S1E3: After last week’s episode of Wilfred, I was a little worried that the show was losing its grip already. In the pilot, we get this strange mix of complete and total darkness mixed with the absurdity of a dog that can actually speak to our protagonist – and smoke weed with him too. By the second episode, it was like that newness had already worn off, but nothing else really seemed to develop as a hook in its place. Enter this week’s episode, “Fear,” which set it all back on track.
“Sometimes when I look at you, I can almost see a giant tampon string hanging out.” –Wilfred
Clearly, this episode is all about fear, or in the case of the first few marijuana-tinged moments, paranoia. The episode starts with a deliciously weird moment: Ryan has a weed-induced dream that acts as a premonition. We see a lazy afternoon of him getting high with Wilfred except suddenly he sees his neighbor Spenser (whose boots he and Wilfred defecated in after they stole his marijuana) traipsing across his yard, Ryan pulls out his own loose, bloody tooth, and Wilfred gets in his face to ominously whisper, “He knows.” Well, of course he knows, we saw Wilfred carefully place Ryan’s wallet under Spenser’s broken window in the first episode. But, if your show is going to be so dependent on a THC high, you have to at least have some really strange dreams thrown in there – so thanks, Wilfred.
When Ryan wakes up, everything is normal. It was just a dream. He and Wilfred go on a walk and Ryan gives him an expensive bone which Wilfred turns his nose up at (you can’t smoke out of a bone, now can you?) just as they come to their Indian neighbor’s house. Someone spray painted their statue and the cops are swarming the lawn. While the man of the house warns Ryan to keep Wilfred away from his wife – he had the last dog that attacked her put down – Ryan’s busy placing mental blame on his deadbeat neighbor, Spenser. (Of course we later find that it’s Wilfred.) But it’s not his problem and he shakes it off to get home to his basement to smoke up with dog friend – just like they did in his dream.
Suddenly, he realizes that little dream was a little slice of things to come and finally this show brings itself back from the cute little doldrums of “oh, it’s a man-dog, isn’t that weird!?” that it hit last week. Spenser is coming over and he's rightfully pissed. But it's the conversation that happens just before our first meeting with Spenser that is really great. While Wilfred smokes and generally does things dogs don’t normally do – like TALK – he’s still a dog. So his advice to Ryan is what he’d tell any other furry mutt at the dog park: dominate him (and by this of course, he means mount him and hump him like every over excited pup at the dog run). While the action is obviously ludicrous, it brings up an important issue in Ryan’s mixed bag of mental issues that landed him with his strange companion in the first place. He’s a wimp. He’s passive. He avoids anything slightly akin to confrontation. And Wilfred is determined to change that.
“My last buddy, Jesse, he was a liar and a thief and that’s why I punched him in the throat and ripped off his ear. Now what did you want to tell me?” –Spenser
At first, Ryan tries to handle this whole debacle the peaceful way – by lying about breaking into Spenser’s house. The idiot believes him, though Wilfred does his best to bark out the truth – which of course we hear as words, and Spenser’s ignorance helps remind us that this is all in Ryan’s head. Or is it? But I guess that’s the rub.
Anyway, flipping his switch from psycho killer to psycho best friend in a mere nano-second, Spenser leaves only to come back with a crate of crappy beer and a laptop full of porn. Elijah Wood adeptly delivers his character as this shrinking, delicate violet of a man. He has no desire to “porn out” with this ruffian from down the street. Of course, in order to avoid Wilfred’s aim to incriminate him and start a fight, he agrees to go to a strip club with Spenser and only prolongs the unsavory encounter. This scene served little purpose other than to drive Spenser’s horndog habits into the ground and to introduce us to the laser pointer trick that gets Wilfred in trouble when he confuses it with his Indian neighbor’s Bindi on her forehead, jumps her and boom, he’s locked up at the pound and about to be put to death.
It turns out the man who takes the dogs in is Spenser’s treacherous ex-best friend and thus there’s no chance for Ryan to rescue Wilfred from lethal injection now that he’s thrown his lot in with Spenser. And with that, we find the corniest, most after-school-special-style speech, one so sickeningly sweet it would give the kids on Glee diabetes. Ryan talks to Spenser and Jesse, helping them to resolve their differences, or they “don’t know what friendship really is.” It works, but thankfully Wilfred pantomimes masturbation in the background as Ryan rattles off his sugary speech. It's lowbrow and completely brilliant.
Ryan thinks he’s fixed everything, but as soon as he gets home his two new friends are there with beer and porn, ready for an evening of “porning out.” Ryan finally breaks and comes out with the truth, to which Spenser responds by punching him. Thanks to Wilfred’s help, they knock out Spenser and get rid of the porn-obsessed duo and Ryan finally realizes having a little bit of guts isn’t going to kill him.
What’s great about these little lessons is that they’re the difference between what you’re taught when you’re a kid and the unsavory truths you need to learn when you’re an adult -- as taught my an Australian man in a dog suit. It doesn’t get much better than that. Then we add to that the idea that Wilfred’s human qualities are all in Ryan’s head, but yet we find Wilfred doing things on his own, like discarding the spray paint can in the alleyway and suddenly we’re all scratching our heads just a little bit. It’s not exactly Lost, but it’s intriguing enough to keep us coming back.