"The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable." James A. Garfield
Now we're getting somewhere! That somewhere may be weird but that's only fitting for a show centred around a suicide case and the canine best friend who only he happens to see as a man wearing a dog suit. Well, not only. The preview for this week's episode of Wilfred made it look like the "Truth," was going to not just cause problems for our love struck leads but that Ryan and Amanda's relationship could actually tear at the very fabric of the show's reality. Or something like that.
Wilfred was obviously not going to be pleased with the possibility of Ryan's girlfriend moving in on his territory but who knew his feelings could influence the exterior world. Pathetic fallacy! What wasn't in the preview, however, was Dwight Yoakam's return as Bruce, a guest spot that instantly gives any installment of the FX comedy a competitive advantage because he's inherently compelling as the only other person who sees Wilfred as Ryan does. You know, if Bruce exists at all. Oh, and the show's no longer a comedy. It's funny, just not a comedy. If it ever was. Let the games begin!
"What's your biggest secret?"
For the forgetful, Yoakam's Bruce made his one and only previous appearance on Wilfred near the end of Season 1 during the 11 episode titled "Doubt." Bruce and Wilfred were ultimately just using Ryan as a pawn in their own twisted game, as you probably gathered from their exchanges in "Truth," but the timing of his two appearances do suggest that he might only appear at key moments. Namely, right when it seems like Ryan is about to get his life on track at the expense of his relationship with Wilfred. You could call the dog's actions selfish if the human's 'on-track' didn't include a stop in suicide town. Enough back talk, this week opens with Ryan and Amanda waking in bed and engaging in a bit of pillow talk. His big secret is a too much truth to share so instead they opt for seconds, which still pits his 'L word' against her dirty undies. She's caught off guard, having hoped for anything else, even tranny beat-offs, and he's soon seeking his pooch for reassurance.
"She doesn't even know you. She only knows the you, you want her to know. What about the parts she doesn't know? The parts you're hiding down here in this basement."
Wilfred, however, is in no condition to talk shop since his doggy sense has been sending him signals that the world is coming to an end. His species has a knack for this kind of thing, how do you think they evaded torment during the Holocaust? Ryan's suddenly not all that interested in hearing how abnormal he is from someone dressed like a 'Wolverine,' which is not only a sweet and timely Red Dawn reference but also awesome because Ryan doesn't seem to grasp that just talking to a dog dressed in military garb and pontificating in a put on accent is cause enough to not qualify as 'normal' or anything near it. Ryan tracks Amanda down at work and she avenges his ambush with one of he own by admitting that she's also in love. With him. Shockingly, Wilfred is less than enthused with the new living arrangements, with no though of how happy Ryan makes Amanda. It's a point always lost in these 'if you love them, set them free' rationales, not to mention the fact that she might be helping him get better.
"Ryan, you're buried under a box of secrets with a talking dog in a basement that may not even exist. Do you really think anyone can possibly hear your cries for help?"
Wilfred is right though, Ryan does have a lot of skeletons in his closet, even if his closet happens to be his basement. Or is it? Anyway, forget his shady past as the 'archeologist' and his suicide attempt, how will Ryan ever explain to his soon to be live-in girlfriend the endless amounts of time he spends downstairs with Wilfred? And also, uh, she tried to kiss him. Awkward. Not really, because Wilfred is still dog to the rest of the world and people kiss dogs all the time. Maybe it's time that the pup started acting like man's best friend instead of man's shittiest friend, tell the truth once in a while and embrace the fact that Amanda is moving into the house come hell or high water. But not an earthquake. That will definitely provide Ryan opportunities to reconsider, especially when he's trapped like timmy down in the well. And this is the beginning of a beautiful episode.
"A game? Like last time? No way. My Life is not a game to be played for your amusement."
Seriously, it's a stunningly shot installment, the most formally interesting since the season premiere and perhaps even more skillful. With Ryan trapped in the basement under the weight of his secrets, Bruce arrives to save the day. Well, Bruce lifts that crap off Ryan, so that's something anyway. Wilfred was the one who invited the only other man who can communicate with him to help dig up dirt on Amanda and cue the Pulp Fiction-esque suitcase supposedly containing horrible things about the girl who's moving into the place in the morning. Ryan is not impressed with them treating his life like a game. For a while. It doesn't take long for him to stop caring about anything but beating Bruce in the match for the case and his soul, sorry, dinner at Carl's Crab Shack. French rules and standard protocol, of course.. Wilfred tries to warn Ryan that the only way to win is to not play, pretty much the same advice when it comes to moving in with Amanda.
"That's the problem with this particular game. Even when you win, you lose. Open the case."
Only, Wilfred turns out to be wrong this time. Hm. More on that to come but first, Ryan and Bruce have to engage in the games and, you know how I said the show wasn't a comedy but still funny? Well, "why the hell is he wearing that mask?" was an absolutely hilarious moment in an otherwise fairly down episode. The rest of the contests were pretty horrifying but I am curious how Ryan managed to cheat at the santa beard, tutu stand-off. And what that was. Bruce and Ryan's battle of wills all comes down to a final riddle and, after some misleading help from Wilfred, the answer of the Toucan, instead of the obvious response of Martin Van Buerin, earns him the moose antlers. That's it. It looks like Bruce won just as Wilfred predicted and the case will remain closed. Nope! At the last second-ish, the pooch comes through, saying something I'm not even going to try and decipher (Jason Gann is hard enough to understand at the best of times), and puts his ass literally on the line.
"No, I was wrong. You lied to her because you love her. That's why I lied to you, you understand that right?"
The final showdown? Truth or dare. Of course. Cause of the title and the lesson about honestly I'm sure we still have to learn, right? This week is a great example of the series at its best in terms of working in the 'morals' and not only because it seems more organic but also in light of the clever reversal at the end. There's was the excellent tension filled moment with Ryan's father on the phone, a confrontation that's been developing all season, before the former chickens out and opts for truth. A move that somehow wins Ryan the game but it's no time to get cocky, Bruce will be back for a rematch (we all should hope) and there's still the case to open. Inside is ticking proof (solidified by the lack of earthquake) that Ryan just isn't ready for the new roommate, or even a relationship, and the moment Amanda mentions her need for storage is really quite sad. As was the ensuing break-up, Wilfred consoling her on the lawn and the final bromantic moment on the beach. I also loved the lovely lonesome piece of music that played us out.
"Sorry mate. That still wasn't it."
"Truth" was a really solid episode that had a lot going for it with Yoakam's great guest spot, the emotional end to Ryan and Amanda's relationship, a mysterious phone call and some of the most stunning cinematography I've ever seen on a television comedy. The low key lighting for the extended sequences in the basement, magic hour on the beach, the drastic shifts in focus, the complex framing and compositions, all perfectly compliment the fact that what we're seeing from week to week (scene to scene) is completely dependant on Ryan's state of mind. It was also nice to see the reverse of the title turn out to be the underlying lesson. Yep. Lie, people, lie.
Bruce's return also helped Wilfred continue its slow (and beneficial) journey back to the completely bizarre that began with last week's sensational ("Avoi)dance(") number. Hey, if the show can use quotes to reinforce the theme and come up with the titles, then I can work the latter into sentences seamlessly. Okay, somewhat seamlessly. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, since the show's style mimics its story, and Wilfred is best at its wildest, it's wise to keep Ryan as unstable as possible. The "Truth" hurts but can ultimately set you free and the series shook from its mid season sitcom shackles and delivered another experimental and satisfying episode. I love you, Allison Mack. Wilfred returns with Episode 8, "Service," Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.