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Wilfred Keeps Itself Balanced With a Second Helping of Laughs
Next week, when Wilfred goes back to airing a single episode per week, I think the show will suffer a little. Normally, back-to-back episodes are a treat you can enjoy once in a while, but it’s not something you would want on a regular basis. But in Wilfred’s case, it actually helps balance the show, which can be wildly inconsistent in tone from episode to episode. It’s not an inconsistency that’s a deal breaker, but it does make it harder to persuade someone unfamiliar with the show to give it a shot. But these back-to-back episodes eliminate the issue by displaying all the different aspects of Wilfred in a single hour-long run. “Suspicion” and “Sincerity” aren’t the best episodes, but the play better off each other than they would have if they had to work on their own.
“Suspicion” is the stand out episode, being the more uproariously funny and strange of the two. One of the more consistent aspects of Wilfred has been the relationship between Wilfred and the overly large stuffed animal, Bear. I don’t think it’s by accident Wilfred reacts to Bear in much the same way Ryan acts to Wilfred in that they’re both having conversations with something that shouldn’t be able to talk back. We never see Bear the way Wilfred sees him and I hope we never do; that would ruin the joke. It’s much more fun watching Wilfred talk to Bear, getting no verbal response and just waiting to see how Wilfred will react to what is essentially silence. While “Suspicion” might seem like a fairly enclosed episode, mostly only featuring Wilfred and Ryan as they attempt to prove whether or not Kristen’s new boyfriend is seeing another woman, there’s more going on beneath the surface.
You have to keep in mind that, while we only see Wilfred and Ryan interacting, there are things happening between Bear and Joffrey, Kristen’s infant son whom Ryan is babysitting. At least Wilfred thinks there’s something going on. It’s all in his head and really makes you question how sane Wilfred really is, which is made even funnier considering we don’t even know how real Wilfred is. His entire motivation this episode is jealousy over the relationship between Joffrey and Bear, despite Ryan pointing out Bear is a stuffed toy and Joffrey is a baby (“He’s not a baby where it counts,” counters an emasculated Wilfred”). “Suspicion” works because of how absurd it is to hear Wilfred speak off Joffrey as if he’s a sexually mature man. It’s this kind of ballsy humor – the kind that makes you think, “Did they just say that?” – that has kept me coming back to Wilfred every summer since it began.
What makes “Suspicion” such an important episode is the first interaction between Ryan and his dad. After apologizing to Kristen for snooping around and sabotaging her relationship, he discovers is was his dad who suggested Ryan be allowed to babysit Joffrey. Ryan immediately thinks this was some complicated manipulation to make Ryan screw up so Kristen would make their father the legal guardian of Joffrey and Ryan calls his dad for the first time in a year to tell him just that. Naturally, his dad tells him that’s crazy to think that, but he’s at least glad to hear Ryan’s voice. At this point, I’m so aligned with the way Ryan sees the world that I wondered if maybe this was more manipulation. Is Ryan’s dad as bad as we’re led to believe? It’s hard to tell at this point.
“Sincerity” isn’t quite as humorous because it stays pretty safe, opting to find its laughs in the simplest version of Wilfred: how weird it is to watch a man behave like a dog. After bumping into an old high school classmate, Ryan finds himself telling a series of lies, starting with saying he’s Wilfred’s owner. He winds up taking her dog training class, explaining Wilfred’s bad behavior as a byproduct of him being rescued off the streets. Meanwhile, Wilfred hates the school because the other dogs bully him – they even post hurtful things to his Facebook profile – and refuses to return. Ryan winds up making a deal with Wilfred; he doesn’t have to go back to the school if he just pretends to be Ryan’s dog for one night, which includes wearing dog booties, something Wilfred says only “Dog Weirdos” force upon their pets.
What I’ve liked about Season 3 is that it hasn’t forgotten the show’s past. When Wilfred finally confronts Ryan about why he’s working so hard to be someone he’s not just to impress some girl he used to know, Ryan confesses it’s because of Amanda. The last time he let a woman get to know the real him, she turned out to be crazy and was shipped off to a mental institute. Wilfred, without any manipulation on his part, explains to Ryan what happened with Amanda wasn’t his fault. He proved he was capable of handling a relationship as himself and things just didn’t work out. Now he knows when another opportunity comes along, he’ll be able to handle it. It was a surprisingly tender moment for Wilfred and Ryan. We often see them learning things together, but it’s not often Wilfred handles a situation so gently. “Sincerity” may not have been as laugh-out-loud funny as “Suspicion,” but that scene between Ryan and Wilfred made it all worth it.