B+

Wilfred: "Respect"

B+

Wilfred

"Respect"

Season 1, Episode 5

There is a certain darkness in Wilfred's premise that's bubbled up a bit, yes, but hasn't really become the focus point of the show until tonight's episode. Which was fucking dark. And funny! But dark.

This is, after all, a show about a suicidal young man whose only respite comes from the personification of his cute neighbor's dog, a dog which seems to exist in order to manipulate him into a Nietzschean philosophy and/or letting the dog get away with whatever he wants. For most of the previous episode, Wilfred has been played for laughs, as a funny man engaging in silly dog behavior. There's only a bit of that this week, with Wilfred instead playing a kind of demonic id to Ryan's attempts to volunteer.

Ryan does deserve a bit of mockery for deciding to volunteer at the local hospice in order to impress Jenna (and soon after, guest star Rashida Jones). But he's also actually trying to give himself something to do, and if it takes trying to impress girls in order for him to do something, then that can't be that bad. The vast majority of good and ill accomplished by young men is done to impress potential sexual partners, so better that it's good, right?

But I digress – this ends up being much more about Wilfred than Ryan. Wilfred's not just trying to teach Ryan a lesson, he's having his own adventures and then manipulating Ryan later. Through dumb luck, a gift, or a penchant for malevolence, Wilfred manages to convince everyone except Ryan that he has a talent for finding old people when they're about to die. Everyone at the hospice is happy, but Ryan becomes convinced that he killed one of the patients, and the later a nurse who was onto him.

This leads to a bizarrely comic scene with Ryan and Wilfred yelling at one another in a downpour. It's like a parody of an over-the-top movie (and it probably is, but not one I immediately recognized) but the weird thing is that it somehow fit perfectly. It works with the odd, metaphorical, over-the-top nature of the show, and it worked directly with the plot.

It's not just Wilfred who takes the show to a dark place. Jones' character is a little off, but the bigger surprise is Jenna. Previously just a nice person and an object of Ryan's desire, she turns terrible herself at the end. Jones' character says that negative press about a staff suicide may force the hospice out of business, to which Jenna responds “I know. I feel really, really badly. We're going live!” It's an interesting move, because it takes Jenna out of the kind of “perfect girl” space she inhabits in Ryan's and Wilfred's minds, and makes her a real person. And a bad person.

I'm not certain that this is my favorite form of Wilfred yet – it was more awkward and painful humor than some of the out-and-out humor of earlier episodes, but I do think it had a bit more depth than normal. The swings in tone from week-to-week may be a new show finding its legs, or it could be just the way Wilfred's going to be. I don't mind.

Stray Observations:

  • “Well, my Mondays are usually pretty light.” “Uh, it's a Thursday.”
  • “Wow, you're like the great white Oprah.”
  • “How many people can watch a whole season of The Wire in one sitting? Not many, I'll wager. That shit is dense.”
  • “These people are ready to die. Hope is the last thing they need.” “Nah, a coffin is the last thing they need. Up top.”
  • “Compassion was the first trick I taught him.”
  • “Don't mind Ruby. She's been a total bitch since the earthquake took her family.” I think I liked Jones in this role, one of the few guest stars who possibly deserves to be recurring.