Before I begin tonight's blog, I am making a solemn vow to you, dear readers, that nary a bee-related pun shall make its way from my Pushing Daisies-addled mind onto your computer screens. Besides, what would be the point? Tonight's episode already used just about every permutation imaginable of the words "bee," "swarm," "honey," and so forth, and did so with much more aplomb than I could ever hope to.
That said, hot damn I missed this show. I haven't been able to rewatch season one since it came out on DVD last week, and I'll admit that I was wondering if the show would hold up, especially after last season's strike-gutted run left things a little wonky. But it seems Bryan Fuller and co. have taken advantage of the show's new stability, offering up a second-season premiere that ratcheted up all of the show's best features. All of our characters are still their lovably tweaked selves: Ned's still boyishly awkward, Chuck's still saccharinely sweet, Olive's still singing (yes!), Emerson is still making pop-up books, and aunts Vivian and Lily are still clueless and shrewd, respectively. The impeccable, almost absurdly detailed wardrobe and art direction is still in full effect–did you catch the not-quite-honeycomb pattern on Chuck's dress?–and the dialogue still manages to straddle the line between forehead-slapping tweeness and barbed irony. Now I remember why this was my favorite new show of last season.
But tonight's episode was more than just catch-up, despite a rather long expository introduction (which is totally forgivable this time around, just keep it short in the future, okay?). In fact, setting the mystery aside for a moment, we had a lot of forward momentum in the show's various ongoing plot threads tonight. We discover that, following Aunt Lily's revelation to Olive that she's actually Chuck's mother at the end of season one, Lily has banished Olive from her and Vivian's house, unbeknownst to her sister, who can't understand why their newfound friend has suddenly disappeared. When the aunts burst into the Pie Hole looking for her (narrowly missing seeing Chuck), Olive–overcome with the stress of Ned's cluelessness and Chuck and Lily's respective secrets–snaps, in one of the best scenes of the night. ("I am a sawed-off shotgun full of secrets!") She packs up her stuff and gets to a nunnery to escape the pressure–with the help (and under the watchful, um, eye) of Aunt Lily, who stayed at the same convent when she was pregnant with Chuck. This of course allows for all sorts of Sound Of Music references, with Olive becoming the convent's resident flibbertigibbet. It also allows Chuck to display a much-needed bit of moxie and move into Olive's vacated apartment, despite the protests of Ned, who seems to have no problem wearing bell-festooned slippers in order to avoid bumping into and killing his lady friend if it means he never has to take his eyes of her, ever. (Seriously Ned, you're adorable, but also a skosh creepy.)
There was also a mystery, as always, and while tonight's honey-whodunit was a little needlessly convoluted, it was also a good example of just how ridiculous the show is willing to get in the name of fun. The hostile takeover of a line of beauty products made with honey, resulting in the sabotage of beehives with mites, further resulting in revenge murder via a swarm of bees, is of course ridiculously fantastical–but keep in mind that this show has killed off victims in vats of taffy and via a scratch-and-sniff book. As always, the mystery is not really about the mystery, but rather about how many punny quips, eye-popping sets, and quirky one-off characters can be squeezed into a mere hour of network television. In fact, if you remove all those elements–but why would you?–all of the mysteries are fairly rote, but often wind up getting tangled up in themselves in the name of originality. I understand that someone had to be around to give our heroes all those clues, but Betty Bee could have just as easily been tonight's victim instead of her friend and partner in crime Kentucky Fitz, therefore eliminating that tacked-on detail about honey tycoon Woolsey Nicholls (French Stewart) being in love with Kentucky and saving us one more silly name to keep track of.
Granted, these are still far from being head-scratchingly complex capers, but when a show already so much stimuli–visually and in terms of long-range plot and dialogue–perhaps it's better if the weekly mysteries are a little less twisty. Especially when it seems like we have a few ongoing mysteries to look forward to in coming weeks: the ominous-seeming reappearance of Ned's long-lost father, Lily's confession that Chuck's father (her one-time lover) was Vivian's fiancé, and even the hinted-at possibility that Emerson might have his own Lil' Gum Shoe out there looking for him. Plus, the promise of more Olive at the nunnery–though not permanently, because, as she points out, "It's like a gym membership, I can cancel anytime." There's still plenty going on amid all the pretty colors. Stay tuned.
Grade: I'm tempted to give it a B (okay, ONE pun, forgive me), but this was more like an A-
— Good to see the show is keeping up its tradition of hideously mangled corpses.
— Ned always has that little-boy posture going on: toes turned in, head stooped, eyes looking innocently up. I can't decide if I want to hug him or poke him in the back and tell him to stand up straight.
— Of COURSE that's what Chuck wears as underwear.
— That "The Hills Are Alive" moment with Olive made me so happy, I literally bounced in my seat and clapped. Go Chenoweth, go!
— My fashion/kitch-obsessed friend, who was watching Pushing Daisies for the first time tonight at my suggestion: "Is this show for sale? I want all of it."
— Next week: clowns. Ugh, I do not like clowns.