If you can get past the sheer explosive awesomeness is that is Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene singing together–singing They Might Be Giants songs, no less!–last night’s “Pigeon” episode is a perfect example of why Pushing Daisies is special. It isn’t just the glorious production design, although the beehives alone are reason enough to tune in. It isn’t just the pitch-perfect costume design, or even the way the costumes play into the story itself (Aunt Lily bedazzles her own eye patches!). It isn’t just that the writing staff is insane enough to set chunks of the action at a farm of retired windmills–you read that right–and cut that whimsy with a necrophilia joke. It isn’t even just the razor-sharp acting that is so consistently good even characters who only have 30 seconds of screen time have a full and endearing inner life (if not much outer life left in some cases).
It’s special because it’s about the hope that things will get better, that there is some force or meaning or circumstance that is making something beautiful for you, so you will become better yourself. And it’s even more special because it’s about that hope and that beauty in a world soaked in death. It tells us that death is part of those circumstances, those meanings, that make things better and therefore make you better. And that means it’s about not being afraid to have that hope, or to keep trying–that it isn’t right to keep stuffing things with sand and marble eyes to keep them just as they were, but that it’s better, no matter how scary it is, to open the cage and let things go and try and sing. And that if you’ll only try that, if you’ll believe, someday you’ll have the happiest little birdhouse ever–when you’re ready.
Death is what opens all of Chuck’s doors–what allows her to choose the best things about herself and burn away the rest and start again. Pidge’s tragedy made a new family out of the Darling Mermaid Mermaid Darlings and Olive, and it let them create something new and beautiful out of something broken (granted, the new and beautiful thing might be an appalling crime against nature, but it was shiny and it could fly). All of the details and circumstances and supposed coincidences of Chuck’s death and Bradan Caden’s death and Jackson’s death and Elsita’s death–and all of the grief they create for the aunts and Becky Caden and Elsa and Conrad–they all come spinning around like a windmill to blow a light breeze that puts out the angry fire in Olive’s heart and makes her a better person.
And that’s why it matters that these stories are fairy tales, ghost stories, supernatural fiction. As Queen Victoria once said–fine, she was a fictional Queen Victoria, but she was still right. As Fictional!Queen Victoria once said, “That’s the charm of a ghost story, isn’t it? Not the chills and scares–that’s just for children–but the hope of some contact with the great beyond. We all want some message from that place.” The message Pushing Daisies brings is this: “It’s not just going to get better–it’s going to get good. And so are you.”