“Window Dressed to Kill”
Season 2, Episode 11
“The more you face your trauma the more power it has over you.”
I had meant to make a note of the return of Pushing Daisies to readers ahead of time, considering that ABC certainly isn’t promoting their 10pm Saturdays burn-off of the remaining three episodes of the show’s second season, but part of me wasn’t quite looking at this as a real event. I haven’t seen an episode of Pushing Daisies in over five months, and while some got to view the episodes online (their aired in the U.K.), and others got to see them screened during PaleyFest (I was unfortunately at Coachella that day), I’ve been entirely free of the exploits of a certain Pie Maker, the Alive Again Avenger, my favourite private dick and the subject of tonight’s episode, Olive Snook.
I don’t think I realized how much I missed them until I faced that fact tonight, watching a fantastic hour of comic/dramatic television knowing that there are only two hours left to go, and that after that these characters will fundamentally cease to exist outside of a comic book or whatever other form Fuller keeps the series alive in. These characters deserve more than what they received from ABC: the show, canceled in favour of ABC’s plentiful number of midseason replacements (all but one of which failed), was certainly struggling, and wasn’t destined for stardom, but in all of our commotion over Chuck’s fate I think part of me will miss Pushing Daisies’ unique blend of whimsy and mystery more than I would have missed that show.
“Window Dressed to Kill” wasn’t a particularly noteworthy Pushing Daisies episodes outside of its position as one of the “Final 3,” but it so embodied what the show does best that it’s hard not to be overpowered by this desire to write letters, buy pies, and just about anything else you could imagine, even when you know it’s all for nothing. This review, similarly, is positioned as such that it is only a celebration of the episode, knowing that whatever character development I speak of will have only two more episodes to continue, and that whatever stories I think have potential will likely prove unable to reach that stage in their development.
But damnit, I’m going to talk about them anyway.
As I had forgotten where we last left our heroes, we get a quick little primer which essentially boils down to “Ned and Olive shared a moment when hanging off a cliff.” Okay, so it wasn’t really even a primer, and the storyline of Chuck’s dead Dad off on the run is largely untouched. Instead, we find Ned having decided to stop touching dead people (something I don’t quite remember, but I presume came as a result of his inadvertant alive againing of said father). Regardless, it becomes clear very quickly that the show itself didn’t have a break: right off the bat, as Ned and Olive have an extended runner filled with double negatives (about which Olive was reading in a hilarious book I want a copy of), the show’s banter is in fine form, as it remains throughout the episode.
I’m always wary of the Ned/Olive pairing, or was always wary anyways, mostly because it’s never going to actually happen: for all of Olive’s desires, and for all of Kristen Chenoweth’s charm, the show would never abandon Chuck in the way that some other shows would mix up romantic pairings. The show’s whimsical world wouldn’t allow for something along those lines, it just isn’t in the cards. So, on that level, this episode didn’t actually create any suspense: we knew as soon as the plan for Ned and Olive to pretend to be engaged was hatched that there wasn’t going to be any legitimate threat to Chuck and Ned’s relationship, and the show even worked in David Arquette’s Randy Mann in order to present a clear alternative for when the bubble burst.
But what the episode did so well was both getting as much mileage out of that Ned and Olive pairing as possible comically speaking as well as providing an actual reason for it to have happened for both characters. For Ned, in particular, the experience shifts his “Super no, Man yes” into a “Super yes, Man no” in a way that actually made sense: the Superman metaphor was well-played throughout, and he and Randy’s little heart-to-heart really did connect with what he had been feeling. Sure, the Rhino was crappy CGI that you don’t believe for a second, and there’s no way that Rhino was in that little truck with everyone else, but the show’s fantastical side tends to compensate for most of those concerns as long as the character arcs connected to them, well, connect. This one did, so Ned’s discovery of how his superpowers are actually the main way he is able to help people, his own ability to leap over tall buildings, was a fun line of character development that was dealt with through another chapter in the Ned/Olive saga.
Olive’s story, similarly, was hopefully the final nail in the coffin for her fascination with Ned (well, considering there’s only two episodes left, something tells me it may definitely be). The back story about her parents wasn’t really sufficiently developed for me to consider it part of her character, but it fit in so well with the Olive we know now (desperate for people’s approval to a fault) that it worked, and her relationship with the escaped prisoners was predictable but more than charming enough for her to come through. Her moment of realization, understanding that Ned was trying her on like a sweater while she was experiencing something more profound, felt like enough of a moment for things to explode, and her eventual discovery of Randy’s affection (which came out of nowhere for me, unless his previous appearance really hinted towards it and I’ve just forgotten about it) was a nice bit of business.
It was a couple of good character pieces, and notice that it had nothing to do with a mystery of the week: while some shows with procedural elements lean on the “cases” as a crutch, Pushing Daisies had gotten to a point where it didn’t need to do this at all. Here, with Ned refusing to do his duty so to speak, Emerson and Chuck (who wondrously self-identified as the Alive Again Avenger, much to Emerson’s chagrin) head out to solve the admittedly dull murder mystery on their own. It was, however, as always an absolutely gorgeous visual storyline, with the windows, and the inside of the department store, and I liked seeing Constance Zimmer (who took me forever to place until I realized she plays Dana Gordon on Entourage) as Coco. It ended up being fairly superfluous, and to be honest their advertantly misleading “Their killer was already present *Zoom in on Store Employee who didn’t actually kill them*” was actually kind of frustrating narratologically speaking, but then again the episode had more than enough going for it anyways.
But if I had to single out one moment that shows the part of the show I’ll miss the most, it’s Olive Snook’s doorstep rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Hello;” yes, with the arrival of FOX’s Glee (which Chenoweth is guest starring on), there will be another outlet for cheesy 80s pop ballads to be turned into stinging anthems of unrequited love, but there won’t be another scenario where the person singing them is a former horse jockey in love with a piemaker and who is inevitably so very much fun to watch. This world we’re leaving behind can be mimicked, sure, and there will be other shows to love in the same way, but there won’t be a Pushing Daisies in two weeks time, and that makes me hurt inside.
For now, I’m going to savour these final moments: those last two episodes are kicking around, but I’m going to try to make these final episodes last as long as I can. As a result, I’ll be back with thoughts on the pentulimate episode next Saturday.
- The dialogue was in fine form overall tonight, but I think I liked the discussion about mental notes with the coroner the best, simply because I love his interactions with Emerson – they’re so simple, but so effective at day’s end.
- Admittedly seeing Pixar’s Up means that Digby was not the most adorable canine of the past few days of viewing, but he and Pigby out for a walk was still pretty fun.
- Anna Friel is starring in Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost remake (out this coming Friday), but I bet she doesn’t say anything as wonderful as “Peep this, player” in it.
- The return of the nuns at the end was a fun way to pull all of that together, and it was nice for Olive to get a legitimate final moment for her storyline independent of Chuck/Emerson/Ned.
- I’m ignoring the final note of “JEALOUSY!” in hopes that it doesn’t mean I have to spend the last two episodes lamenting the unfortunate decision to bring a full-on Chaucerian love square into effect.
- Spent forever trying to place the new assistant window dresser, who was the bait and switch perpetrator in the eyes of the cinematography, and it’s Wayne Wilderson, who I know as convict Martin on The Office in the third season.