"How weird it was to drive streets I knew so well. What a different perspective." Suzanne Vega
Wilfred has been having a great season so far even if the episodes leading into last night's eighth have been relatively tame. Not in terms of the humor, of course, the series has never shied away from an off-collar joke (sorry) but they haven't been as narratively daring as the standout installments of previous years. Yet. FX's comedy has always been an interesting mix of serialized and episodic storytelling and when the former takes precedence Wilfred can run off the rails in a rad way. It's often been the case that the more unhinged Ryan's perspective (nailed it) is, the more impressive the episode and, for me, "Progress" (the second season special preview deemed too weird to be the premiere proper) still serves as the template for the show's capability for greatness with it's bizarre, beautiful and truly original storytelling. Season 3 has certainly had its fair share of off-the-wall moments in the build-up with Ryan's been steadily growing more unsteady and last week's "Intuition" put him right on, if not pushed him over, the edge. Nice. Oh. Sorry, Ryan.
"You know, dogs can be very therapeutic. Why don't you bring him in? It might help you to relax."
The dream filled introduction of his father (played by the great James Remar, who appears again this week) was definitely a big and welcome turn back towards crazy-town, forcing the lead character to once again try to gain some "Perspective" on his situation. The episode opened with a wonderful overhead shot in Ryan's new therapist's office and immediately had me hoping it was going to be one of the show's weirder installments that explored the serialized side of the story with its signature stylization. And it didn't disappoint. Although a big part of "Perspective" was spent 'on-the-rails- so to speak, the inventive and adventurous EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing) sequences were some of the most stunning of the entire run. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a comedy that puts so much thought into the cinematography, each frame not just functional but wonderfully composed. And the style never seems to distract from the comedy, often adding laughs as well as beauty. For example, the lovely shot of Dr. Blum in the foreground with Wilfred playing outside in the background right before he's invited into the session.
"Okay, I have no idea what's going on. You said you're a creation of my mind?"
It's probably worth taking a moment to say that Dr. Blum is played by (the also great) Lance Reddick, who you may know from his serious work on The Wire and Fringe (and can soon see in Spike Lee's Oldboy). This isn't his first appearance in a comedy, having recently shown up in the season premiere of Comedy Bang! Bang! and the role doesn't really require him to do much beyond being authoritative. Too bad. Don't get me wrong, he's good, I was just hoping to see him go off the leash a little. Once Wilfred is done with his issues, Blum brings up the EMDR treatment hoping the non-traditional approach will help Ryan get over his childhood traumas, specifically this relating to his father and the day he put their mom in a mental institution. Perhaps a revisit, digging up the past, will help Ryan finally move on and even forgive his father before Kristen's big Christmas bash. I wonder if that event will factor into the back stretch of the season? Back in the basement, Wilfred tells Ryan to face his fears and schedule the non-traditional treatment with Dr. Blum.
"Unfortunately I didn't learn anything new about you or the drawing but I did learn a lot about my father."
It's just like that scary muskrat skull he buried. Right? Well, Wilfred sees a similarity. The mysterious childhood drawing also resurfaces but the pup is quick to change the subject and suggest that his human friend always trust him. A.T.W. (A lot of acronyms in this episode.) The first session seems to be going well, it certainly looks amazing with the show playing with frame rate and point of view to stress the change to being inside Ryan's memories. It didn't take long for the ep to remind me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in terms of both the storytelling and style (extra strange since Elijah Wood is also in the film). That's not a bad thing, if you can pull it off and Wilfred handles the sequences brilliantly. Under the hypnosis, Ryan encounters a spotted version of Wilfred who warns that the former shouldn't trust the real version of the latter. Of course, since this is all occurring inside Ryan's mind, it's actually his subconscious advising himself with the mistrust leading back to the drawing, specifically whether or not Wilfred actually set it on fire. Oh, and there's also the daddy issues. How could I forget?
"Better take me to the vet."
All the questions about Wilfred's ontological status and the existence of the drawing ultimately serve as distractions so Ryan can avoid dealing with the real traumatic memory, sitting in his father's office right after dropping their mom off at the institution. Unfortunately, the memory in question isn't nearly as exciting or unexpected as the previous scenes set inside our hero's mind, the events unfolding exactly how I imagined when Ryan first discussed the fateful day. He was just a kid, of course he couldn't properly process that his father's anger at the secretary was a result of his fragile emotional state having just removed his wife, Ryan's mom, from their house. I preferred the overexposed spaceship glowing in the background while a one-spotted sleeve Wilfred pretended to be from another planet. Maybe I'm also running away from some issues. Since next week's title is "Confrontation," I'm guessing Ryan won't be running from his father for too much longer. Perhaps it's the Christmas party at Kristen's place? We'll see, but first things first, we should probably address the fellating beast with four Matt Damon heads. Hm. No. No we shouldn't. And I definitely don't want to talk about the lipstick trick.
Wilfred returns with Episode 9, "Confrontation," next Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.