You’re not me. You’re a good person. And you’re a person.
Wilfred… Wilfred, Wilfred, Wilfred… I’ve gotta admit the truth here, I’ve been staring at my screen for about five minutes now trying to think of something to write here, and normally I would chalk that up to just plain writer’s block, but with a show like Wilfred, that’s not the case- because what I’m trying to do is write a line to start off the essay, and describe the FX show Wilfred and, well… I can’t. Wilfred is a show that cannot just be described in one line, especially so soon after finishing it’s first season. Wilfred takes daring leaps out of the realm of conventional writing, a fact that has earned it the bemused and bewildered adoration of it’s new American audience, and earned it’s place as another successful show from the station that seems to do no wrong.
Starring Elijah Wood as Ryan Newman, and Jason Gann (from the Australian version) as Ryan’s neighbor’s dog, Wilfred, the show unabashedly opened the show with a darkly comedic montage of Ryan attempting (and failing) a drug-overdose suicide. From there, things simply get more insane, as Ryan is greeted the next morning by his cute girl-next-door neighbor, Jenna, who asks him to watch her dog Wilfred- only Ryan doesn’t see a dog. He sees Wilfred, specifically, a man dressed in a dog costume. At first the show teases with the idea that Ryan might be hallucinating, might be insane, might even be dead, but when all the logical theories fail, all that the viewer is left with is the illogical, which must be accepted as fact.
While some have complained they found Ryan’s quick acceptance of Wilfred as unrealistic, I argue that in Ryan’s shoes, anybody would have done the same. Ryan is despondent, miserable, and has reached the point where he just wants to die, but then Wilfred shows up, someone who actually cares about him, who wants to help him from the moment they meet (albeit unconventionally, i.e. making him steal weed from his asshole neighbor, and then shitting in the boot of said asshole neighbor), Wilfred is what Ryan has always wanted, and so he is presented the option of the red pill or the blue pill: reject the notion of Wilfred as impossible, falling back into reality, which to Ryan is on par with hell, or accept Wilfred, and reject normalcy, a path which offers salvation, and a chance at personal redemption. This is just one of the many philosophical questions Wilfred shoves into the face of its viewer, and does so, in my book, gloriously.
Wilfred is not all about the meta-physical though; one must remember it is also a comedy, and a good one at that. Still, while some of the jokes seem controversial, when it comes right down to it, almost all of them are just different puns off of the fact that Wilfred is a dog, and has dog humor. This is one of the reasons I was interested to find out that the writer to bring Wilfred over to the states was actually David Zuckerman, an old, old, writer from Family Guy, who may have been the reason I was so insistently reminded of Brian (the dog from Family Guy), each time Wilfred made another joke about eating his own shit.
Apart form the jokes though, the writing of the show was superb, each episode bringing a new and refreshing story centered around a certain moral lesson, such as Respect, Pride, Compassion, Anger, etc. I was delighted each episode how true each lesson rang true, and how easily relatable (at least to me) the stories were. And what was really brilliant, I found, was how each and every one of these episodes is so important to the overall show by the finale. As I said before, it is Ryan’s horrible state of living that makes him so willing (eager even) to accept Wilfred no questions asked. But as time goes on, and Wilfred helps Ryan better himself each episode, Ryan starts to feel like he needs Wilfred less and less. And so he begins to question Wilfred more and more, going from episodes like Trust, and Acceptance, to episodes like Isolation, and Doubt. All this leads Ryan on an unavoidable path to the mind-fucking final, Identity. That episode, by far, might be the greatest cliffhanger for a show I’ve ever watched.
The episode starts with Ryan finally breaking down trying to force Wilfred to explain what the fuck is going- which Wilfred cleverly evades with a reference to Lost. Except now Ryan, empowered arrogant and pissed of at Wilfred for his seeming betrayal (Wilfred trying to tell Ryan it’s okay to go on the slippery slope, as long as you have someone to hold onto), tries to take control of his life, by blatantly ignoring Wilfred, and playing mind-games with those around him. It all falls to shambles though, ending with Jenna now thinking she’s pregnant (she’s not) and has to marry man-child Drew, and Ryan’s sister, Kristin, breaking up with her husband, blaming it on Ryan telling him that he’s dead to her. With nowhere else to turn, and realizing the cost of his arrogance, Ryan tries to go to Wilfred, who is hospitalized because he tried to help Ryan by jumping in front of a car, only to find out Wilfred apparently does not know who he is (a sentiment that was repeated many times throughout the episode). In an absolutely horrifying twist, Ryan realizes Wilfred knew this would happen all along, as he remembers at the start of the episode Wilfred was writing his will, telling Ryan it instructions for when he was gone. Ryan runs home to find the will, his entire life ruined, everything he’d been building the entire season destroyed all because of him, only to open the door to the basement where he and Wilfred had been hanging out in during every episode- was gone. The door just opened to a closet. Out of which came the tennis ball- RYAN’S FIRST LESSON. I have to give this show a 100% Classy, even if I do hate it right now for making me wait UNTIL NEXT FUCKING SUMMER TO FIGURE OUT JUST WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.