While last week I complained that Wilfred's premise and structure weren't working well together, this week's two episodes actually did a pretty good job of dealing directly with the premise. Let's start with the first, and weaker, of the two episodes, “Compassion.”
“Compassion” starts, oddly, with an Anne McCaffrey quote. Its focus is Ryan's mother, played by Mary Steenburgen. And… she's annoying. Not quite at Ryan's sister-levels of annoyingness, but that's primarily because it's a different type. Instead of Kristen's vicious overachieving, Ryan's mother Catherine is a ridiculous free-spirited hippie type. She fits well within Wilfred's trend of having guest stars who are insane and unrealistic, but I think she's a little worse, because she fits a type. There are lots of hippie types like that (I took a rideshare up to Oregon with some just a few weeks ago), and she's only slightly more over-the-top than some of them. But it's done in an almost entirely negative manner. Catherine is a little too real to be funny, so it comes across as just kind of mean.
With the core of the episode taken up by Catherine and Wilfred's newfound, boring love for “our” mum, this was looking like another disappointing Wilfred. But then something exciting happened: It remembered its pilot episode. You know, the one where Ryan tried to commit suicide, and he actually seemed like a disturbed, interesting character, instead of one who exists as merely a straight man for an uncurbed dog. There's still more than enough of that here, but there's also Ryan confronting his fears about his mental illness. It's a bit contrived (you'd figure we'd have heard something about Ryan's parents before this episode), but I think overall, it works at actually making Wilfred seem like a show that's moving somewhere.
“Isolation,” the second episode of the night, takes that idea and really runs with it. Wilfred usually deals with its metaphorical constructs in a very literal way, if that makes sense. Ryan deals directly with the caricatures he encounters on a regular basis, even if they may be better understood as his personal caricatures of those people. And Wilfred, of course, is a Hobbes-like construction of Ryan's, although how real that is varies from episode to episode, as I've mentioned a perhaps excessive amount of times.
The episode also begins with Ryan in a pot-induced haze, completely forgetting, well, everything. A few of you in the comments have mentioned considering Ryan's drug use to be a little problematic for you in a stereotypical stoner-has-mental-illness kind of way. I've usually found Ryan's drug use to be recreational or perhaps lightly self-medicating, which is why I haven't mentioned it, but it shows up as dramatic over-compensating here. And his craziness actually seems to be crazy. There's a legitimate question as to whether he committed the crimes, thanks largely to a new technique where Wilfred actually seems to exert his will on events well outside of Ryan's perception. He also specifically works against Ryan, trying to lead a torch-carrying mob against his house. The Wilfred of this episode is very much not the trickster spirit trying to lead Ryan to be a better person but something entirely different. He's almost Ryan's superego here, telling Ryan what he intellectually knows about his isolation, instead of the id that he usually plays.
It is not, however, an especially funny episode. The best bits, especially if you've had an over-enthusiastic dog, come from Wilfred's battle with the “warlock” kid who keeps tricking him. But I think it's a potentially important Wilfred, in that it may introduce a desperately-needed expansion of the show's universe.
“Compassion” B-, “Isolation” B+
- “I had a similar situation with… my penis and vacuum hose.”
- “Mittens? Are you serious?”
- “That was a little racist. But it was fun.”
- “This is already online, isn't it?”
- “Based on years of medical experience and your lack of health insurance, it's my opinion that you're not a danger to yourself or others.”
- I did like the touch of Ryan's mom talking to Mittens the cat in the same way. It just kinda fit, although it was a little obvious.
- “He's a warlock, Ryan. Don't fall for his diabolical sorcery.”
- “Answer the question. Ryan.”
- “And you drew a penis on my hand?!?”
- “I know your social security number! You really need a shredder.”
- “It's not a kid, Ryan. It just takes the form of a kid.”
- “Hell, I bet he just found a fresh vein in one of his angel wings.”