The idea of “new beginnings” is a common (and easy) way to address the ending of a series, but it’s particularly apt in the case of Pushing Daisies, which itself began with an ending—specifically the end of Chuck’s life. Unfortunately, tonight’s series finale wasn’t able to subvert that old trope in a satisfying way, thanks to an unfortunate and obvious case of last-minute-itis.
It’s not really Pushing Daisies’ fault. “Kerplunk” was obviously not meant to function as a series finale, but rather a step forward in the Vivian/Lily storyline. And it functioned wonderfully in that respect, with some great performances from Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene and an in-depth look at the drama and intrigue of aqua-entertainment. But when that dangling axe finally dropped midway through this season, the writers were sent scrambling to wrap things up in a satisfying way for the fans (at least those who are unlikely to follow the series’ jump to the comic-book format). Hence the sudden switch in theme in the final act. Usually the opening flashback sequence—this time a long-time-coming look at Young Lily and Young Vivian—sets out a loose theme that usually ties into either the episode’s murder mystery, its character development, or, in the case of the best episodes, both. Tonight’s opening act set out to establish the theme of putting others’ happiness before your own, playing out in the interplay between Lily’s guilt and her indulgence of her younger sister, as well as in Ned and Chuck’s relationship.
As in the best episodes, that theme tied into both the murder mystery and the Lily/Vivian plotline, which was itself closely entwined with the mystery. On the eve of Chuck’s half-birthday, the aunts decide to come out of seclusion to take part in the grand American tradition of going to see the traveling Aquacade. (Glad to see the recession hasn’t hit the thriving traveling aquatic entertainment industry. Nor the cow-shaped mac-and-cheese diner industry.) The Darling Mermaid Darlings’ return to the spotlight is decidedly inauspicious, however, when they encounter their old rivals the Aquadolls—one half of which is gobbled by a performing shark named Bubba during their “interpretation” of the National Anthem. Despite her distaste for surviving synchro-sister Coral (“Don’t sign my name to that ‘Sorry a shark ate your bitch of a sister’ letter”), Lily once again indulges Vivian’s offer to rescue the fallen Aquadoll from her fate as an inept water-daredevil by having her join the Darling Mermaid Darlings in their first show since coming out of retirement to replace the Dolls in the Aquacade.
Despite Coral’s attempt to usurp the Darlings with her one-woman tribute to A Chorus Line—foiled by Olive’s need to tug at shiny things, in this case a gold lamé bowtie—and spurned himbo Shane’s attempt to kill them just as he killed Coral’s sister/partner Blanche, Lil and Viv get their triumphant return to the spotlight. But their glory—and promise of a high-profile European tour—is quickly soured when Coral clues Vivian in to the suspicious circumstances surrounding Lily’s trip to the convent all those years ago. And this is where the episode could have (should have?) ended had the series been able to continue the storyline further. But no one wants Pushing Daisies to end with Lily and Vivian torn apart and Chuck mad at Ned for letting her aunts run off to Europe, where she can’t be their undead guardian angel.
And so we head into a wrap-up montage in which Jim Dale muses about new beginnings over clips of Ned and Chuck showing up on the aunts’ doorstep with flowers and a simple “I’m alive,” Olive getting both her Randy Mann and her own oddly shaped niche eatery, and Emerson being reunited with the shadow of his Lil’ Gumshoe, interspersed with a neat flyover of all the colorful, quirky locales the series has led us through over the past two years. Oh, and Digby running through the same poorly CGI-ed yellow flowers we saw in the pilot. Was it artfully done? Kind of. Was it satisfying? Kind of. Was it up to the standards of Pushing Daisies? No, not really. But for what it was—a hastily assembled ending tacked on to a mostly unrelated storyline—it worked well enough. I am disappointed that such a creative series couldn’t go out in a less banal way—but I get it. I accept it. Acceptance: the final stage of grief. Goodbye Daisies.
• Another victim of the clearly truncated Aquacade plotline: guest star Michael McDonald, whose role was relegated to one scene (asking Emerson to clear his murderous pet shark’s good name). But there were plenty of other familiar faces populating the aquarium: Wendie Malick, Nora Dunn, Wilson Cruz, Joey Slotnick.
• “We small-boned persons are vulnerable to the exoduses of the mass and panicked variety”
• Blanche in the shark at the morgue: best/worst mutilated corpse in Daisies history?
• Shark wipe is so much better than star wipe.
• Vivian and Lily’s “living in sync practice hour” was amazing. As was Olive’s compulsion to mirror every crotch-baring bit of acrobatics that Sid Tango did.
• I’m a little confused as to why no one had a problem with Chuck going to the Aquacade the first time when her aunts were in the audience, but she was banned from seeing them perform.
• One final thing: Thanks to all of you regular commenters who have followed this show and this blog since the pilot. This has been by far my favorite corner of TV Club, thanks to your positivity and love for this show. With few exceptions, the discussion here has been respectful, intelligent, and entertaining, and I really appreciate that. Thanks for sharing Daisies with me.