Pushing Daisies – “Corpsicle”

“Corpsicle”

December 12th, 2007

While I am still smack dab in the middle of end-of-term essays and exams at this stage, I couldn’t help but take an hour out of my evening to watch tonight’s Fall Finale of Pushing Daisies. Considering its procedural structure, I think sometimes we as viewers take for granted the rather deft hand being taken by the series in terms of the characters it has created. “Corpsicle” was not written by Bryan Fuller, or directed by Barry Sonnefeld, but it was perhaps my favourite episode of the series yet.

It wasn’t because it was funny, or witty, but rather that there was a level of poignancy which felt earned: it was a moment where Chuck was forced to face a harsh reality, and at the same time come to terms with her own reality. There were two scenes in the episode which were note-perfect dramatic scenes that proved that Lee Pace, Anna Friel and Chi McBride are deserving of their potential Golden Globes nominations tomorrow morning. Plus, an intriguing secret at episode’s end should prove interesting heading into the next season…whenever that might be.

The episode revolved around a series of murders against insurance adjusters who were all directly responsible for declining a heart transplant for a jerk of a dying teenager. This was one of those situations where the murder of the week was marking time, but for good reason: the end result did involve a monkey, so I can’t speak ill of the storyline as a whole, but its worth was not in its quality but in the situations in which it placed Ned.

Specifically, Ned and Emerson had a fantastic conversation mid-way through the episode where Emerson admitted to Ned that he was a father (Loved Ned’s belief that Emerson being a priest was more likely than having a child). The daughter is neither seen nor heard from in this episode, which I like: it’s an added bit of depth to his character they can mine later, but the series is better than a saccharine phone call to the daughter at the end of the episode. This isn’t that show, and that’s a good thing.

Speaking of good things, I loved seeing a glimpse back to the day Chuck and Ned lost their parents, and where Lily and Vivian became her caregivers. It was a tightly written episode as two moments in this flashback echo important scenes later in the episode.

First and foremost, the confrontation between Ned and Chuck was note-perfect: Anna Friel knocked the speech about hate out of the park, emphasizing that this was something she just had to feel. It was a perfect callback as she refused to look at him, much as Ned ignored Chuck’s glance as he came to terms with killing her father in the first place when they were kids. These two haven’t had the chance to deal with much dramatic material for a while, so to see this scene was a nice reminder of how fantastic Friel and Pace are in these roles.

More telling, however, was the end of episode “shocker”: Lily is, in fact, Chuck’s biological mother. Now, the ramifications of this aren’t too great: Chuck has largely been about daddy issues, not mommy issues, so it isn’t game-changing by any means. However, I absolutely fell head over heels with this revelation when I thought back to Jim Dale’s narration in the flashback: that, even though Lily was the one who usually touched people, she remained distant until the tragedy of Ned’s Mother’s death became too much for her to handle. It complicated that scene in a real way, and it was the kind of sharp writing we’ve come to expect from the series.

Tomorrow morning, chances are that Pushing Daisies will be able to ride its critical buzz and generally positive reception to a slew of Golden Globes nominations. While I think that the show being placed in the comedy category is ultimately for the best, I would argue that “Corpsicle” (Even with its ridiculous name) is the perfect example of the series’ ability to do some great drama as well. So, fingers crossed for the morning, and for the writers’ strike ending soon: this is the last episode produced by the show, which means it might be a season finale. Period. Which: uncool, even if it was great.

Cultural Observations

  • In terms of Golden Globe Nominations, I would expect that the series is a shoo-in, while its stars are somewhat sketchier. All I know is that if Hayden Panettiere can get nominated for Heroes, Kristen Chenoweth better damn well be nominated for Pushing Daisies, even if Olive ultimately didn’t have much to do in this episode.
  • I like that the series left the door open for Oscar (Paul Reubens) to return, and that he was not the focus of this story: Reubens’ performance continued to be an understated turn, and I felt it was a good way for Chuck to come to terms with her relationship with Ned as secret keepers.
  • However, I will not quite forgive Oscar for shaving Digby’s bum: that’s just not cool, Oscar, especially during a cold winter.
  • Loved how Emerson, post-carbon monoxide poisoning, was terrified that Ned had brought him back from the dead. It’s a nice reminder of Ned’s power, and would have been really easy to ignore or leave out.
  • Another great touch: the subtle use of Christmas music in the style of the show’s soundtrack. The melodies would often be the same, until one off note sends it right into the show’s usual offbeat tunes.

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