Spoiler alert: This story reveals the plot of the series finale.
Last night, ''Six Feet Under" rode to an end with an operatic, bittersweet, and deeply satisfying climax. The 75-minute episode built up to a sweeping 6-minute epilogue in which we glimpsed the futures -- and the deaths -- of each major character as the young Claire Fisher drove east to New York. We saw the image of Nate fall out of Claire's sideview mirror in LA, as she sped forward into decades of tomorrows.
You couldn't have asked for a more arresting and poignant farewell sequence, after five seasons of melodramatic irresolution. At last, ''Six Feet Under" leaped out of its day-to-day angst and into the closure of the long view, set to the heightened strains of a song called ''Breathe Me" by Sia. The montage was an exhilarating rush into finality, each character's epigraph like a sign on Claire's journey, until, ultimately, we saw ''Claire Simone Fisher: 1983-2085." Fade to white.
Talk about conclusions. Last night, all of the Fishers' stories were tied up forever. As Claire drove, we flashed forward to an elderly Ruth on her deathbed, George, Claire, and David waiting by her side, and then we saw ''Ruth O'Conner Fisher: 1946-2025." We saw Keith and David marry, we saw Claire reconnect with and marry Ted, we saw Keith get shot to death while working for his own security company. We saw David greet Keith's ghost 15 years later (''David James Fisher: 1969-2044"), and we saw a wizened Brenda -- with Billy, of course -- quietly nod out (''Brenda Chenowith: 1969-2051").
In a way, the Fisher story came full circle, from Nathaniel Fisher's passing in the very first episode of ''Six Feet Under" to the deaths of the rest of the Fisher family in the last. And each of the white-lit future shots also held information about the characters' lives, as well as their deaths. If you looked carefully, you saw that Durrell went on to work at the funeral home with his father, David; that Anthony was gay; that Brenda found another man; that Ruth did indeed go on to start a doggie day-care center at her sister's home. The aging makeup on the characters was sketchy at times, and yet that fit the sequence's rampant embalming of the characters.
Obviously, ''Six Feet Under" never shied away from the subject of death, but its last moments were an orgy of mortality. They were a bold illustration of what creator Alan Ball, who wrote and directed the episode, has been getting at all along -- that life passes in the blink of an eye. There's no denying that we all die. In the series' crowning moments, all the ''Six Feet Under" lives have wound to a stop, little more than photographs on the walls in the elderly Claire's home.
And what about last night's finale before the emotional final sequence? It, too, satisfied. Each member of the Fisher family seemed to earn a bit of peace at long last, both in their imperfect relationships and their troubled fantasies. Ruth and Brenda left behind their tension to raise Maya and newborn Willa; Claire and Ruth felt and finally spoke of their mutual love; George and Ruth remained close friends; David stared down his own masochistic spinelessness; Brenda had a consoling vision of Nate's acceptance; and David and Keith bought and redecorated the funeral home.
On the eve of Claire's departure to New York, the extended family gathered to reminisce and warmly offer a toast to Nate. It had to be the most harmonious Fisher dinner ever.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.