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Death and Honey: The Scent of Long Buried Secrets on "Pushing Daisies"

Um, wow.

If you saw last night's brilliant and heartbreaking episode of Pushing Daisies ("Corpiscle"), you know exactly what I'm talking about. (And if you didn't catch it, shame on you for missing out on the most astoundingly inventive series to come along in years!) While this installment was sadly the last produced episode of Pushing Daisies before the strike, it was the absolute perfect cliffhanger--in scope, tone, plot, and characterization--to nine episodes of whimsy, charm, and the very best witty dialogue this side of Dashiell Hamnett.

The facts were these: this week's episode--written by Lisa Joy and directed by Brian Dannelly (Saved!)--itself revolved around a murder spree in which the bodies of insurance adjusters from Uber-Life Life Insurance turned up outside the home of a boy thrice turned down for a heart transplant, but it was also about the fractured relationship between Ned and Chuck, who recently learned that her childhood sweetheart had inadvertently killed her father years before. Chuck leaves Ned and takes haven in the color-coordinated apartment of romantic rival Olive Snook.

Poor Chuck is desperately aching to share her secret--she's alive again--with someone, anyone, even the creepy Oscar Vibenus, an olfactory sleuth with a penchant for making inappropriate remarks (like that of keeping Chuck's hair in his pillow); she even considers letting him in on her secret. Meanwhile, Olive learns one of Aunt Lily's secrets after accidentally overdosing her with homeopathic anti-depressants in her pie: Lily is Chuck's mother!

Say what?

But before I act all shocked and surprised, let me be perfectly honest: I've actually known about this little plot twist for about six months now, since creator Bryan Fuller sketched out some of the major story beats intended for Pushing Daisies' first season. It's a secret that, like Chuck's and Lily's, has been terribly difficult to keep buried, but one that--in the end--needed to stay underground. (And if Fuller sticks to the plan he originally told me way back when, the results are bound to be as delicious as one of the Pie Maker's pies.)

As for the particulars behind this particular relationship, my theory is that Lily had a romance with Chuck's dad and then left young Chuck with him to raise so she could return to the Darling Mermaid Darlings tour. After all, Lily isn't exactly the most maternal figure (nor does she seem particularly fond of Chuck's dad, but that could just be bravado), so I can't see her raising Chuck, but it's clear that she does care for her daughter/niece. Loved the fact that she referenced seeing Chuck's "ghost" in "Pigeon" but that when she blinked she was gone. Also loved the fact that, because Chuck always lit the furnace for the sisters with matching personality disorders, they were incapable of figuring it out for themselves.

Meanwhile, Emerson "Grudgy Grudge" Cod offered a revelation of his own: he too has a daughter out there in the world. While the gruff Emerson wouldn't offer any more information than that little tidbit, it's a tantalizing one that opens up Chi McBride's character in more ways than one. Emerson could be a formulaic private eye type, but Fuller and Co. have gone out of their way to invest him with his own character-defining foibles and quirks.

And what about that ending that had Chuck and Ned in the graveyard with Chuck begging Ned to bring her long-dead father back to life? Hmmm. Can Ned's powers really bring someone back from the dead (or, er, to life again) who has been dead and buried that long? And would they look healthy and normal or, well, like a walking corpse? The outcome of this scene will likely have major ramifications for Ned and Chuck's relationship as well as the thrust of the entire series.

What else did I love about last night's episode? A killer literally killing with kindness (or a blunt instrument with the word kindness scratched into it at any rate); Chuck and Oscar's rooftop exchange about the scent of death which clings to her and poor bum-shaved Digby; Lily's drug-induced hallucinations of crabs and mermaids (especially loved when the crab crawled onto Olive's shoulder at the end); Olive now knowing two major secrets about Chuck but being unable to tell either party; yet another monkey motif on the series with lovable scamp Bobo; the fantastic repetition of the line "There must be some Wish a Wish wish you wish for?"; the adorable little toques for Chuck's rooftop beehives; Ned throwing the snowball at the irritated man during his search for his missing love; Olive's gorgeous new wallpaper/bedspread/nightgown pattern.

Guest Stars of the Week: Murphy Brown's Grant Shaud played insurance adjuster Steve Kaiser, while Wish-A-Wish foundation volunteer Madeline was played with murderous aplomb by Big Love's Audrey Wasilewski, who plays suspicious and disapproving neighbor Pam on the HBO drama series.

I could go on and on. It was a beautiful, subtle, and--dare I say it--magical episode from a series that has consistently challenged, revised, and reinvented the way that we look at serialized network television. While "Corpsicle" might be the last episode of Pushing Daisies we get until the strike ends, it was a transcendent Valentine to a world that will never be, save in our imaginations, just in time for the holiday season.

To Bryan Fuller and the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies, I say thank you for nine beautiful episodes of this groundbreaking series and for your vision, dedication, and imagination!


Anonymous said…
What a cliffhanger! I am surprised and delighted to learn that Lily is Chuck's mother. I can't wait to see where Fuller and company go with that storyline.

This episode was most definitely bittersweet (like Chuck's pear pie with gruyere baked into the crust). Lee Pace has perfected the "sad puppy dog" look and, somehow, made it genuine. And that scene between Ned and Chuck in the graveyard was heartbreaking.

I also have to say something about the amazing set design for this show. The rooftop set where Chuck keeps her honeybees is as stunningly beautiful as the graveyard was melancholy.

I am devastated that there are no more new episodes of Pushing Daisies (until the strike is settled, anyway). But at least it finished up this set of episodes on a high note with Lily's delicious secret. Thank you, Jace, for not spoiling it! (Although I don't know how you kept it in!)
Anonymous said…
First off - good job keeping that secret! I definitely would not have wanted to know. What a delicious ending.

Chuck was so heartbreaking throughout the ep. She just looked sad and lost. I really missed the wonderfully optimistic girl we've come to love. I wanted to hug her.

KC had some awesome dialogue in this ep (I am thinking especially about the "I peeped out my peeper...")

What a fantastic ep. I am so sad it's the end for a while.
Audio Taco said…
last nights episode was brilliant! I loved the bee hive covers that matched w/ Chucks outfit.

oh and i recognized Madeline from Wonderfalls, she was the family housekeeper, Yvette.
Unknown said…
I kind of thought last week's ep would've made a good cliffhanger--ending with Chuck finding out about Ned killing her dad (accidentally). But this was good, too.

Jace, I'm not sure why you think the cemetery scene is unresolved. Ned specifically said he wouldn't raise Chuck's dad. Plus, ew, I doubt she'd want to see him that way. Oh, and Emerson and Ned even talked about that (raising her dad) not being good because Chuck and her dad couldn't fit everything they have to say into one minute.

Or am I hallucinating?
Anonymous said…
Umm,, He Isn't going to raise her dad he kinda said that!!
I'm soo sadd pushing daisies has finished though !!

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