What happens to Lisa in Six Feet Under? (Mystery explained)

Lili Taylor with Motorola phone during 2006 Park City - Moto on Main - Day 3 at 515 Main Street in Park City, Utah, United States. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
Lili Taylor with Motorola phone during 2006 Park City - Moto on Main - Day 3 at 515 Main Street in Park City, Utah, United States. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage) /

All five seasons of one of HBO’s best series to date are now streaming on Netflix, and I hope this means there will be new generations of fans of Six Feet Under. The Emmy Award-winning show is incredibly profound and impactful, following a family who runs a funeral home. The series tackles subjects of morality, love, and relationships, as the central characters navigate the ups and downs of life. Though Six Feet Under features an ensemble cast, the main character is arguably Nate, the eldest child of Nathaniel and Ruth.

At the start of the series, Nate is on his way home to Los Angeles to visit his family, which turns into a one-way ticket after learning that his dad has died. Leaving the life he established in Seattle behind, Nate agrees to run the funeral home with his brother David. Much of Six Feet Under focuses on Nate’s romance with Brenda, a woman he meets and hooks up with in the series premiere. But she’s not the only love interest he has during the five-season run.

Breaking down Nate and Lisa’s relationship

Unfortunately, Nate’s relationship with the character Lisa ends in tragedy when she goes missing and is eventually found dead. Her disappearance is a major plot point in the third and fourth seasons of the show. We’re breaking down what happens to her here, so beware of spoilers from this point on.

Nate and Lisa have an on-and-off relationship in Six Feet Under — they had a friends-with-benefits situation when Nate lived in Seattle and they were roommates, and their romance grows more serious later on. When Nate relocates back to Los Angeles, he seemingly forgets about Lisa and moves on to Brenda, with whom he falls in love. But after a while back in L.A., Nate and Claire travel to Seattle for a trip together in the second season and Nate reconnects with Lisa. Nate is in a bad place after learning about his condition and then has an attack while in Seattle. He uses Lisa for emotional support and they end up sleeping together.

Lisa and Nate have a child and get married

After the Seattle trip, Nate and Claire go back to Los Angeles and go about their lives. One day, however, Nate runs into Lisa at a grocery store in L.A. and he learns she’s pregnant with his child. It’s implied that Nate had already impregnated Lisa once before and she had an abortion, but she decides to keep this one. Meanwhile, Nate and Brenda are trying to make things work and Nate decides to come clean about Lisa’s pregnancy.

Lisa gives birth to a daughter named Maya, and in the season 3 premiere we get a flash-forward that reveals Lisa and Nate are married. But their relationship is far from perfect as the two continue to clash. It’s pretty apparent that Lisa has stronger feelings for Nate than Nate does for her, which is sad. Lisa annoys Nate and I’m not really sure why he marries her given he pretty clearly still loves Brenda.

Nate and Lisa’s relationship becomes very strained and they discuss breaking up. Lisa decides to go on a trip without Nate to visit her sister to give each other space, but unfortunately, she never returns.

Lisa goes missing and is later found dead

Lisa is nowhere to be found and Nate begins panicking at home with Maya. As more time goes on, it’s looking more and more troubling for Lisa’s fate. And sadly, in the season 3 finale, it’s revealed the police have found Lisa’s body on a beach in California. Upon hearing the news, Nate goes to a bar and starts drinking, which leads to a fight with one of the other patrons. Nate is pretty badly beaten up and drives to Brenda’s for comfort, despite them not being together.

The fourth season of Six Feet Under is understandably a difficult one for Nate as he tries to grieve and find closure without knowing what actually happened to Lisa. He also has trouble with her family over her funeral plans, as they want her to be cremated but Nate knows she wanted a natural burial. Eventually, he decides to trick her family by giving them another person’s ashes and pretending they’re Lisa’s. Later on in the season, though, Lisa’s sister Barb confronts him about the fake ashes and he admits what he did.

It’s revealed in season 4 that Hoyt probably killed Lisa

Finally, in the season 4 finale, we have some clarity on how Lisa might’ve died. After giving David a book that Barb and her husband Hoyt’s daughter Michaela wanted him to have, Nate goes to speak with the young girl about something. There was a photo of Lisa in the book, and he wants to know where it came from and why she put it in there. After a series of questions left unanswered, Michaela tells Nate to speak to her father about it. This raises an obvious red flag for Nate and he goes to see Hoyt in his office.

During his conversation with Hoyt, Nate discovers that Hoyt was there with Lisa on the beach the day that she died. Hoyt admits to having an affair with Lisa, explaining he used to drive to that location to meet with her secretly. Though he says he did not get angry with her that day and suggests she might have killed herself, Hoyt also drops the very suspicious line: “I couldn’t let her tell Barb.” He also says that Lisa wanted to break things off. All of this signals to Nate that he might’ve killed her, and what happens next heavily implies it.

Trigger Warning: Suicide

Barb is there in the hallway listening to the conversation, and Hoyt and Nate’s conversation is interrupted by her cries. Hoyt continues to cry and abruptly takes a gun out of his desk and shoots and kills himself. It’s a very sad ending to a very sad mystery in Six Feet Under, a tragedy that neither Lisa nor her loved ones deserved.

After this, Nate goes to see Brenda and asks her to marry him. As we’ve seen in the show, Nate doesn’t do a great job processing his emotions and relies very heavily on the romantic love of others. Instead of putting in the time to grieve Lisa properly, I believe he masks his pain with other people, which is what he does here with Brenda. He has a hard time being alone, which I totally understand, but sometimes his actions are misguided.

Many fans have thought the resolution to the Lisa mystery is rushed, and I kind of agree with that. It feels a bit random to have Hoyt be the one to have (seemingly) killed her, though it’s definitely a moment I didn’t see coming when I first watched the show.

According to an article from Mental Floss, actress Lili Taylor, who played Lisa, didn’t actually know about this dark twist until “the third episode from when it happened.” This makes me wonder how far in advance the writers came up with the idea, though Taylor references avoiding leaks as a potential reason why she wasn’t told.

Lisa’s death and the season 4 finale are just some of the many emotional moments of Six Feet Under. Ready to cry and feel all of the emotions? You can stream the full show on Netflix right now.

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