One of the great things that have come out of Wilfred as the series matured was the effective use of the episode titles. While at one point, early in the show’s run, those titles were blatant clues to the lessons Wilfred would be teaching Ryan, they’ve evolved into more subtle forms of storytelling. There have absolutely been episodes that used the Season 1 formula, but they’ve kind of petered off in favor of the more interesting pattern we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Episodes like “Perspective” and “Delusion” were great examples of the titles not dictating the interactions between Ryan and Wilfred, allowing the episodes to run off unchecked. But they would always find a way to make those titles fit with the narrative in some way. This week, we have “Distance,” which could mean a number of things, but can really only mean one thing by the episode’s end.
At the top of the episode, Ryan is looking over the childhood drawing, wondering how Kristen could have drawn it when he distinctly remembers drawing it. She freely admits to being the artist and even gives a name to the Wilfred-like character sticking out from behind the tree – Mr. Floppy-Ears, an imaginary friend from when Kristen was young. The fact that Mr. Floppy-Ears bears a striking resemblance to Wilfred is very telling and opens a boatload of possibilities. It is very plausible Ryan’s subconscious has recreated Mr. Floppy-Ears as Wilfred. But this episode sets aside the drawing pretty quickly when Ryan’s goes searching for answers from an unlikely source. After Wilfred seems unable to tell him what he wants to know, Ryan goes to the one person who knows Wilfred best: Bruce.
Dwight Yoakam returns to the role he made so memorable in the two guest spots he did in Seasons 1 and 2 and it’s as if he never left. Sure, he might be living in a fancy house with a Christian woman and her daughter, but that doesn’t mean he’s changed at all. In fact, Ryan’s search for answers is sidestepped in favor of a ridiculous case of one-upmanship between Bruce, Wilfred and Ryan that involves repeated nut shots, a faked suicide, and Wilfed prancing around as though he’d been pumped full of estrogen. It’s a wild ride of funny moments and ends with Ryan finally getting the upper hand in Wilfred and Bruce’s mind games.
I like having Bruce around because, for me at least, he represents the part of Ryan’s psyche that is completely detached from reality. Wilfred is certainly crazy in his own right, but he seems to be bound by rules and has, in some ways, Ryan’s best interests at heart. Bruce, on the other hand, is much more free and chaotic, which might be why Wilfred seems to dislike him so much. That’s my best guess since Bruce is such a tough nut to crack. I think Bruce said it best in his first appearance in Season 1: “This shit is complicated.” I believe it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Which brings us all the way back to the idea of distance and what it means for Ryan in this episode. When all the mind games are over and done with, Ryan returns home and remembers all this started because he wanted to know more about the drawing. After taking some time away, distancing himself from the work he was doing, Ryan is able to remember he only really remembered drawing a specific part of the picture, which he is able to scratch off and reveal a symbol underneath. I’m not even going to try and guess what this symbol could mean. In fact, I’m a little exhausted by the whole ordeal with the drawing. We’ve been chasing this picture all season and I’d like to get some kind of answer soon. This symbol had better lead to some kind of reward. I love Wilfred, but finding symbols just isn’t its thing. Maybe they’ll turn it into a big joke.