Well, that was fantastic.
Every storyline that's been building up across the third season of Wilfred comes to a head in “Regrets,” even the ones that seemed done. There's Anne, finally having something to do, having a personality, for the first time since she was introduced, and after I'd already waved goodbye to her, seemingly for good. There's Ryan's mistrust of Wilfred, his relationship with Jenna, and his arguments with his father—and finally, some vague kind of answer about the meaning of the portrait that has been the focus of the mythology of the third season.
But it's not mere plot that makes “Regrets” good. It's that the episode manages include all of those things in entertaining ways. Almost all of the recurring characters get good lines or bits. Drew is upset about not being the one who saved Wilfred, so Ryan cheers him up, which gets Chris Klein's earnest, horrifyingly funny “Thanks...for the devagification, Ryan. You're a good friend.” Or there's Kristen who, instead of merely existing to tell Ryan to listen to his father, gets reintroduced by saying that her baby's daddy wants to teach Joffrey Spanish: “What's next, landscaping camp? Snort. Are you listening? This is important!” Even Anne gets one in: “And then the day before the hearing, the corrections officer busts him with, like, one bag of heroin, and suddenly your dad's like 'oh, there's nothing I can do!'”
Combine this with mostly satisfying resolutions (or clever punting) of the main storylines, and you've got a great Wilfred episode. I was particularly happy with the final reveal, where Ryan discovers an address associated with the symbol in his drawing. When he follows it, he discovers a statue of Wilfred, some of the first physical evidence that Wilfred exists outside of his mind. It wasn't simply the text of the reveal itself, which, with old statues and bizarre symbols, is a little bit too Lost-like. Rather, simply its location in rural undergrowth, and the slow, narrow then wide ways it was shot, gave it a properly fantastic aura.
I'm a little bit less enamored with the way that Ryan's father was killed in relatively perfunctory (and convenient) fashion. It feels like Hank Newman was a little bit underutilized, but his narrative necessity tended to exist more in the context of who he might be, instead of who he was—in other words, he may have given diminishing returns with future appearances. It's something that I think deserves judgment reserved until we see how next season plays out.
On the other hand, I'm not entirely certain that “Regrets” salvages the whole season (not that this season has been bad, but it was slightly worse and significantly less daring than the second season). There is an increasingly popular structure of television that could be called “single-season serialized.” It treats each season as the overall form of a story, and shoves everything into a model where the season builds up over time, and comes to a climax in the ultimate or sometimes penultimate episode of the season, regardless of how organically the story might develop. Often a story does happen to fit that, but it can also feel overly forced. That's what happens with Wilfred here. Instead of weaving several different stories together throughout the season so that they come together at the same time, Wilfred's third season has a bunch of different strands that it just happens to put in roughly the same place at roughly the same time, which of course is the finale.
Ryan just happens to have a roommate, who happens to be spying on him. The culmination of his issues with Jenna just happens to coincide with his dad offering Ryan an appealing job. This all fits together, yes, but it fits together in a way that screams “this is a television season!” as opposed to “this is a story, proceeding organically, that fits within a seasonal framework.” But that's a complaint about the season as a whole, not this individual episode—which was easily one of the series' best so far.
- “At first I thought it was you, but then I thought about what you look like, and act like, and how you struggle with dandruff and stuff, and honestly I just burst out laughing.”
- As Jenna says that they should pretend the kiss never happened, you can just see Elijah Wood preparing his “Totally.” I'm not sure it's a good thing or a bad thing that that's so predictable—probably good, effective characterization.
- Wilfred has a perfect manipulation planned, even though Ryan disagrees.“Yeah, I hear you, but on the other hand, you're wrong, it's genius. And I've already left the gifts there five minutes ago.”
- And fascinatingly, Wilfred's manipulations fail utterly and immediately—is that the first time it's happened?
- “We've just gotta put a stop to all this fighting before someone gets hurt” says Wilfred, at Ryan's father's funeral.
- And for good measure, Ryan's mom gets a zinger. “You know, I don't think I could have admitted this while he was alive, but maybe he was actually trying to help us. In his own dysfunctional dickheadish way.”
- Thanks for reading, all! We'll see you next year, with bells and floppy ears on.