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Friday, September 9, 2011

Wilfred doesn't define its "Identity"

There is a Dog     In the season finale of FX's Wilfred, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) eats drug-laced candy that Wilfred (Jason Gann) leaves laying out at Ryan's (Elijah Wood) place. The resulting strange behavior causes Jenna to lose her job as a news anchor. Ryan puts his lawyer hat back on to help Jenna with her boss (Ray Wise, Chuck, Reaper), but must resort to blackmail to get her position back.

     Because Ryan touches the dark side of himself, left behind until now, he begins to be sneakily manipulative in other parts of his life, too. Ryan drives a wedge between Jenna and her boyfriend, Drew (Chris Klein), because he wants Jenna for himself. However, this backfires, and soon Jenna is planning on marrying Drew, thinking she is pregnant, while Ryan's sister Kristen (Dorian Brown), a pawn in his game, is left by her husband, Leo (J.P. Manoux), not realizing she is the one carrying the baby. Plus, she tells Ryan he is dead to her. To make matter worse, Wilfred is hit by a car, leaving Ryan without any help in fixing the mess he made, as well as finding his "Identity." "Identity" being the title of the episode.

     "Identity" is a confusing episode of Wilfred for a number of reasons. First of all, Ryan struggles to comprehend what exactly is going on with Wilfred. His canine companion, whom he sees as a man in a dog suit, is perceived as a dog by others. Is Wilfred a dream? Is Ryan in purgatory, as Wilfred hints when he references Lost this week? Is Wilfred sent to better or worsen Ryan's life? Or perhaps he is a dark part of Ryan's psyche manifesting itself. This last explanation makes some sense, given that Ryan's bad qualities apparently disappear when Wilfred arrives on the scene, and after Ryan takes them back, Wilfred is left severely injured and with amnesia.

     But the question is, if Wilfred is representative of Ryan's bad side, why does he sometimes do good? The dog is an enigmatic figure, whose motivations are often murky, at best. While much of the time Wilfred campaigns to help Jenna and use Ryan as a servant, other times he truly seems to want to assist Ryan in bettering himself. Or Wilfred gets him into big trouble. So what exactly is this dog? An angel or a devil on Ryan's shoulder?

     It's also odd that Wilfred just happens to accidentally leave a drug sucker laying around, since his other actions are almost always well thought out, whether with good or bad intentions. Wilfred may act like a dumb dog at times, but he is a very deliberate character. To make such a stupid, far-impacting mistake seems unlike him. So maybe there is more going on here than is immediately obvious.

     Finally, why did Ryan's basement disappear, to be replaced with a closet? Certainly it ties into Wilfred's will, a foreshadowing of a disastrous event. But now Ryan can't each the will. Will the will explain why these happenings went down? Or how Ryan can get the old Wilfred back? Ryan didn't imagine the whole friendship with Wilfred, because the dog is still a man in costume just before Ryan goes home to discover the missing lower floor. The confusing finale leaves much in doubt between seasons.

     That being said, Wilfred remains an intriguing show, and while a tad unsatisfying, the finale cannot be called simple or boring. Wilfred has been renewed for a second season on FX.

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     To catch up on Wilfred with streaming episodes online, please click here.

Article first published as TV Review: Wilfred - "Identity" on Blogcritics.

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