The most defining quality of the second season of “Pushing Daisies” is that it’s longer than the first. This gives the cast more room to develop and experiment with their roles, more chance to branch out into new subplots and explore more backstories, but also exposes the hollow repetition of the show’s procedural nature in a way that gets old pretty fast. A lot of that could perhaps be put down to how I watched the season’s episodes in quick succession, but I think the way the show never really developed being its procedural nature the way “Wonderfalls” and “Hannibal” did, prevented it from ever really evolving or improving.
[This review doesn’t spoil any story specifics of the second season.]
Watching the first season, the way the show dealt flippantly with death and had a main character estranged from her living family reminded me a lot of “Dead Like Me”. Watching the second season, the way the show lingered on that estranged family and continually developed subplots for them adrift of the show’s main focus and concept reminded me all too much of how “Dead Like Me” went off the rails. I don’t dislike the aunt characters, but “Pushing Daisies” felt oddly both overstuffed and hollow when it was trying to dole out subplots to all its cast members without much of a unifying focus behind it.
Perhaps the fact Bryan Fuller and his team knew that “Wonderfalls” most likely had an expiration date as soon as the fourth episode, leading them to develop the season appropriately to work as a standalone with closure (but with the potential to continue) was what made it work so well. It seems there was no such knowledge with “Pushing Daisies”, and to be fair the show did get renewed for a second season as well as being beset by writer’s strike troubles in its first season, so it wasn’t as simple. But still, while the second season finale does a fairly good job of providing closure, the second season as a whole felt fairly aimless, and not like it was developing the show’s characters and themes towards any sort of ending. I imagine Fuller may have learnt a lesson from that, as all the seasons of “Hannibal” had season finales that could have worked very well as complete series finales.
Apart from its length and the fact it ended up being the final season, I find it difficult to identify much unique to the second season from the first. What works well continues to work well – the unique style, the show’s twee nature, the core character relationships. What doesn’t work well doesn’t improve – the repetitive stories, stagnant arcs, general aimlessness. Some more subtle elements of the show’s worldbuilding become more notable when the episode count mounts up and they’re repeated more frequently, like the anachronistic vehicles and general time-bending features of the setting. The second season lacks the novelty of the first season but taken the episodes on their own terms, they don’t do anything worse than the first season did. The problems are mostly big-picture and structural.
Overall, I quite liked the show, and thought its style was refreshingly unique for a romance/quasi-crime procedural, but it never really developed, meaning most episodes felt like diminishing returns to me. I enjoyed the cast, the lore, the idiosyncrasies, but the show never quite coalesced into an actual story for me the way “Wonderfalls” did (let alone Fuller’s later shows). I give the second season two and a half honeycombs, and a pop-up book.