“Prepare to be amazed! There has not been this much talent around a body of water since Moses played the Red Sea.”
– Chuck, about the Aquacade
Pushing Daisies, at its core, has always been a show about love. About what it makes us do. About how it makes us feel. About how it worms its way into every facet of our lives. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Pushing Daisies is just as committed to examining the darker side of love as it to examining its positive side. Lily’s affair with Charles Charles represents that darker side, and its consequences are still being felt today. On the bright side, it brought Charlotte into Lily and Vivian’s lives; on the other hand, Lily has wrestled with the secret of her daughter’s parentage for thirty years, succumbing to self-loathing and alcoholism in the process.
The previous episode left open the question of whether or not love was worth it. Does the good outweigh the bad? “Kerplunk” gives a fairly definitive answer to that question.
But not until the final moments of the episode. Before that, most of “Kerplunk” concerns itself with Lily and Vivian’s relationship.
“She was such a happy girl. It’s as if when she died, the merriment in this home died with her.”
– Vivian, about Chuck
As a kid, Lily was told that she always had to put Vivian’s happiness first. And so she did. That continued into adulthood, with Lily remaining a stoic shoulder to cry on when Chuck died. In this episode, she even agrees to come out of retirement for Vivian’s sake. But Lily had one lapse: she had an affair with Vivian’s fiancé, Charles Charles, which led to her having a daughter, Charlotte, a.k.a. Chuck.
Olive: What a shame: you’ve been doing the skinny-dip with your sister’s husband!
Narrator: At that moment, Lily Charles had something in common with a lifelong enemy: both were adultresses; both had stolen men their sisters loved; both were-
That one transgression continues to haunt Lily to do this day. Making matters worse, this episode’s case centers around the murder of one half of the sibling synchronized swimming duo, the Aquadolls, and the surviving member, Coral, slept with sister’s husband. Lily can barely stand to be around the Aquacade, let alone Coral. But Vivian insists on inviting Coral to join the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ performance, and Lily has to go along with it. Now, not only has Lily come out of retirement for Vivian’s sake, she has also agreed to perform alongside a constant reminder of why she hates herself so much.
“This time, don’t do it for me; do it for you.”
– Vivian, to Lily
Vivian has always been the more naïve sister, but that doesn’t mean she’s stupid. She intuits that Lily is having a hard time wrestling with some sort of emotional pain, and moreover, she knows that Lily has always put her first for their entire lives. So she offers the most apt kind of encouragement: she tells Lily not to worry about how her performance might affect others, but to put herself first for a change. That’s exactly the encouragement Lily needs to dive into the water and put on a great show.
“Now, I’m finally putting your happiness before my own.”
– Ned, to Chuck
While Lily has known for years about the importance of putting the happiness of her loved ones’ happiness ahead of her own, Chuck and Ned are learning that lesson now. Chuck is furious and devastated that her aunts are leaving on a world tour with the Aquacade, far away from where she’ll be able to keep tabs on them. She even goes so far as to almost sabotage the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ comeback performance, before being caught in the act by a very angry Emerson. Realizing her folly, Chuck eventually understands that her aunts have finally moved on from their grief, and that touring Europe will be good for them.
Ned’s realization is a longer time coming. From the start of the series, he has maintained that Chuck’s aunts could never know she was alive, because then his secret would be out. But Ned realizes that this was selfish and that the risk of revealing his magic powers to the world doesn’t outweigh the emotional pain he’s been putting Chuck, Lily, and Vivian through. So, he takes Chuck to see her aunts.
“I knew the truth would break your heart. So I broke mine instead.”
– Lily, to Vivian
Putting your loved one’s happiness ahead of your own occasionally means shielding them from the truth. When Vivian finally finds out about Lily’s affair, that’s how Lily justifies keeping it a secret for thirty years; she didn’t tell Vivian the truth, because she knew it would ruin her. But that’s not enough for Vivian. She doesn’t want justifications for the betrayal; she just wants it out of her sight, and so she orders Lily out of the house. It looks like the sisters have severed their relationship for good. But then, Chuck and Ned appear on Lily and Vivian’s doorstep.
And just like that, the episode reverses course: Lily and Vivian go on to tour the world together again; Olive and Randy settle down together and open up a mac-and-cheese restaurant; Emerson is reunited with his daughter; and Chuck finally lets her aunts know she’s alive. Everyone gets their happy endings. To some, this might seem artificial or forced – and it definitely has the appearance of a hasty exit due to an unwelcome cancellation – but happy endings are a staple of storybooks, and Pushing Daisies – from its aesthetics to its wordplay to its whimsy – is nothing if not a storybook. Furthermore, these happy endings serve an important thematic purpose; we can imagine that the characters have their ups and downs in the future, but we’re shown that they’re content with their lives because the good outweighs the bad. Love is worth it, and we’re better off with it in our lives. If that’s Pushing Daisies‘ ultimate message, then I can’t think of a better note to go out on.
For more information on the Pushing Daisies rewatch project, please click here.
That does it for this summer’s Pushing Daisies rewatch. I hope you’ve enjoyed revisiting my favourite TV series of all time as much as I have!