Pushing Daisies s2 ep 13

The last ever ‘Pushing Daisies’, then.  Perhaps too quirky and too whimsical ever to find long-running success, but nonetheless suffused with a unique vision.  And this episode, ‘Kerplunk’, was a satisfying way to round things off.

The plot revolved around a sort of aquatic circus, the Aquacade; as ever stunningly realised by the production designers, who clearly took the opportunity to blow pretty much all of the remaining budget on it (keeping a bit back for Olive’s restaurant, ‘The Intrepid Cow’, seen fleetingly at the end).  Among the regular performers are the Aquadolls, long-time rivals of Lily and Vivian’s Darling Mermaid Darlings.  One of the Aquadolls is killed by a shark while performing.  This creates a vacancy at the Aquacade which brings Lily and Vivian out of retirement, and sends the owner of the shark to Emerson Cod’s door hoping that Emerson can prove that he wasn’t responsible.

And from there on it’s pretty much ‘Pushing Daisies’ business as normal: Emerson, Itty Bitty, Ned and Chuck get on the case.  There’s tension between Ned and Chuck because it looks as if Lily and Vivian are going to tour Europe, which would take them even further away from Chuck.  Not that the sisters know she’s alive, of course.

And with five minutes or so left, we’re taken into what looks like a hastily-written ending.  In fairness, it follows on quite nicely from some of the themes of the episodes, and it requires everyone to behave in character, so it could have been a lot worse.  It’s a more or less happy ending all round for Chuck, Lily, Vivian, Emerson, and Olive.  And if they’re all happy, likely Ned will be too.  A show unusually in thrall to love ending on a positive note:  I wouldn’t have liked it to go out any other way.

“Endings”, announces Jim Dale as a parting shot, “are where we begin”.   Part-acknowledgement that it was open-ended enough to enable the viewer to imagine the cast living their lives into an infinite future, and partly (perhaps) a hint that ‘Pushing Daisies’ itself might live on in another format.  I’ll be surprised if the mooted film gets off the ground, and I’m not sure where the proposed comic books can take us: so much of this show was about how it looked.   It looked fabulous, from first to last.  It was fabulous.

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Pushing Daisies s2 ep 12

Are the writers trying to let us down gently?  This penultimate episode, ‘Water and Power’, was oddly low-key and regretful.  Emerson Cod took centre-stage as the murder of the week brought his elusive baby-mama back into his orbit, raising his hopes that he might finally get to see his long-lost daughter.  By the end he sort of does, although not perhaps in the way he’d anticipated. 

At least the designers had another opportunity to put the money up on screen, with a fabulously designed Art Deco-esque dam as the scene of the murder.  It looked wonderful, but I’m not sure that anyone’s heart was completely in it this week.

And back at the Pie Hole, Randy Mann was given the brush-off by Olive.  She was then persuaded to relent by Ned, who must have totally forgotten his feelings of jealousy from last week.  Or the writers did.  I didn’t.   Anyway, at first it looks as if Randy’s going to be her rebound guy, but he deserves better, and so does Olive.  Although with only a week to go it’s starting to look as if that, Ned’s jealousy and the ten-second appearance of his father a few weeks ago are simply going to have to be left unresolved.

Pushing Daisies s2 ep 11

With this episode, “Window Dressed to Kill”,  we’re into the final three episodes of ‘Pushing Daisies’, as yet unseen in their country of origin (although transmission dates have now been fixed).  The title refers to the case of the week: Erin, a window-dresser at Dicker’s Department Store (lovingly rendered and just a little bit camp) has been found dead.  Ned is sticking to the vow he made at the end of the last episode – no more touching dead stuff – so Emerson and Chuck team up to solve the case.  It becomes more complex when, much to Emerson’s disgust, “suspect numero uno” also gets killed.

Olive’s on an emotional rollercoaster this week.  Firstly, the two guys who kidnapped her when she was 9 have escaped from prison and are looking for her.  Turns out there’s more to the kidnap than meets the eye.   Charming taxidermist Randy Mann (David Arquette) is back on the scene, and interested in her. 

Ned is also obliged to pretend that he’s engaged to Olive, initially at least to the delight of viewers like me who think Ned would be much better off with la Snook.  But it turns a bit uncomfortable: after a few ill-chosen words, Olive’s fantasy that Ned might have feelings for her is shattered – again.  And look: I know these are all fictional characters, and that it’s beyond sad to get too worked up about them.  But, hell, I like Olive; I don’t think it’s fair that her heart keeps getting broken; and there comes a point at which seeing this week after week becomes a bit draining. 

Ned thereafter decides not to pretend to be something he’s not and decides to use his powers again, leading to a terrific scene involving the police, the convicts, a van, a rhinoceros, and a wonderful deadpan one-liner from Lily (Swoosie Kurtz).  Olive, as ever when her heart’s being wrenched, sings (Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’), and as ever it’s just lovely.

And right at the end there’s a hint that the Ned/Olive relationship might yet have a couple of twists in it.  Better be quick about it, though: two episodes (and a comic book, whatever) to go.  I’m going to miss this a lot.

Pushing Daisies s2 ep 10

Anyone who thought that my praise of episode 8 was a bit extravagant might want to skip the rest of this review.  This was every bit as good; possibly better.  Adopting the naming convention used by ‘Friends’, I’ll call it ‘The One With The Norwegians’.

The Norwegians are a crack team of private detectives hired by Vivien Charles to find out what happened to her “gentleman caller”, Dwight.  Emerson, Ned and Chuck know only too well what happened, but can’t let Olive in on the secret.  This in turn provokes Olive to throw her lot in with the Norwegians, all of whom wear identical costumes modelled on the Norwegian flag – and they have a spare in Olive’s size.  Their secret weapon is a van, their Mobile Investigative Lab Facility, which they call ‘Mother’.  I love this programme.

The investigation, of course, brings them closer and closer to the Pie Holers, who have another problem – Chuck’s father, ‘Daddy Deadbucks’ as Emerson calls him, has upped and left, taking the knowledge of Ned’s powers with him.  A lot to worry about.

All of this is bound up in an ecstatic whirl of laugh-out-loud dialogue, dazzling costume and production design, and the usual light-touch addressing of some pretty deep issues: this week friendship, trust, feeling isolated; and, of course, love.  As ever it’s Olive who gets the heart-melting moment as she and Ned hang off the edge of a cliff,  but really the whole thing just made me want to shout with joy.  Utterly wonderful.

This is where transmission broke off in America, but ABC has now confirmed that the last three episodes will be broadcast in about a month.  Here in the UK we’re getting them a bit sooner, but thereafter – apart from some sort of comic book afterlife – we’ll be done with ‘Pushing Daisies’ for good.

Pushing Daisies s2 ep 9

Not as good as last week – how could it be? – but still with enough incidental pleasure to keep the viewer happy.  Highlight was Emerson and Olive teaming up to solve the murder of a lighthouse keeper, and evolving a feisty and affectionate relationship in so doing.  And was it just me, or was there perhaps a bit more…?  Maybe I’m reading too much into the giant cigar Emerson thrust at Olive.

I’m less comfortable with Chuck’s father.  As I’ve said before, for a show sometimes accused of being all colour and whimsy ‘Pushing Daisies’ grapples with some pretty big issues of love and loss.  But Chuck’s resuscitated father is unlikeable on a grand scale, and the sourness he’s bringing to the show is threatening to overshadow the good stuff.  (And, if he needs to cover up his disfigured face, how does he eat?  Do internal organs regenerate even if skin doesn’t?)  With any luck  Ned’ll touch him again.

Pushing Daisies s2 ep 8

About love:  unrequited (especially), requited, and for those we have lost and will never speak to again.  About murder at the Comfort Food Cook-Off.  About the Finger Lickin’ Donut Hole, which, of course, sounds delicious and filthy.  About Olive Snook’s cleavage.  About the Waffle Nazi (Patrick Fischler, again), Colonel Likkin’ and the Muffin Buffalo.  About holding hands.  And just about the most astonishingly brilliant episode of this show I’ve seen.  I don’t understand why the whole world doesn’t love it.

And Kristin Chenoweth singing ‘Eternal Flame’:  “Say my name…”, “It’s Chuck.”  I think I’m going to cry.

Pushing Daisies s2 ep 7

An absolutely wonderful example of this show at its best , combining charm, menace, and Olive Snook’s specialty of “counter-intelligence via pie delivery”.  The charm comes from the murder of the week, oddly enough, as the Valley Girl widow of a rich elderly man comes totally under, like, suspicion for his, like, murder.  There’s a deliriously absurd and brilliant scene in which Ned has to negotiate his way through the old man’s trophy room – filled with dead lions, bears, and the like.  The writers are savvy enough to cut away and allow us to deduce what happened from the roar we hear offstage.  Meantime the Pie Holers also have to deal with the Bellmen, a green-clad gang of modern-day would-be Robin Hoods who might be involved in the death.  I can’t do this show justice in a couple of paragraphs – pretty much every line this week demands to be quoted.

The sinister comes from Dwight Dixon, played by Steven Root, late of ‘The West Wing’ (and on that topic, RIP Ron Silver).  Dwight’s onto Chuck, and to find out exactly what he wants Ned’s reluctantly driven to the conclusion that he’s going to have to revive her father to ask him what Dwight’s about.  The episode ends with Ned and Chuck digging through to her father’s coffin.  Can this conceivably end well?   With only three more US-broadcast episodes to go, end it must; given the shoddy way ITV’s treated ‘Pushing Daisies’ viewers to date, I don’t imagine for a second they’ll pull a Sci-Fi and show us the three episodes after that, as yet unseen in America.