S01E04: It was not a very good episode of Wilfred this week, was it? There were funny moments of course but the narrative ended so... piss poorly that it almost makes me worry about the future of the show. I know the original lasted two seasons so there’s a decent sized well to draw ideas from, but if we got an episode like this (which wasted a wonderful guest star like Ed Helms), I’m not as certain about the show as I was in the beginning. We’re only four episodes deep though; I can’t be making grand swooping gestures so quickly. The show is still finding its legs, so I’ll throw it a bone (self congratulatory pat on the back for that one) and give it a mulligan.
"Happiness can only exist in acceptance." - George Orwell
"Bear is stuffed with pain, and humiliation, and Daryl’s c**. And bits of foam. I think." - Wilfred
The premise of the episode is a simple one as most episodes in this series tend to be. Ryan’s sister Kristen, making her return from the pilot episode, is nagging him and bringing him food. When she hurts her ankle, Ryan tries to show her how mature and responsible he is by driving her around. As a result, Wilfred has to go to a doggy day care (which begs the question, why does Jenna even have Wilfred if she has to rely on her neighbor to take care of him?) run by Ed Helms. Wilfred complains to Ryan that Helms’ Daryl put peanut butter on his testicles and forced Wilfred to lick it off. At first Ryan doesn’t believe him because he thinks Wilfred is trying to force himself between Ryan and his sister’s recovering relationship. But then Ryan realizes that Kristen hasn’t changed, neither has he, and he should totally rescue Wilfred. Which he does. Then they spend the remaining time in the episode dicking around.
I’ll just go ahead and get my problems with the episode out of the way. We’re never really told how Kristen falls down -- she trips over the guitar? Who can’t see a guitar on some steps? I realize that stunts are expensive and this is a relatively cheap show (I mean that in a nice way, there aren’t many stunts, special effects, or big guest stars -- thus it's a cheap show), so they just show her sprawled on her back.
But that's a minor complaint compared to the end of the episode. The main plot just sort of ends out of nowhere. While the conflict is resolved and everything reverts back to normal, it just feels weird. We never really find out if Daryl is actually behaving inappropriately with Wilfred, though it's heavily implied that he was. After all, every instance we see of Daryl peanut-buttering his privates is in Ryan’s imagination. Of course, we can assume Wilfred in his imagination, but with the special effects around the edges of the shots of Daryl, we can assume these are looser imagined occurrences and thus probably not as true. Then, due to the poor ending, Helms just feels wasted. He gets to show his charming Midwest self and then throw in a few weird scenes, but the ending just shafted him; he's left with a weak arc.
"Kristen’s always busting b**ls. Has she ever tried just licking them?" - Wilfred
Now, one of things I’ve most enjoyed about Wilfred are the tags at the end where we see Ryan and Wilfred just hang out like two regular dudes. They kind of remind me of Community’s tags: easy, fun, and a really good way to end the show. But this week’s tag was three and a half minutes long. That’s quite a lot for a twenty-two-minute show. I love Community’s tags, but I wouldn’t want to see a three and a half minute one (actually, if it involved Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs in lingerie, I might). Granted, this one was funny. I really liked the Pavlov bit where Wilfred trains Ryan, but the band practice bit seemed a bit odd. So, Ryan now thinks of Bear is real too? Eh, whatever. Then comes the end about Wilfred choosing to use his super hearing to find two lesbian dogs about to go at it over a potential crime, which was funny but again, there was just too much. I like my shows to have a strong central narrative. Random bits of characters just hanging out are completely fine, but it shouldn’t take up such a sizable portion of the show.
Anyway, my bitching is over. There were some fairly good comedic bits throughout the episode that the narrative just couldn’t prop up. Wilfred taking the double peanut butter ice cream cone and licking it suggestivly was particularly humorous -- if a bit gravity-defying. Wilfred dressing up in a hat and backpack when being sent off to camp was a decent visual gag. Jason Gann really knows how to mine the basic physical comedy out of every scene. And Kristen was surprisingly funny. Bitchiness is hard to turn into comedy because bitchiness is, well, a bitch to listen to, but complaining that throwing the crutches in the back of the car caused it to vibrate so much it hurt her ankle? That’s pretty damn funny.
It wasn't the best episode so far, but ti was still fairly funny. It's definitely not enough to turn me away completely, so I’ll just chalk it up to a nervous first start. Remember Park and Rec’s first six episodes? They weren't that great either. Wilfred still has plenty of time to recover. That’s a good boy.