“That year, Young Emerson learned his most important lesson: love makes you stupid.”
– The Narrator
Pushing Daisies is in large part a series about love. The characters are all driven by love for each other, even when they disagree with one another. For that reason, it’s strange for an episode like “Water & Power” to ask whether or not love is worth it. It’s as if the episode is questioning the very foundation of the series.
“Penny. My daughter’s name is Penny.”
Emerson has been trying to reunite with his daughter for a long time, even going as far as to publish a pop-up book about his adventures that could serve as a sort of map for her to get to him. But when his baby mama Lyla rolls into town, it seems like he has a more direct opportunity to see his daughter – Lyla will let Emerson see Penny if he helps exonerate her for a murder she says she didn’t commit.
Emerson doesn’t want to help – he doesn’t trust Lyla – but he’ll do anything to see his daughter. Emerson flashes back to went he first courted Lyla and learned of her grifting ways. Back then, he was willing to overlook them, because his love for her had blinded him to her flaws. His love ended up biting him in the ass when Lyla left, along with their daughter. There’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing here for what happens at the end of the episode, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.
Meanwhile, Olive is acting more like Lyla than she’d like to admit. She’s trying not to make it look like she’s treating Randy as a rebound, and she assures him that she sees him as a genuine romantic possibility. However, like Lyla, she ends up actually falling for him. Here’s where the difference between Lyla and Olive comes into play: Olive feels remorse, and moreover, she values love over the pride of successfully pulling a con. So, unlike Lyla, she’s not going to up and leave Randy.
“We need to try.”
Since re-embracing his powers, Ned seems more refreshed and enthusiastic – a bit like Chuck, almost. Whereas Emerson would usually dispense sage wisdom to Ned and Chuck, here it’s the couple’s turn to advise Emerson. At first, before Lyla appears, they tell Emerson to track her down. Ned seems to have adopted the attitude that even if love has made Emerson do stupid things in the past, it was still worth it – a sunny attitude shift that a less romantic, neurotic Ned might not have agreed with.
Chuck: What if Lyla’s lying to you? What if she doesn’t have Penny?
Emerson: Well then I guess I’m a chump, but at least I’m not a chump just sitting around here doing nothing.
But when Chuck and Ned learn of Lyla’s deal for Emerson to see Penny, they’re considerably less enthusiastic. Unlike Emerson, they don’t have blinders where Penny is concerned. And thus, as foreshadowed by the earlier flashback, Emerson gets hoodwinked once again, when Lyla drives off with Emerson’s car and his daughter. But this time, it was his love for Penny, not Lyla, that blinded him. Love makes you stupid, indeed.
It’s not clear whether or not “Water & Power” wants to say that love is worth it; the episode leaves that question hanging in the air. It’s for the following episode – the series finale – to put that question to bed.
For more information on the Pushing Daisies rewatch project, please click here.