‘Pushing Daisies’ blogging: “Robbing Hood”

(previous: Episode 6: “Oh Oh Oh… It’s Magic”)

Do you smell pie? I smell pie. Mmmmm, pie…

[spoilers after the jump!]
One thing that constantly surprises me about Pushing Daises is how it manages to constantly surprise me. Whether you watch TV (and movies) professionally or just for fun, the more you see of mainstream storytelling, the better you’re able to predict where a story is going or how that metaphorical gun on the mantelpiece in Act One will be used in Act Three.

But it seems like the writers of Daisies know that we’re as smart as they are, and they seem to be as tired as we are of how stories have been told in TV format for half a century. So they’re sneakily inventing new ways of telling those same-old stories. It struck me with this episode, for instance, that the idea that you could ask a murder victim who killed him would seem to take all the mystery out of the mystery… and yet it doesn’t. Here, of course, we have a murder victim with motives of his own for naming the name he names as his killer, and we have a seemingly straight answer to that easy question — Who killed you? — turning out to be not so straight after all. That’s not entirely a new twist on a murder mystery — the victim fingering the killer, either correctly or incorrectly — nor is it a new thing that a murder mystery starts out with us knowing whodunnit and only waiting to learn why they did it. But the fresh spin Daisies is putting on an old kind of story is so delightful.

This episode has some great examples of how the writers understand our expectations and refuse to let them play out in the standard way. The minute I saw the snake and the bunny together, for instance, I knew what was gonna happen, and it did: snake eats bunny. But snake chokes on bunny? Perfect… and unexpected. Even lines like Olive’s “Maybe he’s the old priest, and the young priest is coming” explanation for who Dwight is ties into expectations created by long experience with stories of the supernatural and the undead, and Ned’s line about how “stakeouts are only fun when there are binoculars for everybody” is only funny if you have long experience with cop stories. The fact that Daisies straddles both these genres but doesn’t quite fit into any genre not only lets the writers have fun tweaking those genres, it lets us have fun by not having any expectations about how stories will play out, because there aren’t quite any other stories like these for us to look back on.

Ned is such a unique creation that we have hardly any expectations of where stories will take him, and so the obstacles he is constantly coming up against are almost always delightfully surprising. Like the trophy room: it took me a moment to realize that Ned’s consternation when seeing that room was not “Oh no, which is the biggest trophy here, and where do I start looking?” but “Oh no, I can’t touch anything in this room!” When that hit me, it was one of the biggest tickles the show has given me yet.

The only expectations we should have, probably, at this point, is that Daisies will always comment on itself, which means commenting on the pop culture history it assumes its viewers share (of murder mysteries, detective shows, fantasies, and so on). So I should not have been surprised to see sly references to both Indiana Jones and Star Wars in this episode, and yet I was:

“Telemarketers, I hate these guys.” –Ned

“I’m channeling fear into anger.” –Ned
“Anger leads to hate…” –Emerson
“And hate leads to stress-baking the people you love.” –Chuck

And stress-baking the people you love leads to the Dark Side.

Favorite lines in this episode:

“Sneaking around is for politicians in bathroom stalls.” –Vivian

“Years of litigation have made me a loud talker.” –the lawyer

And, of course, the one of about “tight balls.” Naughty, and nice. Perfect.

(Watch full episodes at ABC’s official site for the show.)

(next: Episode 8: “Comfort Food”)

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Sat, Nov 29, 2008 11:15am

“Oh no, I can’t touch anything in this room!” When that hit me, it was one of the biggest tickles the show has given me yet.

Yes! Me too! And I loved how it was subtly continued, with the others hearing a brief roar offscreen, and Ned eventually reappearing, looking a bit frazzled.

Now when I watch this show, I feel like I’m getting to the last pages of a novel I’ve loved, and I can’t believe I’m not going to find out more about these characters I’ve been so delighted by for so long. ARGH.

Sat, Nov 29, 2008 3:11pm

right now the execs. at ABC are thinking about cancelling Pushing Daisies which would be dreadful please start watching Pushing Daisies LIVE!!! SAVE PUSHINGDAISIES!!!

Sat, Nov 29, 2008 4:11pm

Alli, sweetie, the show is already cancelled. Take a chill pill and relax: this show was doomed from the start, and it’s going to remain doomed.

Sat, Nov 29, 2008 7:36pm

It’s just not right. Daisies is too good.

P. Ryan
P. Ryan
Sun, Nov 30, 2008 12:15pm

It’s not right all right, but I’m still watching and will continue to watch all the way to the end. This episode was just so delightful in all the levels that you mentioned MaryAnn.

I just love that they’re dealing with the BIG STORY of Chuck and her predicament with her aunts and you know being resurrected. I hope we get at least that resolve before the end.

Delicious as always.