To say that Ryan’s sister Kristen was the worst aspect of the first season might be something of an understatement. She was a Nagging Female stereotype, creating drama in Ryan’s life while providing very little in the way of entertainment. “Guilt” serves partially as an apology for that, changing the power dynamic between Ryan and his sister, and putting her at the center of the comedy—and perhaps, changing her character for the better, though how long it lasts remains to be seen.
Kristen has returned from her year in India, where she departed to after Ryan exposed her affair and ruined her marriage last season. She’s apparently a changed woman, filled with Indian spirituality. Not to mention being filled with a baby. The former is more relevant to Ryan, who attempts to talk about their relationship while being shut down by false spiritual forgiveness. The latter is more important to Wilfred, who brings up the great Dog-Baby Wars, and spends the episode attempting to kill the unborn child.
Wilfred’s description of the wars, and his attempts to murder/befriend the child are the comedic highlight of the episode. His description of it, and its battles, make one of the best sustained dogs-through-human-language jokes that the series has come up with. The idea that babies and dogs would hate each other over attention is a fairly simple one, but the intensity and detail with which Wilfred describes it sells it throughout the episode. (Perhaps it’s just my anti-baby sentiment speaking, though.) It also leads to the most bizarre joke of the night: Wilfred uses a voodoo doll to attempt to kill the baby, then fellates himself, to apparent release, using a voodoo doll of himself. I haven’t heard of this use of a voodoo doll before, but it makes a kind of sense, and I think that novelty pushed the “amusing” factor above the “oh my god is that a dog/human having an orgasm I’m so uncomfortable” factor.
Weaving one of the show’s best running jokes through the show is one way to make it good, but it’s complemented by some of the best character development Wilfred has done. Kristen, it turns out, isn’t quite so spiritual and calm as she appears. Her lover has taken out a restraining order against her, and with her marriage ended, she has no place to live. So she takes over Ryan’s house, attempting to assume the role of dominant sister as she does, even though she’s lost the power to do so. Ryan lets her get away with it because of his guilt over exposing her affair and ending her marriage, which provides the theme of the episode.
It’s the change in the power dynamic that makes the episode more interesting. Instead of being the villain, Kristen here is a victim, but she’s desperate to ensure that this isn’t known, even though her secret’s already out. That’s good for humor, of course, as keeping secrets often is, but it’s better for humanizing her character. An ending where she acknowledges her all-too-obvious flaws, and one that sets the stage for her to not be such a stereotypical harpy, holds a great deal of promise.
I’m not entirely certain that this was the best episode of Wilfred—it lacked the audacity that the show at its most compelling. But it may have been one that I’ve liked with the fewest caveats. That, plus its promise for improvement, may make it my favorite so far.
- “Say what you will about Beans, but dude knows how to do it up right! There might even be a sprinkler.”
- “There’s a war out there, Ryan. A war between dogs and babies. And you brought it right to our doorstep.”
- Dear lord, Allison Mack just gets better. That talking-out-her-back scene was naturalistically silly in a way that makes the often-artificial show so much better-balanced.
- “All this time I thought he loved me, but do you know why he really wanted me to go to India? Because he thinks I’m a good doctor!”