The Big Picture

  • Six Feet Under and Dexter both showcase Michael C. Hall’s exceptional performances, highlighting his ability to portray complex characters with nuanced depth.
  • David Fisher from Six Feet Under and Dexter Morgan from Dexter share traits like inner turmoil, personal codes of conduct, and a simmering darkness just beneath the surface.
  • A pivotal scene in Six Feet Under where David confronts a competitor reveals Hall’s intense and chilling acting abilities, foreshadowing his future success as Dexter Morgan.


The Alan Ball-produced HBO family drama Six Feet Under was the second part of the epic tag team of Sunday night television at the beginning of the 21st century that set a new gold standard for family dramas between 2001 and 2005. The series aired for several seasons alongside The Sopranos and though the subject and story couldn’t have been more different, the two shows touched on dysfunctional, interpersonal relationships within a nuclear family. Most recently, Netflix has picked Six Feet Up for its streaming catalog and is currently trending on the streamer, allowing a brand-new generation to see some of the most well-written and well-acted material from the last two decades.

The show stars Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Frances Conroy, Rachel Griffiths, and Richard Jenkins. The cast is outstanding, but it is the performance of Hall that really stands out as a gay man struggling with his sexual identity and chosen profession within the family funeral business, Fisher & Sons. Hall plays David Fisher and was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in 2002. In his nuanced portrayal of David, there are several glimpses of the character that he would go on to play in another game-changing show called Dexter. But there is one scene in particular where, when seeing it, you feel the presence of the meticulous serial killer, Dexter Morgan, that would make Hall a household name and a perennial Emmy contender on the hit Showtime series.

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Six Feet Under

A chronicle of the lives of a dysfunctional family who run an independent funeral home in Los Angeles.

Release Date
June 3, 2001

Cast
Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Rachel Griffiths, Justina Machado

Main Genre
Drama

Genres
Drama

Seasons
5

How Is David in ‘Six Feet Under’ Similar to Dexter in ‘Dexter’?

David and Keith's wedding on 'Six Feet Under'
Image via HBO

The characters are each extremely unique and all their own, but the way Michael C. Hall delivers both David Fisher and Dexter Morgan through very sharpened and nuanced performances that are among the best performances on modern television, you can see several similarities. In Six Feet Under, David is very uptight, meticulous, fastidious, and insecure. He is constantly worried about how other people perceive him as seen in the first season and, in particular, when he meets the eventual love of his life, Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick). At first, David has difficulty accepting the situation and his feelings for Keith, who is extremely proud of his sexuality. But as David faces an inner turmoil stemming from his conflicted orthodox religious beliefs and his homosexuality that impacts his interactions, including a dark side that finds him engaging in risky behavior and an eventual arrest, it’s in this layer we see the glimmers of Dexter Morgan.

Dexter Morgan, the protagonist of the Showtime series Dexter, based on the books by Jeff Lindsay, shares his fair share of traits with David. Dexter works in a job that helps people through his work as a blood splatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department, working to bring closure as best he can. But minus the surface-level comparisons in careers, it’s in the performance of Hall that we see how Dexter is also terribly torn over a personal code of conduct and morality. Not to mention, Dexter’s turmoil is woven into his insatiable need to murder those whom he deems unworthy. In this, both characters have to show enormous amounts of restraint, especially when Dexter is holding back in Season 2 of the series because of Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King) always tailing the serial killer. David and Dexter both feel like they are a simmering volcano trying not to erupt. For the most part, they are successful — until they are not. That is when we get some of the most memorable scenes and dialogue from Hall as both David and Dexter.

The Scene in ‘Six Feet Under’ That Reveals Michael C. Hall as ‘Dexter’

It is in the first season of Six Feet Under in the fourth episode entitled, “Familia” that we get our first and probably best, glimpse of the transformation from the fastidious, upstanding member of society, David, and the ugliness and insecurity of what is boiling just beneath the cool and calm facade on the surface. In the scene, David and his brother Nate (Krause) are having a cup of coffee in a diner with a young man named Matthew Gilardi (Gary Hershberger) from a large conglomerate of funeral homes who are hell-bent on buying out Fisher & Sons and adding it to their funeral home emporium.

The brothers are determined not to sell, preferring to continue the long history of the family business established by their father Nathaniel (Jenkins) some 30 years prior. But Gilardi is like a dog with a bone, and his persistence and pompous attitude eventually cause David to blow his top.

The Explosive Anger David Previews in ‘Six Feet Under’ Has a Distinct ‘Dexter’ Vibe

What Michael C. Hall does particularly well is deliver his dialogue with great articulation and directness. This verbal precision along with his penetrating glare and piercing stare make him far more intimidating than he would be otherwise. It is reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in many ways. David is so reserved and timid that when he asserts himself, it is that much more impactful and memorable. This is also why he shines so brightly in Dexter.

In one scene at the 40-minute mark of the episode, David has just had a confrontation with the ghost of a Latino gang member that he is prepping for a viewing named Manuel “Paco” Bolin (Jacob Vargas) who was killed by rivals. Feeling emboldened by the challenge put to him by the headstrong and assertive Paco, David decides he’s not going to take any more shit from Gilardi and the Kroehner Company trying to push Fisher & Sons out of the industry. It carries over into the scene with Hall showing audiences how he excels in the role of the serial killer, Dexter. After Nate declines his offer, the smug and pretentious competitor Gilardi pushes too far, which prompts David to unload on him and makes his position crystal clear. Gilardi says, “I’ll make it simple. You either accept our offer by the end of the day or I’ll make it my personal mission to bury you by the end of the month. David, are you in on this suicide mission?”

David gives him the iciest of stares, leans forward, and pushes his plate across the table, clanging on the glasses before replying in a matter-of-fact way, with strong Dexter vibes. “You just threatened my family…What do you expect us to do, run and hide? One day when your mind isn’t on Fisher & Sons, I will find you or someone you love.” Gilardi laughs, but David doubles down on the threat, “I’m not saying anyone’s going to die. There are tragedies far worse than death. Things you couldn’t even dream of, you spineless, candy-ass, corporate fuck! Just give me a reason.” Nate and Gilardi sit in stunned silence at the dark turn in the conversation over a light lunch and coffee. It’s a moment that sends chills down your spine and is a clear precursor that Hall had more than enough macabre to kill it (no pun intended) as Dexter Morgan. Finally, he leaves the ball in Gilardi’s court, lying back in his chair, exhaling, and asking, “It’s your choice. Are we worth the trouble, Mr. Gilardi?” Gilardi is so stupefied by the turn of events that he still can’t respond. David ends the meeting by saying, “Lunch is over. Get lost.” It’s Hall at his darkest, and we think it’s a great preview of what he would become just a few years later on Dexter.

Six Feet Under is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Watch on Netflix

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