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"It's like you get off on sabotaging each other's lives and then miraculously being there to pick up the pieces."
Wilfred's special one hour premiere last Wednesday kicked off Season 3 in fine form and immediately washed away any worries that came with the oddball comedy having different showrunners. The first two installments (“Uncertainty" and "Comfort") delivered on almost all fronts, quickly reestablishing the show's unique and bizarre tone with the perfect mix of gross-out humour, philosophical musing and unparalleled cinematic style. The one hour special also had its hands full tending to both last year's cliff-hangers as well as setting the stage for this season's overarching story.
Obviously, the search to uncover the mystery surrounding Wilfred's existence is still a major part of the narrative but the odd comedy also doesn't want the audience to get so wrapped up in the destination that they forget to enjoy the journey. Cliché? Sure. But still true and the show did an excellent job of addressing those issues in "Uncertainty" before "Comfort" then dealt with a story that didn't center on the nature of Ryan and Wilfred's relationship but instead sought to develop a few more human connections for our (mentally disturbed) hero apart from the (magical) man's best friend. This week once again finds FX airing back-to-back episodes of Wilfred and both installments continue to force Ryan out into the world to deal with some real human relationships. First up, is the return of his sister Kristen and the ensuing "Suspicion"...
"Suspicion is a heavy armor and with its weight it impedes more than it protects." Robert Burns
This season's second episode saw Ryan not only strike up a relationship with Bill, the neighborhood mailman (and natural nemesis for Wilfred), but also rekindle the whole unrequited thing with Jenna. In fact, it seemed like the beautiful blonde next door was even returning his flirtatious glances while her fiancé Drew was preoccupied. This week's followup, "Suspicion," brought the other prominent female figure in Ryan's life back into the picture with Kristen (Dorian Brown) looking for someone to become baby Joffrey's legal guardian. I have to say, the nephew's name instantly reminds me of both baby Jeffrey Ruxin from FXX's The League as well as Joffrey Lannister, sorry, Baratheon from HBO's Game of Thrones.
Something tells me any connection to the former is purely my own making while the latter, well, I'm not so sure. Are they hinting at the boy's possibly evil nature or simply highlighting how out of touch Kristen is as a mother? Probably neither. She is fine with stirring up a bunch of family drama though, as she should know that any mention of Henry Newman, the sibling's mysterious father, would make Ryan act irrationally and cause a conflict about who should be Joff's guardian. I'm no fan of his father but Kristen isn't exactly wrong to doubt whether Ryan's shit is together enough to take care of a kid. Although she's willing to find out. Well, once the first choice babysitter cancels putting her date with Michael (guest star Barry Watson) in jeopardy.
"Child molesters are great with kids."
Before getting the babysitting call, Ryan and Wilfred have a brief heart to heart that lays down this week's lesson as well as introduces the minor subplot involving the latter's always tumultuous relationship with Bear. Wilfred tries to explain to his friend how the Newman family has a funny way of messing with each other's lives just so they can eventually help save the day. Too bad his words of wisdom go unheeded before he gets distracted by a sweet piece of plush elephant strange. I'm usually all for a Bear thread in any episode but the way it intersects with the main story, making Wilfred jealous of a 'developing' romance between the stuffed animal and the baby, didn't really work for me.
It was a convenient way to keep the leads together and give each had their own conflict but the joke only lands maybe half the time. For example, the semen ants didn't land until Kristen called them back. I did like Ryan spelling out the ridiculous situation to Wilfred (and himself) before dispensing some advice anyway. I guess that kind of 'no and' strategy could describe how a lot of the comedy in created on the show. Skeptical participation. Speaking of skeptics, let's get back to Ryan's investigation into Kristen's new beau, a doctor who drives a Honda and is great with Joffrey. Oh, and he also happens to be freshly covered in the scent of another woman's nether-regions. Maybe Ryan's suspicions aren't so unfounded after all?
"Why am I listening to sibling advice from a guy who ate his own sister's ears?"
Of course they are. But before the inevitable realization that Ryan is not doing the right thing and actually going out of his way to sabotage his sister's relationship, he continues to investigate Michael in the guise of looking out for his sister. In a fortuitous coincidence (or Ryan 'being' Wilfred), the dog downs the baby's formula which means the boys must go out and buy some more. This just happens to take them near Michael's Honda and, after a quick break in and GPS check, the pair find the address to the last place he visited before the date. An insurance company? That doesn't make sense. Until Gina Gershon (in a part too small to make a real impression) opens the door and reveals that it's just a front for a brothel.
That makes sense. Ryan returns home thinking he's got the goods on Michael but it's all just a classic misunderstanding, the good doctor has actually been donating time to ensure the girls' nether-regions are healthy. Oops. Seems like Ryan sabotaged yet another one of Kristen's relationships, just like Wilfred always does with Bear, and might not be fit for guardianship. And their father was the one who recommended him for the babysitting gig and everything. That manipulative prick! We get to hear the man's voice but his character remains as much a mystery as Wilfred's existence. One thing is clear, those Newmans sure like to screw around with each other. No wonder Ryan is messed up. No basement tag either, just an eerie music cue.
"Ryan wait... it's good to hear your voice."
"Sincerity, even if it speaks with a stutter, will sound eloquent when inspired." Eiji Yoshikawa
After the beginning of Season 3 sufficiently addressed the previous year’s cliffhangers (with “Uncertainty") as well as reintroduced the will-they-won’t-they love interest (in “Comfort") and Ryan’s troublesome family (in “Suspicion"), it’s finally time to throw our lead a new bone… wait, that sounds bad, a new, albeit temporary, love interest. Jenna is still with Drew after all and it’s been episodes since the lovely but mentally unstable Amanda (Alison Mack) was in the picture so “Sincerity" is the perfect time to introduce a new lady friend. While sitting in the park reading "A Visit from the Good Squad" (draw your own allusion conclusions), Ryan spots an old high-school crush handing out flyers.
What do you know? It turns out that the very pretty Kim (Jenny Mollen) happens to run a dog training facility and since Ryan suddenly claims ownership over Wilfred, obedience lessons seem like a good next step. You think the debauched dog would be a little more familiar with playing wing man (in a canine costume) but he does nothing but throw up, uh, roadblocks to keep the high school non-sweethearts apart. It might have something to do with the conversation the two friends just had about the messed up things that dog weirdos do to their pets. They are descendants of wolves! Not some toy to be humiliated with a duck-muzzle or cutesy voices!
"He’s not saying that. She’s speaking for him. He didn’t do a smelly poo-poo for her, he did it for his dead brother."
Unlike the previous episode, where the Wilfred subplot wasn’t nearly as strong as the man thread, “Sincerity" does a great job of weaving the two together with the dog’s ‘back to school’ storyline playing nicely against the awkward romance between Ryan and Kim. It’s also structured brilliantly, with the canine companion stressing the importance of being treated like an equal at the beginning only to have his self-esteem battered so badly by his schoolmates that he’s willing to play along with his owner’s degradations and put up with the pretty dog weirdo.
Wilfred also again offers some solid, if too sincere, advice about being oneself at the start of the installment only to have it ignored until episode’s end. As usual. It’s like he’s Ryan’s conscience or something, except one that also has a mind of its own and this dog wants to go back to school so bad (although it’s strong hinted that he never actually went in the first place, or at least wasn’t popular when he did) that he goes on a rampage to force Jenna’s hand. Of course, Ryan has already told Kim that Wilfred is his pup so that means he’s got to volunteer to take him in order to keep up the charade.
"Don’t you do it! Cutesy voices were never part of our deal!"
The Billy Madison style entrance was nice but it doesn’t take long to see that Wilfred isn’t going to fit in at school. Or that Kim is not just a dog weirdo but full on canine insane. But she’s still hot and Ryan’s willing to go a little weird if it means securing the doggy double date. Now he’s just got to convince Wilfred to play along which turns out to be pretty easy since his recent embarrassments at school has him willing to do anything to avoid having to go back to Happy Paws. Even wear bootsies. Dinner goes really well and Kim is about to sleepover until Ryan finally crosses the line. The voices.
Needless to say, the dog weirdo isn’t impressed when she sees Ryan disciplining his dog with a newspaper so she bail. The whole incident, however, along with some more biting social media exchanges with his schoolmates, inspires the dog to return to Happy Paws and reclaim his dignity. By opening the gate and trying to turn all his classmates into roadkill. Reasonable. Even if Wilfred doesn’t grow much, Ryan learns to be himself and accept that Amanda’s crazy was not his fault. They are sure quick to judge her mental state. It’s not like he’s on the sane train. Still, I bet this step gives Ryan a push in the right direction. Next door. Oh, and watch out for poodles. They can surprise you.
"An Australian accent? That’s hilar."
Wilfred returns with Episode 5, “Shame," on Thursday, July 11 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
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