"If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers." Edward Hodnett
Oh, "Questions." The series has certainly raised a few over the course of two seasons, and with the second is inching towards the end with the finale just two episodes away is it time that Wilfred started to address, well, Wilfred a little more head on? It seems like some answers into the man-dog's existence is exactly what fans have been waiting for and yet, taking away the mystery can often take away any interest in continuing to watch the show. Imagine Lost had been delivering answers instead of simply raising more along the way? The disappointment felt by many in the finale would have arrived sooner causing a lot of the viewers to leave. Now, having said that, Wilfred, or Ryan for that matter, have never been known for their "Honesty" or adherence to the "Truth" (see what I did there, two titles from Season 2), so don't be so sure that any of the "Questions" were about to ask will find any meaningful answers. Especially when you're gonzo on drugs and your spirit animal is Wilfred. Maybe the stereotypical Native American guide can help?
"You just say the word and that baby will pay for what it's done to you."
"Questions" opens with Ryan sitting with his sister Kristen as she breastfeeds her newborn baby, Joffrey. Yeah. Of course, Kristen would pick the most hated person in popular culture as a namesake for her child (for those who don't get the reference, he's a despicable twerp from Game of Thrones), who she refuses to let starve just to keep Ryan comfortable. He promises to get more comfortable nut not, like, pervert comfortable (something that seems innocuous at the time, until we vision quest later and see the female make-out) but when she hands him the baby and the baby sized tears start flowing, Ryan is stricken with a panic attack and runs to his safe place, the basement. Wilfred, since he's so connected to his man, starts to feel the physical results of Ryan's stress and is determined to get to the bottom of this, even if it means vengeance on a newborn. Wilfred knows when no means yes. Anyway, what could be causing the anxiety? The baby? His mother? His unemployment? The suicide boss with a half eaten face? Amanda? Well, she was the only question to garner a defensive response so the pup may be on to something.
"What's happening? Are we panicking? Oh shit, we are panicking? Here we go! Ryan!"
While at what I presume is a weed store, sorry, compassion club, Ryan and Wilfred score something a little stronger to help uncover some of the former's deep rooted personal truths. Iowaska is known as the teacher and as long as you don't fight the trip, or have someone suddenly murder your spirit guide, you should be able to avoid losing your mind completely. No refunds. Trying to relax in the basement, Kristen calls looking for Joff's soother and quickly interrupts Ryan's moment of peace, bringing about another panic attack. This one's so bad that even Bear starts feeling the pain so it's probably not a good time to start experimenting with the iowaska. Well, Ryan doesn't think so but Wilfred already snuck it into their drinks sometime ago and it takes a full on 'who's on first' routine to figure out if he's telling the truth. Of course, once the effects take hold, like the basement opening up into a beautiful field, it's pretty obvious that Wilfred did give him a spiked beverage.
"I know that, Ryan. Right now you're passed out in the basement and I'm eating vomit off your shirt but while we're here try to learn something."
This is also the moment that "Questions" not only takes the form of, and then plays with, the very familiar drug trip/spirit guide storyline but also allows director Randall Einhorn to really start pushing the formal limits, using intense shifts in focus, shallow depth of field and a variety of triply lenses, lighting scenarios and staging all to set the mood. It's quite an impressive episode purely from a visual standpoint, once again completely outshining its comedy contemporaries (and most dramas) in terms of cinematography. Wilfred is clearly ready to have a great time tripping, cloying at Ryan to hurry up and embrace the beauty of their surroundings and stop reminding himself that they are both on the couch, with the dog eating vomit off the human's chest. But just as things look primes for Wilfred to play his part as the spirit animal, Redbull, sorry Redwolf shows up and offers his services on the treacherous path to enlightenment.
"No. I want to know the truth about Wilfred. What is Wilfred? That's my question."
After Ryan's internal manifestations have it out for spirit guide supremacy, finally the man in need of said guidance steps in the middle and chooses Redwolf to lead him on the journey. And the journey itself has suddenly changed, no longer is Ryan looking for answers regarding the cause of his panic attacks but he'd much rather know more about Wilfred. Like, why do I see a man in a dog suit when everyone else just sees a dog and why is this man-dog such a good/bad/important influence on my sad existence? Okay, he phrased it a bit better but I was being thorough. I loved the part how the writers made note of the stereotypical use of a Native American and then blamed it on the subconscious of their lead character, not to mention the pop culture he's been influenced by other the years. It's okay though, Redwolf is only concerned with Ryan's well-being and ins't selfishly consuming vomit off the drug addled body of his best friend or shooting the former through the throat with an arrow, jeopardizing not only the mission to discovery but his permanent mental health. As if he's not already screwed up enough.
"Yeah. We're lost."
After disposing of the rival guide, Wilfred steps into the lead and, after a nice little dance with some leaves in the wind, declares that the pair are lost. The next shot is simply beautiful, a wide look at a tiny Ryan and Wilfred emerging though the fog under what is a giant moon. Very expressionistic and perfectly positions the duo squarely inside a nightmarish vision and no longer the journey to enlightenment. Wilfred would like to apologize for getting them in this mess but frankly, he's not sorry and since he's only a version of Ryan's subconscious, it's all the latter fault anyway. Which is why he should drink up and embrace the situation. As well as the fact that what he's drinking contains even more iowaska, enough to send him into an Inception style trip within a trip to travel even deeper inside the self and find Brad Dourif. The perfect guest star for a creepy subconscious darkroom developer, Dourif helps Ryan cut through the cryptic bullshit and find the question he should be asking. And it has (mostly) nothing to do with his pooch.
"See you around, Ryan."
Ryan finally realizes that the question is simple, why am I having panic attacks? And the answer comes in the form of a photo, they are in a darkroom, from his childhood which, in a nifty bit of filming/staging turns into a reenactment of a sad day from Ryan's youth where his big sister repeated tells his to stop crying. Ah, there'e the rub. The reason why Ryan is having such a strong reaction isn't the baby but Kristen trying to shush the tears out of him instead of just allowing him to be sad. And he is sad. He just lost (gave up) a really awesome girlfriend in Allison Mack's Amanda. Finally, the trip has worked! I mean, trip within the trip has worked and Ryan is able to allow himself to properly deal with his numerous problems, even if it's something as simple as admitting he's depressed and having a good cry. Not too long though, Wilfred, despite the adorable cuddle, still needs to go out for a pee.
"I'm sad, Wilfred, I'm really sad."
I realized that in all the recapping of Wilfred I've done, I don't really talk about Elijah Wood much which is odd since he's really the glue holding the show together and doing a terrific job at it. Maybe it's just because I've taking the actor for granted and it's assumed that he'll delver from week to week but "Questions" was an especially good showcase for the actor. He handles everything well, from he comedy to the drama, and with Gann at his side, they make the show a pleasure to watch. "Questions" also went in the direction I've been dying to see it go since the totally tripped out "Special Premiere Episode" that kicked off the second season, namely, completely off the wall. Ryan's quest in "Questions" not only toyed with the audience expectations for answers regarding Wilfred's existence (and, for the most part, handled really well) but also allowed director Randall Einhorn to continue to craft one of the most daring and bold cinematic series on television. Having the drug-fueled-trip structure didn't hurt, but not everyone can pull off the narrative or formal complexities on display last night.
Oh, and no basement tag on this one, just a cut to black with some sombre music playing. Things are really coming to a head. Hurray! Wilfred returns with Episode 11( the second last of the season), "Resentment" on September 13 at 10 p.m. ET on FX. That's right, no pooch next week!