It’s a total delight to be given the final three episodes of Pushing Daisies when there is nearly nothing else on television right now (except for So You Think You Can Dance and, soon, SLOTAT). Having a plethora of farmer’s market strawberries because my mother won’t stop buying them, I spent my Sunday morning baking, like Ned, with live fruit and watching “Window Dressed to Kill.” And while I certainly enjoyed the episode and the pie-baking, there were certainly some bittersweet moments to both experiences. First, the minute this show opened with the narrative about little Olive Snook being ignored at a costume party, I remembered how much I missed seeing this blissfully designed show, but realized I had also forgotten the central decisions made by the characters in “The Norwegians.” Because that was back in December. Before Christmas and holiday baking and drinking and before cooking my noodle on five months of Lost. I had forgotten about the very literal cliffhanger. I had forgotten that Ned had sworn off detective work, and several other things. Secondly, I had a hell of a time getting my crust to come together, at one point spilling little pie crust crumblies all over my freezer. And finally, once I remembered plot points and got my pie crust together, I realized the most bittersweet thing of all: no matter how much of a lovely time I would have watching Pushing Daisies on Sunday mornings over the next three weeks, these would be the last three airings of the show, airings that many people who were only casual viewers might not see because they’re on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. and there was no ABC-sponsored advertisement to remind us about these airings. Seeing Daisies only for a few minutes made me remember everything I love about it, like the smell of a pie cooling on a windowsill. But both pies and Pushing Daisies are finite things, and that makes enjoying them so much just the slightest bit sad. I can always bake another pie, but there’s never going to be another show quite like Pushing Daisies.
After the last episode’s cliffhanger in which Ned told Olive that he didn’t not love her, she spends her time learning about the intricate grammar of the double negative, trying to discern exactly what he meant by that while Ned chooses to retire from detective work, miring himself in his bakeshop to cook with alive-alive fruit for the first time in his life. As Olive asks Ned delicately constructed questions with obscured meaning, he muses on the fact that he can finally eat his own pies and relishes the possibility of getting fat. So when Emerson enters with the case of a dead window dresser for Dicker’s Department Store, Ned politely refuses to help. In his stead, Chuck offers her services suggesting that they, for once, do traditional detective work through which she can become the Alive-Again Avenger.
While Emerson and Chuck head off to investigate the death of window dresser Erin Embry, Olive’s former kidnappers turn up at the Pie Hole, inconveniently ruining Randy Mann’s attempt to court her. But Olive’s former kidnappers turn out to not be as horrible as we thought they were. In fact, they weren’t actually kidnappers at all. They were petty thieves who just happened to steal the car young Olive was hiding from her parents in, hoping that they’d give her the attention she desired if only they missed her for long enough. This was a pretty magical, ingenious twist that I adored, even more so when it lead to the bittersweet realization that Olive’s parents didn’t even want her back and that Jerry and Buster were jailed simply for returning a lost child to the parents that didn’t want her. Over their time in the pen, Olive wrote to them, considering them in some ways to be surrogate dads, and they returned to find her post-jailbreak to solicit her help in getting them safely across the border to Canada.
Olive has told her surrogate kidnapping dads a lot of things, actually – including that Ned loves her and wants to marry her. This comes as a shock to both Ned and Randy, but Ned decides to play along when he realizes that Jerry and Buster’s only happiness is knowing that Olive is happy. So they load the men into Randy’s taxidermy van, and share a very uncomfortable ride with a stuffed rhinoceros up to the border where they find the police waiting for them. Rather than risk Jerry and Buster returning to jail, they turn the van around and head to Lily and Vivian’s house, where Olive hopes they might be able to root through the aunts’ old Darling Mermaid Darlings costumes and find some way to disguise the escapees. While there, Olive’s dads accidentally spill the not-real news about Ned and Olive’s engagement and while Vivian looks for disguises for their houseguests, she digs up the veil she was to wear to her wedding to Charles Charles and presents it to Olive, the very presence of which freaks out Ned so much that Olive finally realizes he definitely doesn’t love her in that way and comes clean about her fake relationship, which her kidnapping dads recognize as yet another one of Olive’s desperately sad pleas for attention.
But there’s barely any time to mope over the dissolution of a fake relationship as the cops have surrounded the aunts’ house, as a suspicious neighbor saw Jerry and Buster smoking on the porch and called them in. Ned, who’s spent the episode “trying on” a normal relationship and a “normal” life in which he can eat pies and not wake the dead and hold the hand of a girl he loves (in some way) realizes, after a long talk with Randy and the events with Olive, that he should be happy being somewhat-super instead of trying to hard to fit in to normalcy, and so he rushes out to Randy’s van and makes the rhinoceros alive-again long enough to disperse the police. This very much embarrasses Randy, who just can’t believe he taxidermied a live animal. But Olive quiets his fears with talk of the convent and he, in turn, quiets hers by suggesting she turn to whomever Mother Superior would turn to in times when one runs out of their own cunning.
Olive talks to the police about letting Buster and Jerry off the hook since they didn’t really commit a crime in the first place, but they seem unmoved. Luckily, as if by some divine plan, Mother Superior and her sisters enter the Pie Hole looking for a pee break, and Olive kindly breaks her “customers only” policy to allow the sisters in, which also allows her to spirit her jailbird dads out in nun’s garb, along with some complimentary pies. You know, in the name of charity. This was a very clever take on deus ex machina, especially because I saw Diana Scarwid’s name in the credits and kept wondering how Mother Superior was going to figure into this episode. In general, I really liked this whole insight into Olive’s desperation for love and attention, especially the flashback to what her childhood kidnapping experience was actually like (better than her life at home) and the moment where she breaks away from her fake-engagement party to sing a few bars of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Swear to God, Bryan Fuller is almost as good as Ryan Murphy at choosing appropriate music for a scene. I was also very fond of Ned’s Superman/Clark Kent-ish struggle with being ordinary or extraordinary, which also reminded me of how good the first season of Heroes (when Fuller worked on it) compared to subsequent seasons.
The Emerson-and-Chuck mystery was mostly just fluff compared to the emotionally-driven Olive-and-Ned narrative, but it was pretty fluff, which is the best kind of fluff Daises has to offer. Sans their magic finger, they investigate Erin Embry’s murder and realize that the current window at Dicker’s mirrors the crime scene. She’s wearing the same dress as the mannequin and died in the same frozen, wintry fountain. As the police have ruled Erin’s death an accident, Emerson has no one to pay him to investigate. Cleverly, Chuck drums up some funding by whispering into the ears of Erin’s many devotees that she may have been murdered, so after about three minutes of rumor-mongering, Chuck and Emerson are on the case. The suspects are many, particularly Coco Juniper, Erin’s window dressing partner, whom they suspect may have offed Erin to show which of the two had real talent. Only, that theory gets shot to hell when Coco Juniper turns up dead after the unveiling of the Erin Embry Memorial Window, showing a goddess-like woman ascending retail escalators to heaven . . . which means Coco’s corpse is also lodged in an escalator. By poking around the store at night, Chuck and Emerson uncover the fact that neither Erin nor Coco were the creative geniuses behind the Dicker’s windows – it was their biggest fan, Chic-as-Hell Denny. When they suspect he might be murdering everyone at Dicker’s to get credit, they inform store owner Dick (Sex and the City‘s Willie “Stanford Blatch” Garson), who immediately starts to make suspicious inquiries about Denny. Ned returns just in time to help put everything together by waking the two dead designers (so distractingly funny to see Coco wonder where the hell her legs are) who inform them that it was in fact Dick who offed them, meaning Chic-as-Hell Denny would be his next target. You see, Dick hated his family business and wanted out without having to lose his family, so he set about to lose the one thing that brought Dicker’s Department Store so much revenue: its famous windows. Case closed, thanks to Ned’s magic fingers, and Chic-as-Hell Denny went on to get Erin and Coco’s old job all to himself with a new member of the Dicker family running the store.
Favorite outfit of the episode belongs to the black lace cocktail dress worn by Olive’s inattentive mother at the party from which her daughter gets “kidnapped,” which I think was nicely reflected in Coco Juniper’s black lace sheath – two women who could not have cared less about the loss of people they “loved.” I just taught you costume design, bitches.
It may be entirely because of the five-plus-change months between the last episode of Pushing Daisies and this one, but this entry may log as one of my favorites. It could just be because of the sudden rush of nostalgic awe-inspiring goodness of this show (yes, something five months old can be nostalgic), but I was so into this episode and its clever way of working around Ned’s insistence that he would no longer revive dead things, at least for the time being. It somehow ironically livened up the procedural aspect considerably, especially since Emerson and Chuck figured out pretty much everything even before Ned broke his pact with himself and went to the morgue with the two of them.
Instead of ignoring the Darlings, we got just the right amount of screen time from them without resorting to another flashback into their pasts. Instead rehashing old guests stars just for the sake of it, David Arquette and Diana Scarwid were essential plot items used 100% correctly. Instead of pushing Olive to the side as pretty much the entire first season did, she was front-and-center when she needed to be and elsewhere when she wasn’t.
Am I actually praising this show for simply using its ensemble well, something that would seem to be pretty much was you’re supposed to do with an ensemble show? Yes. Because it doesn’t happen enough on television. It should, but it doesn’t.
I’m so glad to get these aired in some form or another, followed by the leftover episodes of Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money, even if it is at 10 p.m. It’s always a shame to have to wait for the DVDs, usually released midway through the fall, so this is a nice present from the networks who saw the poor ratings for these three good shows and just had to cut them. Stay tuned for the leftover eps of Samantha Who, In The Motherhood and the not-canceled but cut-down first season of Better Off Ted during the rest of the summer. It’s actually quite a lovely idea, even if it is bittersweet.