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TV Snapshots: Love and Truth in ‘Pushing Daisies’

Chuck: ". . . Maybe that is his truth, it’s just different from our truth."

Emerson: "The truth ain’t like puppies, a bunch of them running around, you pick your favorite. [He holds up a finger.] One truth—and it has come a knocking."

--from the "Bitter Sweets" episode of Pushing Daisies, as they are about to confront a man who believes a mannequin is actually alive and his girlfriend.
Pushing Daisies is a unique and witty series about a pie maker named Ned with an unusual ability: when he touches something dead it comes back to life. But there’s a catch. When he touches it a second time it dies again for good—and if he doesn’t touch it within 60 seconds of the first touch, something else of “equal life value” in the near proximity will die instead. He accidentally discovers his gift as a child, when his mother dies and he brings her back to life when he touches her. However, not knowing the conditions of his gift, as his mother lives past the 60 seconds the father of his best friend Charlotte (“Chuck”) dies next door. He painfully discovers the other condition of his ability when his mother kisses him that night and dies again—permanently.

In the pilot episode, Ned runs into Chuck again—only this time she’s the one who’s died. Investigating her death with Emerson Cod, a private detective, he brings her back to life in order to ask her who killed her but, overcome by his affection for her, ends up letting her live past the 60 seconds. A corrupt funeral home director dies as a result. The rest of the series, on the surface, focuses on the cases that the three of them solve together, but underlying their adventures is the growing love between Ned and Chuck (who cannot touch each other or Chuck would die again for good) and the consequences of the choices they (and others in the series) make.

This series plays a lot with how we make decisions, why we make them, and what criteria we use to determine what is right and wrong. In an earlier episode, Ned tells Emerson that he was glad he made the decision to keep Chuck alive even at the cost of someone else’s life because it was the “right thing to do” and he’d do it again—a big swing in the direction of the puppy analogy above which is how many people approach the idea of truth.

However, the series seems to be exploring the other end of the spectrum as well, as it did in this episode. The guilt and burden Ned carries for having—however inadvertently—killed Chuck’s father resurfaces. He wants to tell her, but struggles with the decision out of fear of losing or hurting her. Yet he feels he’s lying to her if he doesn’t. At one point, he goes again with the puppy analogy, deciding not telling her is the best thing to do, even if it is withholding truth.

In the end, however, Ned decides to tell her—but interestingly, he does it out of a surge of love for Chuck instead of the fear, guilt and anxiety that has riddled him from the day he brought her back to life. And that reminds me a lot of that well-known list of what love is and is not, one of which connects love and truth: Love “takes pleasure in the flowering of truth” (1 Cor. 13:6 The Message). Indeed, Ned discovers there is one truth—and love appears to be right beside it as it knocks on his door.

How this theme of truth (and its connection to love) plays out is yet to be seen, but I appreciated this episode for the way it explored the other this end of the spectrum regarding truth and love. And I, for one, am looking forward to watching the rest of the story unfold.

(Images: screen captures from the webisodes on ABC) pushingdaisiesctgy