strives for new heights. Five episode commentaries by different directors explore the depths of this attention to detail. Falling somewhere between British and American network models for episodic television, Six Feet Under is more than a TV show, it's an epic mini-series in several volumes, 13 chapters at a time. Plus: deleted scenes. (HBO/Warner)