"Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him." Ralph Waldo Emerson
For the second week in a row, Wilfred was unexpectedly tame. That may sound weird to say about an episode that concluded with a questionably handicapped janitor blowing his boss but it's true and all "Progress'" fault. Tethering this season to the last, the special preview episode's surrealistic story and formal experimentation created certain expectations for the coming season only to surprise me with a much more conventional premiere. And after the second episode it's even more clear why FX 'officially started' the Season 2 last week and I'm the one that should be "Letting Go" of all those pesky expectations created by the preview.
"Ryan, can we dialogue? I talk, you listen. Go. I need you to... am I interrupting something here?"
"Dignity" opens at Ryan's office with him trying his hardest to put an 'x' in the decline box for an invitation to an event for and from his father. Continuing the trend from her first appearance, Allison Mack's Amanda enters and immediately cutes up the otherwise blue and grey workspace. The two are about to embark on their first rule breaking date when Steven Weber's Jeremy interrupts and rains-checks their plans. Ryan can't stand up to his boss and therefore must suffer the consequences... patent law. And the relationship delay isn't the first for Ryan and Amanda but just another move in their elaborate waiting and rescheduling foreplay. Perhaps too much Jenna on his demented brain?
"Ah shit! There's a guy over there! There's a guy over here! There's a lady here! Ryan, look! Look! There's people everywhere!"
Speaking of Jenna, Wilfred is bored while staying at Ryan's all day while his girl next door is off with her fiancee for a few weeks. Sadly, that means no Fiona Gubelmann or Chris Klein this week but their absence is filled with Mack, Weber, Rob Riggle and the rest of Ryan's workplace. The new location provides a possible recurring for Wilfred, a series that rarely returns to the same place save for Ryan's and the basement. Wilfred calls Ryan at work but with a new deadline there is no time to just talk. And it doesn't seem to be helping his boredom anyway since Wilfred continues to trash the place even while on the phone. The Feng Shui excuse doesn't fly and Ryan tries to force the 'innocent' man-dog into a cage the following day but ends up being talked into taking him to work.
"Good chatting with you. I'll kill you!"
The Stacy diversion is successful but sneaking in isn't an option for the attention starved Wilfred and he's soon flashing his furry balls at everyone. Not everyone instantly falls for Wilfred either, as Amanda is indifferent at best to his appearance in the office. At worst, the series could be planting the seeds for the eventual destruction of one of Ryan's relationships. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and instead turn to someone who definitely does fall for Wilfred's charms and that's Jeremy. Weber's boss bursts through the door furious only to soon find himself on the floor, spoon petting the pooch and throwing around deadline whenevers. It's a hilarious scene and gives Ryan a way to soften up his boss on command. Or so he thinks.
"That guy rubs me the wrong way. Literally, against the grain, from tail to head. Who does that?"
Cue happy hour drinks with Amanda - their first date, shot like the cabin scene in Citizen Kane - and Wilfred talking shop with pigeons on a nearby set of stairs. Once again, Amanda diverts praise from the pup, calling his charms nothing more than chemistry before making birthday glue-huffing plans with his owner. Wilfred's routine has become stale and no one seems to appreciate Ryan continuing to bring the attention seeker to the office. I can't help but see the similarities between Wilfred's 'office dog' title and 'working comics,' which only makes his bombing all the more sad. Awe. But slipping is no laughing matter for Wilfred - the 'suck my dick' is the most direct insult he's ever thrown at Ryan - and he decides on a bit that will have everyone talking till, well, maybe even lunch.
"You don't fool me, Ryan. You may wear big boy pants now but underneath it all, you've still got that same little boy penis."
Shockingly, the water cooler crash doesn't go down well and prompts Wilfred to hand in his office dog resignation. Even though he's as fed up with the routine as anyone, Ryan rejects the letter because he needs the dog to come to work with him and influence Jeremy's mood. This is especially important since the patent brief is not only due the following morning but it's now twice as thick. Addendum... Rarely a good word. Wilfred agrees to return but only after telling Ryan how his unhealthy relationship with his boss mirrors the shitty one he has with his father and it would be time to stand up to the unappreciative authority figures if Wilfred wasn't so desperate to impress. Wilfred agrees to return to the office with Ryan but only with new material.
"Excuse me, do I come into your place of business and interrupt you while you're working? Anyway, back to the bag..."
The pair, and Bear, stay up all night working on the adorable idea board - I'm pretty sure 'lick dick' was the best way to go - but Wilfred won't put up with any of that Lassie hack shit. Just before it's time to throw in the towel, or right after covering Bear in his sex bag, Ryan comes up with the perfect bit. They head back to the office to perform for Jeremy but Wilfred can't resist going on in front of the whole crowd instead. Too bad Slow Piscopo (Ricky, the janitor) isn't too busy terrifying people with banjo music to swoop in and steal the gag and bag right out from under the stand-up's nose. It's an offence that causes Wilfred to bear his teeth, which in turn allows Ricky to blackmail Ryan into doing a shit job at his shit job.
But the shoe isn't on the other foot for long with Wilfred buoying up his pal's confidence and convincing him not to take, uh, shit from his boss any longer. And we're back to the aforementioned blow job marking the end of Ryan being over-worked, not to mention the janitor's blackmailing. Ryan also musters up the courage to finally decline his father's invitation, it's a big moment. The tag is short but sweet with Wilfred and Ryan chilling on the couch in the basement smoking pot and shooting the shit as usual, this time debating the existence of gravity in our shoes. I would have liked to have seen how things went with Amanda on her birthday but something tells me the writer's are withholding that relationship out like some kind of waiting foreplay.
"You know, I think I'm going to take next week off. Possible?"
"Dignity" was perhaps the most conventional episode of Wilfred to date and yet, it might have also packed the most 'jokes' into the 22 minutes. The office setting is probably the main reason that Episode 2 felt so much more traditional than others because it's the first location besides Ryan's house that is populated with real and recurring characters. It's building a world much bigger than the Australian series on which it was based and the expansion requires more classically structured installments than last season (or the amazing special preview). Wilfred Season 2 isn’t going to constantly play with formal and storytelling conventions but it's still going to be well acted and very funny. I hope that this is the calm before the crazy storm, meaning that as the season progresses it skews closer and closer to the series we glimpsed in "Progress." But even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel every week, it's hilarious and original enough to always have its "Dignity" to guard it...
Wilfred returns with Episode 3, "Guilt," Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX. It stars Elijah Wood, Jason Gann and Fiona Gubelmann.