“But as long as the benefits outweighed the costs, he also believed an act of charity outweighed the consequences.” – The Narrator, about Young Ned

Ever since the beginning of the series, Ned has struggled with why he uses his powers: Does he use them because he wants to, or out of necessity? And if he’s using his powers because he wants to, is it to help others or for more selfish motives? Regardless of his motivations, Ned’s power has consequences. Young Ned didn’t think much about consequences. He didn’t hesitate to bring Eugene Mulchandani’s pets back to life after a horrific incident involving marbles and shattered enclosures. He knew that reviving the rabbit and the python would result in the death of two other animals, but he didn’t stop to consider how he would interact with Eugene’s pets in the future. After all, he could never touch either of them ever again. All he was thinking about when he reawakened the animals was that he didn’t want to lose Eugene’s friendship.

Chuck: Do you ever to stop to think you’re a little bit like King Midas except substitute life for gold, and obviously you don’t have donkey ears.
Ned: Midas was a miser like Scrooge, but hungrier; I’m a philanthropist.

Now that he’s older and wiser, Ned takes far more time to consider the consequences of his actions. Every revival (Chuck’s excepted) is carefully considered, its benefits weighed against its costs. Usually, the benefits come in the form of a monetary reward, the cut he gets from helping Emerson with his cases, and the costs are some mild discomfort and creepiness that last no more than a minute. But even a million dollars wouldn’t be enough to convince Ned to use his powers if he believed they were being put toward some morally dubious purpose. Ned needs to know that what he’s doing is for the greater good, and luckily, it’s very easy to argue that catching murderers and criminals is for the greater good.

But while Ned’s justifications are convincing, those of Bellmen Tam Phong and Rob Wright are much less so. Their aggressive methods cause much discomfort for would-be donors, to be sure, but Rob takes it a step further and actually fancies himself a sort of Robin Hood, stealing money and valuables from the rich to give to the poor. Rob begins to value his Robin Hood identity over actually helping the poor, leading him to murder Gustav (albeit accidentally).

“Ever since I was little I’d have this dream that somebody found out what I could do. It starts off with lots of ice cream and balloons and ends in a small white room where little bits are cut out of me until there’s nothing left to cut.” – Ned

Rob’s actions show just how easily selflessness can become selfishness, and Ned is beginning to realize the same thing. He always refused to bring Chuck’s father back from the dead because he didn’t want to put Chuck through an emotional wringer. However, with Dwight Dixon getting closer to Vivian and causing trouble for Ned and his friends, getting information from Charles Charles is becoming increasingly necessary. Moreover, Ned is beginning to realize that his original justification for leaving Charles in the ground, while noble in intention in and of itself, masks the real reason he doesn’t want to bring Chuck’s dad back: he doesn’t want to put himself through an emotional wringer. But now that he and Chuck have dug up Charles’ grave, he’s going to have to selflessly bear that emotional cost.

For more information on the Pushing Daisies rewatch project, please click here.

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