First an apology, I’ve not been all over Pushing Daisies like a rash recently from a review perspective, despite there been two new ones that I’ve seen. The festive season got in the works, and to be honest, now the series has been cancelled, I’ve been concentrating on those shows that have a longer life expectancy.
But now I’ve cleared my desk of 2008’s detritus, it’s time to get those Daisies properly in a row, and I’ve had time to pen my view of episode 9, The Legend of Merle McQuoddy.
For Daisies fans, this story combines all the weird ingredients that make up this show in their usual proportions. It has an unexplained death, the usual dilemmas that stem from Ned’s curious life power and even Acappella lighthouse keepers singing Candle on the Water; who could ask for more?
The writers decided studiously that they’d divide the cast into two teams, and run each on an independent plot thread, which worked exceptionally well. Chuck and Ned deal with Charles Charles, while for the most part it’s Emerson and Olive that detect the killer of Nora McQuoddy, harpooned while she cleaned the prism of the lighthouse where she lived in Papen County. That’s a complicated reference, but amusing to those old and geek enough to get it. In the Disney film Pete’s Dragon, Helen Reddy played a lighthouse keeper from Passamaquaddy. Also in that film, the Dragon was called ‘Elliot’, Nora’s son in this show, and the villain was played by Jim Dale, narrator of Pushing Daisies. Also at one point, is a rendition of‘ Candle on the Water, the song sung by Helen Reddy in the movie.
Salutes to odd musical movies over, the death of poor Nora is surrounded by strange circumstances, since her husband Merle had been lost at sea for ten years only recently to return.
He’s a suspect, if they can find him, but Ned’s special touch gets from Nora that the PCHS, or Papen County Historical Society, is the culprit. Actually, getting much from Nora isn’t easy, because killed attached to the main beam of the lighthouse, she’s melted into it and with her yellow raincoat, looks curiously like a giant fried egg. Because of this deformation, she’s only able to communicate using Morse code.
They eventually follow the clues to find Merle, but the actual killer is the wonderful Mary Kay Place as Annabelle Vandersloop, who comes over as an even more deranged combination of Bette Midler and Martha Stewart. She belongs to a strange society of widows who make dioramas to celebrate their deceased spouses, and it turns out she was spurned by Augustus Papen of the PCHS, who also had a relationship with Nora.
But these goings on pail into insignificance with what Ned and Chuck have to deal with in their portion of pie, namely the independently minded and previously deceased Charles Charles.
Charles adapts to the idea of being alive once more rapidly, but doesn’t take well to the idea that his existence will be controlled by the helpful book of rules that Ned provided. It starts badly and progresses rapidly downhill to the point where Charles Charles walks into the Pie Hole and seats himself at the counter looking remarkably like the bandaged Claude Rains in The Invisible Man.
Ned is terrified that people will find out that long dead people are walking about, and that he’s responsible for that. But Chuck is just delighted to have her father back, even if he’s not exactly going along with the limited lifestyle these events have presented for him.
In the end, Chuck must make a choice between her father and her life with Ned in the Pie Hole, and she chooses the latter. In the final scene they find Charles Charles has left the apartment, destination unknown!
This is a really strong episode where the pieces of Bryan Fuller’s beautifully crafted jigsaw are starting to fall into place. With just four more shows to go, the swansong of this production is going out on a high note.
Soon I’ll be back with my review of The Norwegians, which is by far the funniest episode of the series so far.
Check out Mark’s review of the previous episode here.
16 January 2009