At some point soon, I'm going to have to take back some of my criticisms of Wilfred. Or believe that I (or more likely others) made criticisms that the producers took into account: that the premise of the show, built on Ryan growing and changing, wasn't working with the sedentary nature of a sitcom. So in the last few episodes, Wilfred appears to have embraced its premise, letting Ryan grow and change somewhat, while also playing with the “What is Wilfred?” concept I harped upon in the early episode reviews.
Tonight's episode was easily the best in terms of engaging with the show's premise and the “What is Wilfred?” question. A strange man appears to be stalking Ryan, and eventually reveals himself to be Bruce, a previous Wilfred buddy with a similar story to Ryan's, except with a darker twist at the end. “Save yourself from this demon” is the rough message, and it seems to apply pretty damn well. Ryan takes the advice and is prepared to leave Wilfred in the woods.
That's when things get weird, and by weird, this time I mean awesome. The resolution to the Bruce-Wilfred conflict is a marvelous bit of fuckery, working decently well as a piece of drama, but primarily as a consistent subversion of audience expectations.
At first Wilfred behaves as if he can't see Bruce, giving the impression that this is another figment of Ryan's imagination, or a different devil, which goes on for a bit before Bruce makes his presence known. Then it appears literal, with Ryan taking Wilfred's side and shooting Bruce. Then it just gets weird. Bruce gets up reveals that the whole thing was a sham, a performance, a bet between him and Wilfred which Wilfred won.
This is the kind of thing that shows do pretty regularly—Community did it just last season—but what made Wilfred stand out was that the morals learned… weren't morals. It wasn't that they were anti-morals, either. It was just a bunch of crazy shit that happened for a reason that we—and Ryan—won't understand. Bruce departs with the line “Here's the thing, Ryan. This shit is complicated.”, which might be the funniest/smartest line on Wilfred yet. Because it doesn't resolve anything. It says “this whole situation is unresolved and possibly unresolvable. We are going to leave as many doors open as possible. And it's gonna be fun.”
But, despite my respect for the show thumbing its nose at the idea of resolution, I still can't quite get behind this episode of Wilfred entirely. The primary issue is that I didn't find it all that funny. I mean, there were some good lines and cute dog humor, quoted below, but I rarely laughed, which I usually use as a barometer of a comedy's quality. And while a few of you have suggested that Wilfred might be better viewed as a half-hour drama than a comedy, I just can't quite get there, either. A drama implies more character development than we've seen, and the resolutions tend to be comically oriented, like tonight's.
There is some serialization going on. This episode began with the idea that Ryan was beginning to get his life in order, as well as quit smoking weed. Maybe Wilfred is moving somewhere or just taking a few episodes to get back to the status quo. Either way, it's gotten a lot more interesting. I just wish the interesting was equally matched by the funny.
- “SORRY RYAN! DIE! EVIL! ROBOT!”
- “Hmmm. A whimsical, light-bodied bouquet. With a hint of peach. And a rotten egg finish. Exquisite.”
- “Shhhhhhh. Lemme just wash my hands.”
- “Never smelled that before! Never smelled that before! Never smelled that before!”
- “You convinced me to make out with my own father!” “Everyone at the party loved it! They thought it was edgy.”