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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Wilfred: "Anger"
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If there's been one easily recognized, surface problem with Wilfred from the pilot on, it's been Kristen, Ryan's sister. Calling her a crude stereotype seems unfair to stereotypes, which can occasionally be useful shorthand. She is a Platonic harpy, who exists to crush Ryan. While most of the characters on the show who aren't Ryan and Wilfred have been static and well over-the-top, they've also generally only been in a single episode. Kristen has been in several, and she's not just a drag on Ryan; she's a drag overall.

So it makes sense that we'd get an episode focusing on her and trying to humanize her. Change her from one-dimensional into two dimensions, maybe have her make us laugh instead of cringe, and the show will seem much better when she's around, right? If that was the idea, then I don't think this episode entirely succeeded. Kristen was still a total nag, not just to Ryan but to her more-entertaining husband, and an annoyingly careerist one at that. A resolution involving Kristen in tears doesn't help a great deal, though perhaps it may in the future.

Another way to interpret the episode is that, like most episodes, it's about Ryan learning a valuable lesson in his continued Nietzschean evolution. In this case, it's Wilfred encouraging Ryan to use his “anger” instead of swallowing. But in order to do that, we have a contrived story with Wilfred being possessed—or perhaps faking being possessed—by Ryan's former dog, Sneakers. This serves directly as an origin story for Ryan's fractious relationship with Kristen, but it also seems to be an origin for Ryan's obsession with Wilfred and dogs in general. I'm not generally a fan of origin stories, and this one doesn't really do anything to convince me otherwise.

Of course, these two caveats would be mere quibbles if the episode actually succeeded at being funny, but it also commits the cardinal sin of providing very few laughs. The focus on Kristen, the least entertaining character on the show, is a major strike against it, but turning Wilfred unfunny when possessed is just a bad idea. The climax of the episode, in which Wilfred-as-Sneakers tears around Kristen's horrifically-planned, Indian-themed party, just doesn't work. I'm left thinking that gee, Ryan really is stupid for not seeing this coming, instead of laughing at anything he does.

There's an essential tension in the premise here: The show is supposed to be about Ryan learning lessons from Wilfred, but if he successfully learned the lessons, there wouldn't need to be much of a show. Perhaps the lessons could change if there were a change in setting, or if there more characters than if the core premise was diffused. (Actually, I kind of like the first idea; maybe the season could end with Ryan getting a job and Wilfred working with him to negotiate the office). As it is, the show can't be too successful at what it's ostensibly supposed to be portraying. And with its light serialization, I think there's the suggestion that maybe it should be.

So, in the end, we have a pretty disappointing episode of Wilfred, albeit one that that's not a totally disappointing one. It just doesn't really work with the psychology of the show, the plot of the show, or the humor of the show. And that's not a good combination, not at all.


Stray Observations:

  • “Anger is like herpes: You're not meant to keep it to yourself.”
  • “Great. The entrails fell out. Now it's worthless.”
  • “Cold black eyes. Dead heart. Nice tits!” Wilfred does score the funniest line of the episode.
  • “The glowing orb of gayness is more believable than that.” Though Ryan manages to get a decent straight man, a-ha, jibe in.
  • My thanks to Kenny for filling in last week, as well as my jealousy that he got a far, far funnier episode.