‘Wilfred’ – ‘Identity’: Wilfred’s will

09.08.11 6 years ago 62 Comments


“Wilfred” ended its first season tonight, and I have a review of the finale (and thoughts on the season as a whole) coming up just as soon as I smell like conniving…

“Who are you? What are you? Why are you?” -Ryan

When David Zuckerman promised at Comic-Con that “Wilfred” would turn out to have a complicated mythology behind why this dog looked and acted human to Ryan, I figured the season finale would largely be about that. But though it opens up with Ryan again challenging the nature of Wilfred’s existence, and ends with a twist – the door to the basement where Ryan and Wilfred hang out actually leads to an ordinary closet – implying that Fienberg’s “Fight Club” analogy could be right(*), “Identity” is actually less interested in what Wilfred is than who Ryan is.

(*) Against the Tyler Durden theory: Ryan’s mom has a similar animal companion in Rhea Pearlman’s cat/lady, plus the episode with Dwight Yoakam as Bruce. In favor of Wilfred-as-Durden: for all we know, mother and son share the same psychological malady, and Bruce could easily be part of the hallucination. The idea that Wilfred is a figment seems pretty strong by the end of the finale, but I’m also trained to be skeptical of any hint that seems just that obvious, and to assume that the ultimate explanation will be something else entirely.

We really knew very little about what brought Ryan to the point in his life where he would be attempting suicide, why he’d be so reluctant to take any kind of legal job, why he was so desperate for Wilfred’s strange companionship, etc. Now we have a much clearer picture. Ryan before his life fell apart was a bad, bad dude – and he becomes that bad dude again in his quest to get Jenna her job back (and, really, to try to get Jenna to be his special lady friend). And now he’s wrecked his sister’s marriage (not that it was in especially good shape to begin with), busted up Jenna and Drew (not that Drew was a particularly good guy) and then accidentally put them back together under false pretenses, and gotten Wilfred seriously injured and possibly brain damaged (or just suffering retrograde amnesia).

For a show to open with its main character attempting suicide to get this much darker by season’s end is an impressive feat, and it’s been a fascinating ride.

On this week’s podcast, Fienberg and I talked about whether the increasingly dark vibe of the show had gotten in the way of the laugh-out-loud comdy, and whether the big laughs were actually necessary. The conclusion we both came to was A)yes, and B)no. The show had more overtly funny episodes earlier in the season, but I’ve really enjoyed where it’s gone, and Jason Ganz usually gets to do and say at least 2 or 3 things per episode that put a big smile on my face (here it was Wilfred’s reaction to the description of India, as well as Ryan distracting him with the bubbles). And given the characterization, the chemistry between Ganz and Elijah Wood (who’s been great in these last few Ryan-centric episodes), and the strange, compelling sense of atmosphere, that’s enough.

If “Wilfred” had done nothing but provide a strong enough lead-in to turn “Louie” from affordable fringe programming for FX into a genuine success, I’d be happy about its existence. But it’s done a whole lot more than that. Very nice first season. Looking forward to what comes next, whether or not that involves immediate clues about who/what/why Wilfred is.

What did everybody else think?

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