Veteran TV writer Ken Levine recently explained on his blog how the second episode of a new show is often the toughest one to write, caught as it is between the blow-it-all-out pilot and the week-to-week work of an ongoing show.
Maybe that’s what happened with Pushing Daisies last week. It bogged down a little in restating its premise, and if anything, the cutesiness that concerned me and others following the pilot was only exaggerated, with the dandelion cars and whatnot.
This week, though? Nothing of the sort. If Pushing Daisies is going to turn out shows like that on a weekly basis, then I am in. For good. That was a really good hour of television.
(Spoilers with gruyere baked into the crust coming right up.)
I love that creator Bryan Fuller, who wrote this episode, decided not to drag out Ned’s angst over when to tell Chuck about the circumstances of her re-awakening. Sure, he needed a pretty big push from Emerson, but it feels like the right choice to let Chuck know now, rather than have it hanging out there, increasingly and needlessly complicating things.
The push Ned got came courtesy of Lawrence Schatz, the funeral director/grave robber who lost his life after Ned let Chuck’s minute pass without touching her again. Lawrence’s brother Lewis thinks it was murder, on account of all the hate mail the funeral home got when the grave-robbing came to light, and asks Emerson to investigate.
Emerson, shrewd businessman that he is, figures he can keep the loop closed, protecting Ned’s secret while also finding the stolen heirlooms and, possibly, making a handsome profit. So he rips off the Band-Aid ("I don’t rip off the Band-Aid," Ned protests. "I pull a little bit off and run it under warm water, then pull off a little more").
Lewis, though, wasn’t exactly being honest when he said his brother was the sole perpetrator of the scam, and for his lies he ends up dead as well — and in Ned’s freezer. Ned eventually saves the day, thanks to his Jedi-wannabe skills, but really I’m almost feeling like the resolution, Wilfred Woodruff VI and his Civil War sword and "Pooh, kick!" aside, is secondary.
What I really, really am taking away from this episode is how spot-on the tone and rhythm were. Chi McBride, Lee Pace and Anna Friel were throwing out dialogue at a dizzying, His Girl Friday-like pace, and they all handled it with aplomb.
And a couple times, I just had to shake my head and say, "Man, I love Chi McBride." I can’t decide which was my favorite line of his: "The pirate metaphor is apt," perhaps. Or "We’re gonna show whoever the sucka is who tried to frame you how a sucka gets framed."
Wednesday’s episode was the first not directed by exec producer Barry Sonnenfeld, and while the location shooting and over-the-top sets were fewer, it didn’t really matter. Thanks to its standing sets — the Pie Hole, the candy-cane-colored morgue, the aunts’ house — the show still has a visual flair unlike anything else on network TV. And if the writing and pacing continue to as strong as they were this week, I really doubt folks will care too much.
Other highlights from the episode:
- The traveling salesman: "It’s homeopathic." Olive: "You mean it deeply relates to gay people?"
- The description of the T-shirt Ned gave Chuck for her eighth birthday, both by Ned and Chuck themselves, who remember it as the cutest thing ever, and by her aunts, who have a different recollection. "He had a filthy mind," Aunt Lily says. "He gave her a beaver T-shirt. What did we call him?" Aunt Vivian: "Beaver boy."
- Chuck, putting the pirate argument to rest: "This is not a doubloon." And also, her complete fascination with methods of murder.
- The kiss through the plastic: shmoopy, sure, but also pretty sweet. And when Ned noted at the end of the episode that he was going to look for plastic wrap, kinda dirty.
- An answer to a small but nagging question about how Ned revives fruit, then keeps it alive. He wears a glove on his other hand and keeps flowers — daisies, of course — on hand to die so his peaches and berries may live. I just hope he composts.
The biggest takeaway from this episode for me, though, is a whole lot of hope. Yeah, the narrator is still a little too prevalent (although that, too, seemed to slacken a little this week). And the cuteness factor needs to be kept in check. But if McBride can keep delivering his awesomely cynical persona and Pace and Friel can keep up the rapid-fire patter, Pushing Daisies may be — dare I say it? — built for the long haul.
Your thoughts on this week’s Pushing Daisies?