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Saturday, June 28, 2014

WILFRED Gets More Serial in Final Season

Article originally written for Seat42F.




FX’s WILFRED, which is beginning its final season on sister network FXX this week, is a show about a man who sees a dog as a man in a dog costume. It’s a weird concept, to be sure, that allows the writers to explore not only mental illness and fantasy scenarios, but also some primal human emotions. After four years, the program is wrapping up with a ten episode run, the first two of which air this coming Wednesday.

As a quicker refresher, season three ends with Ryan (Elijah Wood) mourning the death of his father, Henry (James Remar), who sought to get Ryan help, then fell down some stairs. Following a clue discovered in his late dad’s office, Ryan goes out to the woods where he discovers a statue of Wilfred (Jason Gann) on the ground.

Season four picks up right at the moment where Ryan is looking at the statue, and only gets weirder from there. WILFRED occasionally does trippy, reality-bending episodes where fans can’t take anything they’ve seen for granted, breaking the rules of even this rule-lite world. The season premiere, “Amends,” is one such installment, being one of the more confusing, weird installments of the series to date.

I can’t go into the specifics of “Amends” without spoiling anything, but suffice it to say, this not only gives Ryan pause, bringing into question the reliability of the show through his perspective and his health, but also touches on the greater mythology. WILFRED has long avoided stating exactly what is going on, but prefers to drop obtuse hints on a fairly rare basis, hinting at the promise of a full explanation in the end, but never bringing us anywhere close.

The good news is, both “Amends,” which is mythology-heavy, and the second episode, “Consequences,” begin tackling that larger mystery. WILFRED is not the type of series that can reveal some cosmic explanation at the last minute and leave anyone satisfied. These first two episodes back promise a season-long journey of discovery, something we’ll get a piece of in each fresh adventure, likely culminating in the master plan WILFRED has kept hidden all along. Viewers who have been yearning for those secrets will probably get them.

But there is another camp of WILFRED viewers, those who don’t value the bigger picture so much and just prefer the give-and-take between Ryan and Wilfred. That type of fan should be satisfied with “Amends” and “Consequences,” too. Admittedly, “Amends” does spend a lot of time on brain-bending, but there are still some rich, obnoxious exchanges between the leads. “Consequences” has more of that as Wilfred sets himself up to be the god Ryan should turn to and obey, while Ryan resists such a rearrangement of their relationship.

And for those who consider themselves ‘shippers,’ wanting desperately for Ryan to end up with the literal girl-next-door, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), well, there’s some movement on that front, too. “Consequences” finds Drew (Chris Klein), Jenna’s husband, yearning to spend some time with his buddy Ryan. Not only does Drew consider Ryan a good friend, but he thinks Ryan might be able to shed some light on what’s going on between Drew and Jenna, with Jenna pulling away after kissing Ryan last season, which Drew does not yet know about.

I won’t reveal how “Consequences” ends, of course, but I really like the Drew / Ryan scenes, in this episode and others. Drew has an ugly streak, but he’s almost always been good to Ryan. Ryan never quite feels comfortable with Drew because he can’t be honest about his feelings for Jenna, making for a tension-filled chemistry. Thus, one never quite knows what will happen when the two get together, and that’s sort of a shame because they could have a solid friendship if only Jenna were not between them, but it’s a positive when building an entertaining half hour of television.

“Amends” and “Consequences” are two terrific, very different installments of a pretty good show. They check off the various boxes that differing viewers want, while staying true to the themes and story of the show itself. With only ten episodes left for the program, it’s off to a strong start, and it should leave viewers very curious to see how it all will end.

WILFRED now airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FXX.

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