Pushing Daisies – “Bitter Sweets”

“Bitter Sweets”

November 27th, 2007

While Pushing Daisies has certainly deviated from its formula to some extent in the past, this week’s episode probably represents the largest departure from the show’s mystery of the week structure. Sure, there was still a central mystery, but there were actually two murders and a guest appearance by Molly Shannon, so the basic structure certainly changed this time around.

It wasn’t a bad episode, as there were certainly some charming moments and some continued charm. I enjoyed some of the character beats the episode provided, but it felt a little bit disoriented: the resolution to the murder felt tacked on and meaningless, and Ned’s central struggle was underrepresented within the narrative as a whole. I guess it seems like the series is just marking time until the fall finale in two weeks….until its cliffhanger conclusion, that is.

The show starts with a murder where Lars from Lars and the Real Girl (The recent Ryan Gosling drama about the guy with a doll for a girlfriend) uses his doll to commit murder. It’s a throwaway mystery that never really connected to our Pie Hole-centric storyline: that being the arrival of one Dilly Balsam (Shannon in a largely unsubstantial but good role) and her brother Billy (Mike White, “School of Rock”) and their Bittersweet Taffy Candy Store across the street. They’re sharp competitors, and pull our heroes into a turf war that gets ugly in a hurry.

After Olive and Chuck took the plan to the next level, and Ned had to intervene to keep things from escalating further, he stumbles upon Billy in a vat of taffy. Ned is immediately jailed, which presents the episode’s best element: Emerson and Chuck solving a murder the old-fashioned way based on evidence and forensics. Emerson really had no idea what to do with himself, and it led to some of the episode’s best exchanges with Chuck (“Footloose and Finger Free” perhaps being my favourite).

Ned’s time in prison (highlighted by Digby’s visit, of course) represented the largest shift in the episode: realizing how much he enjoys Chuck’s company, he realizes that he can’t possibly tell her that he killed her father. And then, promptly, he tells her he murdered her father. This creates our drama for the quasi-finale to come in two weeks: Bryan Fuller has said that the episode, which signals the return of Paul Reubens’ suspicious olfactory specialist, will certainly bring certain issues to a head in case the show doesn’t return this year due to the writers’ strike.

I think my concern with this episode is that it felt like they were throwing out all sorts of storylines: it seemed that there wasn’t a cohesive whole, even as Jim Dale tried to pull a Mary Alice Young and wrap everything up into a theme during the end of episode montage. I especially dislike that we end on such a cliffhanger that it seems like the entire episode was just a setup for next week…but that a majority of it won’t actually matter. It’s simply an observation, though, and I’m certainly curious to see how things go down next week.

Cultural Observations

  • I like that it’s going to snow in the Pushing Daisies universe – whimsy and winter always go well together, and I hope for good things from the last 13 episodes yet to be written if some will involve seasonal crimes (Speaking of which: Christmas next episode? Or no?)
  • I am pretty sure that I may be the only person who immediately thought about Big Bird when I saw Chuck sitting on the roof in the snow. Oh “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” I look forward to revisiting you soon.
  • Molly Shannon was, at the very least, understated in her role: she usually does obnoxious when she guests on television (See: Scrubs), and here she was certainly more subtle.
  • Olive’s love interest Alfredo was back, but only long enough for Olive to ignore him and then realize that she was suppressing her feelings for him in her post-Ned phase. I’m hoping he’ll be back, as Olive can only serve as a Ned-pining/Aunt-visiting character for so long.
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