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'Pushing' good habits

Ned and Emerson are standing above the body of a dead nun in a convent. Ned has 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. Ned’s been working with Emerson (a private detective) in solving crimes by bringing dead people back to life in order to find out as much as they can reveal about who killed them in the allotted 60 seconds. He’s about to do the same with the nun, but he's finding his surroundings a bit intimidating.

Ned: I’m not sure how I feel about doing this. Here.

He looks at the statue of Mary.

Ned: With her.

Then he nods his head in the direction of a crucifix of Jesus.

Ned: And him.

Emerson: Well, it ain’t like he ain’t never done this before. Remember Lazarus?

--from the "Bad Habits" episode of Pushing Daisies
Heh. This entire episode of Pushing Daisies was drenched in God-talk and religious images—and, I must say, very cleverly done. (You can see the episode online here.) Someone involved in the series really knows their stuff. And while most of the episode was fun with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, I did appreciate a few moments more than the rest.

The first was the reconciliation of Olive and Ned. Even though Olive knows Ned is in love with Chuck (his childhood friend he brought back to life—and let stay alive—after she was murdered), Olive had confessed her love of Ned in a previous episode. But after Ned’s unwillingness to confront it (as well as getting fed up with keeping secrets about Chuck—Chuck’s aunts think she’s still dead and Olive discovers one of them is actually Chuck’s mother), Olive fled to the convent.

But in an impromptu confession with a priest, Ned confronts his own fears of abandonment and how it affects his relationships with others—like Olive. He realizes he’s doing to her what had been done to him in the past. When Ned confesses this to Olive, their conversation takes place in a room with a table shaped like a cross. The two regain their friendship and are reconciled.

I found this a great image of how the new life we have available through Jesus renews and reconciles not only our relationship with God but also each other. In A Community Called Atonement, Scot McKnight writes that atonement works in four directions: restoring our relationship with God, with self, with others and with the world. He warns that “atonement can not be restricted to saving individuals. When it is, it destroys the fabric of the biblical story. That fabric is the community of faith, and atonement is designed to create that community.” The way this scene of confession, forgiveness and reconciliation takes place around a cross-shaped table reminds me of this.

The other scene that resonated with me came at the end, where Ned tells Chuck that her mother is really her Aunt Lily (interestingly, the name of a symbol associated with resurrection as well). Chuck had been despondent throughout the episode about not knowing who her mother is, and Ned was afraid this news would make her even more so, especially considering the deception (and possible implications of abandonment) it entailed. He waits for a response, and when Chuck looks up at him, he groans:
Ned: Tears.

Chuck smiles tenderly at him.

Chuck: Happy ones.

Ned looks at her in wonder.

Ned: So you took that news and chose to make it good?
I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s admonition to us that God causes everything to work together for the good of those that love him—or as The Message puts it: "we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Not that it will always seem so to us, but no matter, he will work it all into his purposes and plans as he works towards bringing life, grace, love, goodness and right-ness to the world and we his creations. And our trust of that colors how we see the events around us. If God is good, then we can look with opportunity and hope no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

And that kind of living is contagious. In Pushing Daisies, Ned is inspired by Chuck’s response to search out his own father, even though he abandoned him as a child. As followers of Jesus, our ability to look at the world with an optimism grounded in reality helps others to do the same.

All in all, a very good episode. And one I really enjoyed.

(Images: ABC) pushingdaisiesctgy


Alyssa said…
Hullo! I stumbled across your blog through Google because I was searching for Ned's quote at the end of the episode ("So you took that news and chose to make it good?") because it greatly inspired me. Lo and behold, I also find your insight into the Christian themes in this episode. Thank you for taking the time to delve deeper into this marvelous show; your post filled me with encouragement. I think Pushing Daisies is the only show on television that is truly uplifting, and it is one that definitely speaks to me spiritually. I'm glad others think so, too.

If you're not already aware of it, Pushing Daisies is in danger of being cancelled due to low viewership. If you have time to let ABC know how much you appreciate the show, the rest of us Pushing Daisies fans would be eternally grateful. Every person counts. More information can be found at:

May God bless you! Thanks again and keep watching!
Carmen Andres said…
alyssa, 'uplifting' is a good word to describe this show - it has such a hopeful worldview, not common in today's television world. i'm sorry to hear it is in danger of being cancelled. i'll drop ABC a line - thanks for stopping by.