In Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies, a socially awkward man with the uncanny ability to bring dead things back to life hides his miraculous gift by presenting himself as a humble pie-maker who’s turned his passion for baking into a conspicuously thriving small business.
Pushing Daisies’ plot typically kicks in when Ned (Lee Pace) uses his powers to momentarily resurrect a recently deceased person as he, Chuck Charles (Anna Friel), and Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) investigate how they died. But early on, the show also laid out how Ned also uses his magic touch much more often in a small, but very clever way that’s likely a key part to his pie shop’s financial success.
Though many of the ingredients Ned bakes with — like flour and other things he does not make from scratch — are fresh, he often fills his pies with fruit that’s quite dead and rotten until his skin makes contact with it, transforming it back into perfectly ripe produce. Here are the episodes featuring delicious fruit that you might want to watch again while the time is ripe right.
The Fun in the Funeral
Even though Ned’s revived fruits are special, the secret ingredient that actually sets a lot of Pushing Daisies’ events in motion is introduced in the show by Alfredo Aldarisio (Raúl Esparza), a homeopathic salesman convinced that all of the atmosphere’s oxygen will one day drained away, suffocating the entire planet. Though Alfredo’s fear is quite serious, he copes with it with the help of the all-natural antidepressants he sells. It’s an endorsement that helps convince Chuck to take a sample, which she plans to slip her aunts Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) and Vivian (Ellen Greene) by baking the tonic into a pie.
As many gags about pigeons as the episode “Pigeon” makes, it also points out multiple times how humans really need to be careful about handling birds — particularly those who work with and/or frequently handle food people will ingest. Because Chuck’s meant to be dead, one of the biggest challenges she faces in Pushing Daisies’ earliest episodes is figuring out how best to help her aunts deal with her recent death, and she reasons that sending them her mood-altering pies is her best bet. But as the episode unfolds and she attempts to carry out her pie delivery plan, Pushing Daisies illustrates how pie-related schemes like Chuck’s always inadvertently end up backfiring and drawing far more attention than people want.
Most of Pushing Daisies’ episodes explain specific details about how Ned’s powers work in flashbacks to his past, but “Girth” established a rather interesting quirk that raises some questions about the man’s sense of taste. While visiting Chuck’s aunts, Ned realises that the pie they serve him is one of his when he takes a bite, and the contact between his tongue and the pie filling causes it to revert to its rotten state. Useful as Ned’s powers in that specific moment proved to be — as the pie’s origins were an important detail — “Girth” also implied that Ned likely cannot properly eat any of the fruit pies he serves to others.
In “Bitter Sweets,” pies feature as both welcoming gifts and declarations of war as a candy shop opens near Ned’s Pie Hole, a prime piece of real estate that the owners, Billy (Mike White) and Dilly (Molly Shannon) Balsam want a piece of. The fact that Ned deals mostly with rotten fruit plays an important role in the way the episode plays out — and how Ned ends up being offered a pie with a gun baked inside of it.
Chuck continues to dose her aunt’s pies into Pushing Daisies’ second season, but the premiere ups the stakes a bit as Ned devises a way to sneak into the office of a honey megacorporation whose leading spokesmodel, Kentucky Fitz (Autumn Reeser), was stung to death by bees. By secretly baking prunes into a secretary’s pie, Ned’s able to force the man to call out sick from work, giving himself the opportunity to pose as a secretary and gain some valuable information.
Despite being a show about a man who bakes pies, few episodes actually showcased pies in all their glory quite like “Robbing Hood,” where Ned ends up stress-baking a number of monstrous tarts, which Olive (Kristen Chenoweth) subsequently stress-eats. Though the stress pies are all undoubtedly impressive to look at, both their structural integrities and their flavours (see: kiwi pie) were beyond suspect.
Discomfiting as certain elements of Ned’s business are, “Comfort Food” opens on a scene from his past that makes you understand how and why pies feature so largely into his life. Odd as the idea of a pie-only diner is, the episode shows you how making pie for himself and his friends at boarding school gave Ned a much-needed source of happiness during his childhood, something that informed his decision to open the Pie Hole.
The entire time that Ned and Chuck spend flirting with the idea of acting on their attraction to one another, Pushing Daisies never lets you forget the dark secret he hides that has a direct connection to a traumatic moment in Chuck’s past. Whenever new people — like Norwegian investigators Magnus Olsdatter (Orlando Jones), Hedda Lillihammer (Ivana Milicevic), and Nils Nilsen (Michael Weaver) — come into Ned and Chuck’s lives, the number of lies they have to maintain multiplies exponentially. In “The Norwegians,” the sheer weight of it all leads to Ned making an important decision. It’s a bit of a surprise when Chuck finds Ned baking pies with fresh fruit for a change as the episode ends, but it speaks to his desire to reign his powers in, representing a major shift for the show.
Pushing Daisies is not currently streaming in Australia, but you should still watch the show!