One of TV's biggest mistakes was the cancellation of Pushing Daisies. The whimsical series from creator Bryan Fuller was a magical mixture of romance, mystery, and pie. Every episode of the show's all-too-short run is a joy to watch, but hands down, the best episode of Pushing Daisies is "Pie-lette." Now, that's not to say that the show peaked with its first episode, it's simply a testament to how perfect Pushing Daisies' opening hour was.
The episode could easily double as a short film. It feels like a self-contained, 45-minute outing, even as it introduces viewers to the world of Coeur d'Coeurs and its colorful residents. While it sets up the strange and wonderful stories to come, the show's pilot can also be appreciated entirely on its own merits — and that's a rare accomplishment in the world of television.
At the heart of the episode is Ned's reunion with his (now dead) childhood sweetheart, and it's the love story between Ned and Chuck that makes the pilot sing. Through the sweet narration of Jim Dale, the tragic stories of young Ned and young Chuck unfold. Viewers watch as Ned discovers his powers in the most heartbreaking of ways as he realizes that the touch that brought his mother back to life also ended up causing Chuck's father's death. Things get worse when a second touch from Ned leaves his mother dead forever.
Had the show lingered too long on the tragedies that shaped its hero's young life, the episode would have been a serious downer, but "Pie-Lette" offers up a bittersweet first kiss before forging ahead to a reunion between Ned and Chuck. In true Pushing Daisies' fashion, the reunion is as unconventional as possible, since Chuck is dead and Ned is supposed to be investigating her murder.
Of course, once Ned wakes Chuck up, he can't lose her again, and from that moment on, the episode devotes itself to solving Chuck's murder. This turn of events alone would be enough to earn "Pie-lette" a place in the pantheon of great TV episodes, but Pushing Daisies is nothing if not an over-achiever.
The show's first hour isn't just about Chuck and Ned's reunion, it also introduces the scene-stealing Olive Snook and Emerson Cod. Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride are instantly winning in their respective roles, and their ability to deliver old-school Hollywood style rat-a-tat dialogue with ease gives the hour its unique sense of humor. Without Olive and Emerson on the case, Pushing Daisies could have drowned in its own whimsy, but right from the start, they were on hand to deliver just the right amount of sarcasm to balance out Ned and Chuck's earnestness.
In addition to the four main characters and the novelty of having Chuck solve her own murder, "Pie-lette" also tells the story of Ned's faithful pup, Digby. Generally, it takes longer than a single episode to become emotionally invested enough in a television series to be moved to tears, but thanks to Digby and Ned, Pushing Daisies likely managed to make many viewers cry during episode one. The episode has barely started when Digby is hit by a truck and Ned's touch revives him. When a time jump reveals Digby is still with Ned now that he's an adult, it's hard not to dissolve into tears.
Ultimately, what makes "Pie-lette" the best episode of Pushing Daisies is that it establishes that you are in for a show like no other. Because in the world of TV, Pushing Daisies remains one of a kind. Visually, the series is like a warm hug, but it also has a wicked sense of humor, a sincere love story, and some of the most inventive murder mysteries ever committed to the small screen. Pushing Daisies came out of the gate completely unafraid to be just as weird and wonderful as it wanted to be — and that's one of the reasons why this two-season wonder is still beloved by fans to this day.