Oh, show. I suppose hearing “what got thee to a nunnery?” shortly after seeing a great version of Hamlet primed the pump, but I’m trying to remember the last time I laughed harder at anything than at Father Dowling (Emerson), Father Mulcahy (Ned), and Sister Christian (Chuck) being called out by a nun claiming that “Sister Christian” is nothing but a heavy-petting power ballad.
I further suppose that a show so soaked in death focusing on digging things up should be a little more unsettling than it is, but one of the things that sets Pushing Daisies apart is the focus on growth and the idea that growing can’t happen without digging. If you’re willing to root around in your heart a little bit, you’ll find humility (Emerson’s acceptance of Olive paying in prayer), forgiveness and generosity (Olive’s plummet), and possibly your place in the human family (Chuck’s contemplation of who she is now and where she came from). You may even find you can move forward in love if you’re brave enough to dig up the weeds that have bound up your heart and choked off your ability to reach out to people (Ned’s realization that the abandoned boy inside of him is the same person who abandons everyone else). Those gifts are more valuable than any white truffle. Refuse to do that hard but rewarding work, focusing instead on external treasures? You’ll calcify into a hardened liar who takes advantage of everyone around you and lose everything you thought was valuable when a pig shoves you off a bell tower. Although that last part will be purely symbolic. For most of us. I think.
Mother Superior Mary Mary’s (ha!) observation about Chuck’s lack of faith is correct and yet misplaced. Part of the reason Chuck’s wondering about whether she should be alive at all is so hurtful is because she loses faith for a moment in the idea that the new life she gained after being dug up is beautiful. But this show always, always insists that the digging is worth it in the end.
While the episode is one of the best recent examples of the themes underlying the show, it is no less devoted to the perfect little details and references than other episodes. Hitchcock returns, this time in the form of Vertigo‘s bell tower. The use of “Ave Maria” in the soundtrack manages to be, at different points, both hilarious and poignant. Olive’s mother continuing to use her tanning mirror in every scene in which she appears is a tiny detail I didn’t even notice on first viewing, but they take the trouble to put it in anyway.
And, finally, while he was wrong to apply it to the secret Olive was keeping and the 29-year-old photograph of the nuns, Ned’s absolutely right that all of this has something to do with the sacred feminine, and that sacred feminine is Kristin Chenoweth, who could not be more divine in this role. I’m trying to prepare myself for the fact that this show is going to die and no one with a magic, life-giving finger to resurrect it (like Lazarus!) will come along. But if we don’t get a full season, I hope Emmy voters don’t forget Olive Snook weeping for Sister Larue’s soul, being unable to put too fine a point on it while threatening Emerson’s desk with the point of a pencil, absconding with top-shelf fem care products, dismissing Fathers Dowling and Mulcahy with a perfectly timed “peace be with you,” finding forgiveness in her heart while praying about peach pie and cinnamon ice cream, and tearing up while accepting Ned’s apology. Chenoweth’s isn’t just the funniest performance on TV–it’s the one with the most heart. Which is why she’s the perfect fit with the similarly situated Pushing Daisies–catch it while you can.