Pushing Daisies: Circus, Circus
B+

Pushing Daisies: Circus, Circus

You knew it was coming. As soon as you saw the rainbow wig, as soon as you saw the funny car get pulled out of the lake, you knew exactly what was going to come out of it. Of course there would be not one but 15 dead clowns in that tiny car. And that's one of the things I love about Pushing Daisies: It's not afraid to do the broad joke. It's not afraid of puns and vaudevillian quips like "A truckload of mimes just pulled up, and they ain't talking." Because when you plop those elements into a hyper-saturated fantasy world, they suddenly become cheeky and self-referential instead of eye-rollingly lame. (Imagine how that mime joke would play on, say, CSI.)

It helps, of course, that the Pushing Daisies universe is not so removed from modern sensibilities that its characters don't recognize some of the absurdities that flit by them. Emerson serves this role most frequently, as he did tonight, piping up as the voice of the audience with a mocking "You did not just say that" when Ned makes his oh-so-on-the-nose speech about Chuck the caterpillar becoming Chuck the butterfly. Viewers of this show have come to expect certain levels of adorability each week, but I for one am glad the writers didn't let that one slip by without comment.

Despite the somewhat belabored butterfly metaphor, set up in the "Young Ned" prologue, I was pleased to see the writers working to separate Ned and Chuck somewhat. The "new beginnings can lead to painful endings" theme seems to indicate that we're moving into a new phase of the show: Chuck moving out and Ned's subsequent mopery was the painful ending to the new beginning Ned gave both of them when he brought her back to life. Now we seem to be moving on to a new new beginning, in which Chuck and Ned have chosen to put their morbid past behind them, at least superficially. This seems like the right move as far as the show's longevity goes. The circumstances behind Chuck and Ned's little no-touchy issue will always be a major factor in their relationship, but it can't be the only factor, otherwise those two characters would get boring quickly. (Indeed, they sort of already were.)

We got another new beginning of sorts with Emerson, or at least an opening for one. I was a little surprised to see this episode take up the issue of his missing daughter so soon after it was hinted at last week–that seemed like more of a long-range tease. But we learned tonight that Emerson does indeed have a Lil' Gum Shoe out there, taken away by his old lady, and that serves as his motivation in taking on tonight's mystery of missing teenager Nikki Heaps. Granted, there wasn't much forward movement on the story, aside from Emerson spilling some of the details to Ned, and the way it was left could just as easily been writing off the whole endeavor as a one-time thing–though I hope that's not the case. As much as I like Emerson as the dry "oh-no-you-didn't" skeptic, it would be nice for him to have something to do besides roll his eyes at everyone. So, is Emerson's "new beginning" about trying to find his daughter, or learning to let go of her?

Tonight's episode was a bit light on Olive and the aunts, sadly, though we do see that Lily and Vivian have moved out of their hermit stage and Olive is embracing her new life as a nun–with hidden flask in hand–until she works past her feelings for Ned. We also saw Lily trying to backpedal on her confession that she's Chuck's mom–while wearing a full nun's habit, coordinating eyepatch and all, no less–but Olive calls her on it, urging her to go back home and keep her secret from Vivian. We've obviously not heard the last of this issue, but it looks like it's going to be a slow-burner.

Like last week's episode, tonight's mystery had one too many tangents. This time, Bryce Von Deenis was the red herring, throwing our heroes off the trail just long enough to get in a bad limerick and some horse-piss humor. Frankly, the whole thing just felt a bit too much like filler, without enough pay-off. Tonight's mystery made a little more sense in the long run than last week's–and that's saying something when you're dealing with a mime and 15 clowns dead at the hands of a surly anti-union French acrobat–but the digressions didn't have as much comedic pay-off. (Attempted murder by human cannonball? Meh.) Then again, it did offer up a car full of dead clowns–including one on stilts!

Grade: B+

Stray observations

— Another "cut the bullshit" moment from Emerson: Pulling his gun on the re-awakened mime who tried to pantomime the details of his murder with a simple "All right, that's enough."

— A nice performance from guest star Rachael Harris as the emotionally challenged mother of Nikki Heaps: "I don't wear my feelings like a shiny sparkly brooch, but if I did my sadness would be mesmerizing right now."

— The rapid-fire, rat-a-tat delivery is back in full force tonight, especially the scene with Emerson and Ned in Ned's apartment. I admit I had a little trouble keeping up.

— For some reason, I was highly amused by the fact that Young Ned carried a bindle.

— Chuck traded in her floofy dresses this week for an assortment of tight, brightly patterned pants. Is this a symptom of her new independence? Stick with the dresses, Chuck!

— Apparently last week's premiere didn't do so well in the ratings. Tell your friends, people! Let's help Bryan Fuller break his two-season curse.

— Tonight's pie: Dutch apple.

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