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A Double Dose of Wilfred is Just What the Season 3 Premiere Needed
Wilfred holds a special place in my heart as someone who’s convinced himself his opinions on television matter and boldly posts them for the entire Internet to see. When it comes to critiquing an episode of TV, comedy doesn’t tend to lend itself well to the review format. Comedy is entirely subjective, making the idea of reviewing sitcoms as a largely one-sided affair. How I feel about any particular episode of, say, Modern Family isn’t necessarily an accurate depiction of how funny that episode would be to someone else. It really is just an opinion in the form of an article. But every once in awhile, a comedy comes around that does beg to be analyzed, dissected, stripped down to its basic meaning and translated for others of likeminded curiosity to ponder over. Wilfred is tailor-made for someone like me to review; every episode has its own central theme and I get to come in and go through with a fine-toothed comb to find even the tiniest of knots.
Season 3 had a lot to untangle from the previous season’s finale, which had Ryan discover his girlfriend was suffering from some kind of mental illness, as well as Wilfred unearthing a childhood drawing of Ryan’s that seemingly depicted Wilfred before he’d even been born. Unlike previous seasons, we’re given back-to-back episodes to kick things off and I was unexpectedly glad for it. The fall out of Amanda’s delusions and the drawing was too much to handle in one episode, so the two issues are tackled separately. The first episode, “Uncertainty,” deals strictly with the drawing while “Comfort” has Ryan adjusting to life without Amanda. Both episodes had their strengths and weaknesses and ended up complimenting each other quite well.
“Uncertainty” has the arduous task of getting past Wilfred’s mythology in the least painful way possible. It’s the biggest paradox/problem the show has; Ryan can’t go his entire life never wondering what Wilfred is, but if the show ever definitively answers that question it would be the end of everything. So how does Ryan find the answers he wants? At first he seems quite sure he knows the truth: he’s mentally ill. But that’s too easy and Wilfred isn’t about to let himself be simplified down to a figment of Ryan’s imagination. Instead he claims to be an immortal being – he’s always existed – and attempts to prove it by drinking anti-freeze. Needless to say, that doesn’t work.
After a trip to the animal hospital, Ryan finds the address of Wilfred’s original owner and the two venture to see if they can find any proof Wilfred had a life before Ryan. Wilfred raves about memories he has of being puppy, memories Ryan couldn’t possibly know about and thus proves he isn’t a part of Ryan’s mind. Ryan is skeptical, but both are shocked when they come face to face with a second Wilfred living at the address. In actuality, it’s a clone named Stinky, whose owner passed away and now lives in luxury as the sole inheritor of her estate. He’s taken care of by the hired help, played by The Office’s Angela Kinsey, and provides some of the strongest laughs of the episode.
“Uncertainty” isn’t nearly as laugh-out-loud funny as “Comfort,” but it doesn’t need to be. While Wilfred and Stinky interacting is great comedy – Wilfred’s sharp refusal to talk about who won the “rape fight” was brilliant – the focus is unraveling Wiflred’s past. In the end, neither Ryan or Wilfred are sure what’s real, bringing truth to the quote at the top of the episode: “The mistake is thinking that there can be an antidote to the uncertainty.” Who’s to say Ryan will ever find certainty, even if the answers are eventually revealed to him? Doubt will creep in no matter what and realizing that is healthier than constantly digging for something that can’t be found.
“Comfort” dials back on the seriousness to dive right back into the comedy that is Wilfred’s bread and butter, specifically the weirdness of a man in a dog suit. Surprisingly, we haven’t had a storyline revolving around a mailman yet. After asking to use his bathroom, Ryan finds he has a lot in common with his mailman, played by the delightful Zachary Knighton of Happy Endings. The two quickly strike up a friendship and bond over the reading of an undeliverable letter between two men who had a sexual encounter while in the military together. Knighton fits in so well with the strange world Wilfred has created that when he eventually breaks down from pent up grief over the death of a fellow mailman who had his carotid artery torn out by a pittbull, it felt right. And of course, seeing the mailman be comforted by his fellow grieving mailmen reminds Ryan of his own pain at losing Amanda.
Jenna has been something of a problem in the past. She seemed to serve only one purpose; to be the girl Ryan pined for. She was made more interesting last year when Ryan was dating Amanda and her jealousy reared its ugly head. Eventually she admitted to using Ryan because she knew he had a crush on her and her character at last felt like a real person and not just this cardboard cutout placed next door for Ryan to obsess over. Now she feels like an actual friend and seeing the two sit down and talk about Amanda was a great scene for the two of them. And everything leading up to it was Ryan trying to be strong, like he didn’t need to be comforted. I’m not sure how keen I am at the potential return of Ryan’s infatuation with Jenna, but we’ll see how that develops before making final judgment. As long as we don’t lose Drew, who is easily one of favorite characters, I’m open-minded.
Thankfully, after “Uncertainty,” that scene between Ryan and Jenna is as serious as things get. “Comfort” is incredibly funny thanks to Knighton and Wilfred’s brief turn to Christianity after some run-ins with a couple of burglars who Wilfred confuses for Jesus and God. Getting these two episodes back-to-back was a great way to explore all aspects of Wilfred, especially if you’re a first time viewer. It’s a mix of wacky, surreal and dark humor that works in the most unexpected ways. It will be a long time before I forget the image of Wilfred forcibly baptizing Ryan by shoving his head into a toilet. If there’s one thing I can be absolutely sure of its how glad I am to have Wilfred back this summer. This man missed his best friend.