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Friday, June 22, 2012

Wilfred makes "Progress"

FX's Wilfred returns next Thursday to officially begin its second season. It's odd, then, that a brand new "preview" episode aired last night. Entitled "Progress," this latest installment finds Ryan (Elijah Wood) in a mental hospital, where he has been getting better under the care of Dr. Eddy (Robin Williams) while waiting for Wilfred (Jason Gann) to recover from his car accident. Ryan is shaken when Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) brings Wilfred to visit, and Ryan still sees Wilfred as a man in a dog suit, believing that his treatment isn't working. It takes no time at all for Ryan to get caught up in Wilfred's mental games, which disrupts his own path to healing.

There are signs that Ryan isn't mentally stable before Wilfred arrives, though. While in the hospital, Ryan has strange dreams where he is sitting at a conference table with some odd people named Amanda (Allison Mack, Smallville), Kevin (Rob Riggle, NTSF:SD:SUV), and Jeremy (Steven Weber, Wings, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip), among others. What is going on? Why does Ryan keep dreaming them?

This experience of being a patient seems real enough for Ryan. In fact, it seems a lot like the reality he's been living in. The dreams are kind of new, but the rest of it is natural progress for the characters, considering four months have passed. Jenna has realized she is not pregnant and dumped her boyfriend. Ryan is working on the issues he knows that he has. Wilfred is his same manipulative, sneaky, morality challenged self.

And then, everything shatters. Ryan suddenly sees, in a meta moment, that he is being treated by the Robin Williams character from Good Will Hunting. An orderly (Brian Baumgartner, The Office) helps Ryan escape, only to reveal that he's actually Wilfred, and Bear is driving the getaway car! This makes the mental hospital world fall apart for Ryan as he tries to wake up.

Or does it? Maybe Ryan is in this mental hospital, and by not taking the pills that Dr. Eddy gives him, he loses his grip on what is real and what is not. This is certainly a possibility, and one supported by the notion that Ryan is completely crazy. Though, even before the pills are taken, it seems a given that Ryan is not at the hospital during the events of season one, so not everything can be explained away in this manner. Probably. Who knows? Wilfred is a truly odd show that defies clear definition. Which is what makes it so intriguing.

Ryan does "wake up," we assume, in the conference room with Amanda, Kevin, Jeremy, and the others. He's serving as a lawyer for them as they work on curing cancer. Is this any more realistic than the mental hospital illusion? Maybe Ryan's sister, unseen in this episode, got him this gig in the medical field. But that seems unlikely, given the way that Wilfred leaves things between the siblings at the end of season one. Thus, because of the events of "Progress," there will continue to be a nagging doubt about whether what is shown is real at any given time.

Ryan then goes home to confront the basement. At the end of season one, Ryan discovers a coat closet where he believes a basement door should be. His house certainly looks like it has a basement. Ryan busts through the wall of the closet, and low and behold, stairs to a basement! But the question is, did someone board up the stairs to trick him? Did Ryan himself do it in one of his weird states and just not remember? Is busting through the wall a sign of "Progress," or is it Ryan backsliding? These are questions not answered in "Progress," nor will they likely be with any certainty in season two.

Wilfred is a unique show that makes viewers think. The fact that it is well acted and funny are just frosting on the cake. Not to mention, the quality of guest stars that appear, in this episode alone, should entice you to tune in. If you are missing out on this weird television experience, it's time to correct that. Watch Wilfred Thursdays at 10 PM ET on FX.

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