”Who’s the dog?”
As I said in my review of the first three episodes, I was a little worried about the new season of Wilfred because it’s the first year the American adaptation is without David Zuckerman serving as showrunner. Community fans are all too familiar with what can occur when someone new is calling the shots but thankfully, the FX comedy seems to have made it through the transition unscathed.
Having Zuckerman stay on as an executive producer to make sure that promoted writers-producers Reed Agnew and Eli Jorné could handle running the show probably helped, not to mention that a lot of its unique perspective obviously comes from Jason Gann, co-creator of the Australian version (with Adam Zwar and Tony Rogers) and star of both. Still, the adaptation is quite different (frankly, better) than the original and, with twice the number of episodes, it’s quickly becoming the definitive version. The student has become the master. Part stoner comedy, part existential mystery and all fantastically photographed (by series director Randall Einhorn), Wilfred continues to be ‘must see TV’ and started its third season off right with a stellar back-to-back episode premiere. First comes “Uncertainty,” and then “Comfort.”
”The mistake is thinking there can be an antidote to the uncertainty.” David Levithan
The premiere opened with “Uncertainty,” an installment stuck cleaning up the cliff-hanger mess that Wilfred’s second season finale left behind. I say stuck but the comedy manages to make the most out of the aptly titled episode that focuses most of its narrative energy looking for answers about Wilfred’s ontological state without actually answering anything. In fact, the moral of the story is to forget about the destination and focus on the journey because, well, the series is hopefully far from over. And “Uncertainty” isn’t subtle about reminding you that answers will come in good time. Or that they might even be a little disappointing.
And here I am, ignoring the lesson and talking about the end of the episode instead of focusing on Ryan and Wilfred’s adventure. It starts with Ryan in the basement, looking up a Homeland-style investigation board, still trying to work out how his neighbor’s dog (one that he happens to see as a man in a dog suit) could possibly be in a painting he did as a child. And once he rules out the supernatural - premonitions, time travel, reincarnation - only mental illness remains. Of course, Wilfred has his own thoughts on the matter, starting with some solid Descartes reminiscent reasoning (and a picture of Ben Affleck) before laying out his magic immortal being theory.
”Maybe I’m magical, maybe you’re crazy. The answers will come in good time. For now, you’re just going to have to live with a little uncertainty.”
Of course, if Wilfred’s memory was a little better they wouldn’t be in this mess but he seems particularly selective when it comes to what he does and does not remember. Those Troglodicks. Ryan even tries to ‘wish’ his canine friend away before the latter attempts to prove his own theory with an immortality experiment. And all it takes is a quick trip to the vet to pump an antifreeze-ini out of his stomach for Wilfred to start believing his maybe not so magical. He is having more memories though, something about a girl named Anne and some sharp dressed German rescuers. I’m going to leave that one alone.
The trip to the vet also provides the pair with a vital clue with the Veterinarian discovering a microchip implanted on the pup that soon has them heading to Sacramento to find Wilfred’s first owner. Also, there’s apparently a statue of limitations on reclaiming lost dogs. Turns out, it doesn’t matter anyway because not only is the former master dead but she had Stinky, I mean Wilfred, cloned shortly after he ran away. Yep, there are two of them and Ryan sees BOTH as men in dog suits. I’m not sure how that works but with Lord Charles… Stinky is guest star Angela Kinsey (The Office) playing the canine copy’s caretaker with a not so secret fondness for photography.
”You can’t sit on my lap right now, I’m driving.”
After the old lady died, she left her entire estate to Stinky and it doesn’t take long for Wilfred to realize what he didn’t inherit. Forget being worried about them wanting to take him back, now he’s angry that the clone stole his life. What a dalliance! Wait. I’m not using that right. The animosity that exists between the dogs quickly vanishes once the two share a bark at the cuckoo clock and before having a Step-Brothers moment of listing their mutual likes. Likes that include licking windows, humping couches, doing cocaine and getting frisky with a few giraffes.
While they bond over some blow, Ryan is given a quick tour of the house - no, not that door - in hopes of finding something that might help solve the mystery of Wilfred’s (non-)existence. His search turns out to be successful, although far from comforting, finding the green hippo toy amongst the old lady’s things. Wilfred comes clean as well, showing off a hilarious photo he found of him as a ‘real dog.’ But what does that or the hippo really prove? Ryan could have easily planted the stuffed animal in order to further his delusions. Perhaps he should just skip to the end and sip on an antifreeze-tini of his own? I mean, without answers, what is the point of watching… I mean, living?
”What if you never find any answers? Wouldn’t it be best to avoid the anxiety of uncertainty and simply skip to the end?”
That’s right, maybe it is time for one final dalliance… oops. Busted. I can’t be the only one that suspected the old-switcheroo before the show revealed that is wasn’t actually Wilfred offering Ryan the suicide drink. The bow-tie was a nice touch but also instantly reminded me of Bender pulling a goatee swap with Flexo on Futurama, not to mention several other characters who’ve dealt with a clone, evil twin or copy over the years by using the trope. Why was Stinky willing to part with his inheritance?
Something sinister was obviously happening behind that closed door and it turns out that the torture was, well, not really as bad as I expected. Surely no worse than a rape fight. Back at home, Ryan starts to dismantle his Homeland wall, realizing that he’s find out what he needs to know, when he needs to know it. Wilfred couldn’t agree more and joins in by burning the mysterious drawing. Or does he? No. No he doesn’t. Don’t worry, answers will come in good time, so sit back and enjoy the stunning cinematography, great chemistry between Gann and Elijah Wood and the always intriguing situations that the best friends find themselves in from week to week. Or twice in one week.
”Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” Hippocrates
The second episode in the back-to-back premiere does away with most of the show’s mythologizing since the second season cliff-hanger has been (somewhat) dealt with and the audience has been told that answers will come in time. Instead, “Comfort” serves as a pivot from the soul searching of “Uncertainly” to the upcoming season’s overarching story with Ryan refocusing his attention on Jenna. Almost immediately, the installment reintroduces the love triangle between our mentally unstable lead, the girl next door (played by Fiona Gubelmann) and her boyfriend Drew (Chris Klein in the perfect part) with the first two looking at pictures from the last two’s recent vacation.
It’s also the first time Amanda (Ryan’s former girlfriend who was even more unstable) is mentioned this year as Jenna dances around the issue with him before they’re interrupted by Drew and Wilfred. Dinner plans are set though, a perfect time for Ryan to meet the couple’s new fat friends they met on vacation. Clearly depressed, Ryan finds himself watching some Christian TV but the message isn’t working for Wilfred who’s in mid-blumpkin with Bear. Of course, he doesn’t want to be the one to comfort his best friend either but the dog is willing to share his unique take on death.
”Yeah, they died. For like, 17 days. I’m glad they finally came back though.”
It turns out, once Wilfred learns the true meaning of Marley and Me, those Christian television shows start looking pretty good. Especially since the new mailman, the bane of every dog’s existence is rocking a pentagram tattoo. Satanist. The mailman’s name is Bill and Zachary Knighton is pretty funny in the guest spot even if the character feels a lot like Dave from Happy Endings. After going to the bathroom inside, the two humans connect over a shared interest in Alan Moore’s Miracleman run and make plans to meet for a drink. The reference to the hero formerly known as Marvelman is could be quite revealing for the series since a large part of his journey takes place in a dream-state.
As Ryan and Bill continue to bond, sharing a laugh over a personal story from a piece of undeliverable mail, Wilfred is trapped outside in a hot car asking himself the big questions. Like who’s the guy breaking into Ryan’s car to save him? And why is Jesus stealing his car radio? It doesn’t matter Wilfred’s saved! And he turns over his anal beads to prove it as well as covering up with some undies and once again expressing his disdain for Bill. The Satanist. Ryan isn’t going to let the dog ruin his chance at forging a human friendship though and he once again heads out to the bar with his new buddy.
”I don’t hate mailmen, I love all God’s creatures. Even certain Jews.”
It doesn’t take long for Ryan’s night out with Bill to get ruined by Wilfred’s meddling with the dog having already texted an invitation to Jenna and Drew to meet them for a drink. As long as she promises to conceal her dirty pillows. Drew and Bill get to chatting, which allows Jenna enough time to once again ask Ryan how he’s doing and make sure that he’s still coming for dinner. She’s going to cancel o the fat friends though, so they have time to talk. It’s a good time for an interruption but I don’t think a knocker’s shot was the diversion Ryan was hoping would happen. I enjoyed the incredibly awkward moment.
When Ryan returns home, Wilfred is still making good on his commitment to God, this time by making an honest stuffed animal out of Bear. A lovely ceremony really, too bad I couldn’t make the reception at the sour milk puddle. But Wilfred’s little game backfired because neither the sting op nor the upcoming surprise baptism seem to sway Ryan from his new friendship with the mailman. Or inspire him to take Jenna up on her dinner offer. Instead, he’s going to hang out with Bill because he doesn’t dwell on the past or pester Ryan with questions about Amanda. Too bad it’s quite clear to the audience that Bill is very much dwelling on the past when it comes to this much talked about Barry fellow and his unfortunate canine encounter.
”Why have you forsaken me, God? I give my life in service of you and you totally dick me over!”
The final sequence was great, starting with Ryan hanging out with Bill and his friends as they all look through various confiscationables from the mailroom. Among the goodies is a box of fireworks that you know is going to come into play before the party is over and, right then someone asks who farted? Cue Wilfred who was once again visited by God and feels compelled to share the wisdom he learned from the otherworldly being with cornrows. It's time to show these sinners the righteous path and that means bringing down the fire and brimstone. Also known as knocking a candle into the fireworks.
Damn. Duds. That's enough to shake anyone's faith and Wilfred sees it as a sign to give up on God. All the mail-people are still worked up though because of the wild dog in the house but his presence eventually makes them confront what happened to Barry and finally find closure. Comfort, damn, I mean comfort. Oh, look. The fireworks went off after all. Somebody get some vinegar and paper towels. Back on the front stoop where "Comfort" began, Ryan's also managed to find some closure and is finally ready to talk about his feelings with Jenna. Well, not all his feelings. Somethings you got to keep to yourself. The fact that you see and interact with the girl you love's dog as a person is probably one of those things. I'm sure we'll find out some more this season.
Wilfred returns next Thursday, once again with back-to-back episodes starting at 10 p.m. ET on FX.