Wilfred Season 4 Review: Mythologizing Is Serious Not Funny Business
It almost didn't happen. When we last saw Wilfred, the comedy still hadn't been renewed for its fourth season, which makes the ending of last year's finale seem even more audacious. Obviously, FX ended up coming through with the renewal but only for 10 more episodes. While a shortened (and final) season may not have been the fate fans wanted for the scrappy series at least Wilfred gets the chance to finish on its own terms. And that's especially good news since (the start of) Season 4 is just as unique, compelling and stunningly shot as the previous three although not quite as funny. Trying to provide answers when crafting a characters' mythology can be serious and often dark business.
To be fair, I have only seen the two installments that comprise the back-to-back premiere and they clearly have to deal more with the 'mystery' than the laughs because last season's finale left a bunch of things hanging. Like I said, the aptly titled "Regrets" didn't play it safe and (the equally aptly titled) "Amends" and "Consequences" were forced to pick up the pieces. Most notably, the 'piece' of a dog-suited-man statue that Elijah Wood's Ryan found while trying to figure out why he's the only one who sees Jason Gann's Wilfred as a man in a dog suit.
I can't say much more about the events of the season premiere because, well, I don't want to spoil the mystery but I can say that the writers manage to make a groan-worthy premise work wonders. The second 'back' in the back-to-back premiere doesn't require such a cryptic approach and its probably not a coincidence that "Consequence," an episode that sends our leads on a camping trip with one of my favorite recurring characters, is also a little more light-hearted and focused on laughs than "Amends." When Wilfred goes full LOST, it isn't nearly as funny. That doesn't mean it's not compelling.
To navigate what looks like a risky final season, FX decided to bring David Zuckerman back as showrunner and that's probably a smart move since the first two seasons are slightly stronger than the third and it makes sense to let the person who developed the series for American television bring it to a close. Plus, Reed Agnew and Eli Jorné are still around (the pair wrote the premiere) so Wilfred should be in good hands for the homestretch. I'd worry about too many cooks in the kitchen but Zuckerman, Agnew and Jorné (and Gann) have been working on the comedy together since the beginning and have done a brilliant job telling the unique story so far.
As compelling as the storytelling is, the real stars of Wilfred are series director Randall Einhorn and DP Brad Lipson. It's easily the best looking comedy on television. It's not really much of a contest. There are a few shots in the first two episodes that I can't describe as anything but gorgeous, and the original look is the result of Einhorn and Lipson using DSLRs instead of more traditional film or digital cameras. And it's not just that the series is 'beautiful,' every odd composition is in service of the narrative, always trying to show the audience Ryan's twisted point of view.
Wood and Gann remain an absolute joy to watch as well with their chemistry providing the backbone for the FX series. The more emotional scenes (and there are a few) play as well as the comedy because their bond is so believable. Too bad there's not more time to spend sitting on the couch in the basement smoking bongs. The rest of the cast and great guest stars are fun to watch too, especially Chris Klein as Drew. I've said it before, he was born to play this part. There's one particularly meta-scene with him in the second part that had me howling. Despite diving deeper into the mythology, Wilfred still has some big laughs thanks to characters like Drew and the dogisms but the final season may be too busy delivering 'answers' to deliver jokes.
Wilfred returns with the fourth and final season premiere, “Amends,” as well as Episode 2, "Consequences," on Wednesday, June 25 at 10:00 p.m. ET on FXX. Based on the Australian series of the same name (created by Jason Gann, Adam Zwar and Tony Rogers), the comedy was developed for American TV by David Zuckerman and stars Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubelmann, Dorian Brown and Chris Klein.
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