Wilfred Review: “Fear”

I think you can tell a lot about a show from its third episode. The pilot is carefully sculpted by the creator, and the second episode is the first after the season is ordered, so it often benefits from extra time and attention from the creator. By the time we get to the third episode, the writing burden moves toward the staff and the development time will fall inline with the “normal” episode cycle for the season. While the case of Wilfred is a bit different because it’s an imported series and has a shorter season, it will still be interesting to see where the middle season episodes take us.

And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with last night’s episode, “Fear”. It successfully picked up on a lot of threads from the pilot, namely the weed-theft quest and Ryan’s missing wallet, and created some new threads without falling into the overplayed buddy comedy tropes found in the pilot. The episode was funny in ways not associated with Wilfred saying crazy things and then chasing a car, which was the major concern going into the series. Most importantly though, the show returns to an investment in Ryan’s psyche and drops intriguing hints about the main question of the series: what is Wilfred?

The episode opens with Ryan and Wilfred hiding out in the basement with their stolen weed, and Ryan experiences a sort of premonition / vision where his tooth falls out and he has baby feet. The scene loops around again, minus the trippy vision, then Ryan is confronted by Spencer, the motorcylcing neighbor from whom they stole weed. Ryan convinces Spencer that they were both part of a string of robberies, they become friendly, and porn-watching and strip club hopping ensues while Wilfred attempts to make Ryan confront Spencer. Ethan Suplee returns as Spencer, and thankfully he’s given more to do than scream and yell this episode. Suplee seemed to be hovering between channeling Randy, his dopey and sweet character from My Name is Earl, and the hotheaded biker from the pilot. He oscillates shot to shot even, making it difficult to read the character and his performances. Spencer was probably miscast as written, but Suplee is at his best while spitting ridiculous lines with a blank stare. The funniest moment in the episode was Spencer and Ryan’s exchange about Spencer’s transsexual father, so I’m guessing as the season progresses we’ll see a more defined version of Spencer to better fit Suplee’s abilities.

“Fear” plants a few disparate plot threads in the beginning of the episode, such as Mrs. Patel’s fear of dogs, Spencer’s former best friend, and Wilfred’s bone, then ties them together by the end of the episode. Many of the best comedies do this masterfully, Seinfeld and Arrested Development come to mind, so this is a welcome feature to the show. Hopefully Wilfred will continue to be attentive to this, as the previous two episodes felt flabby and unfocused compared to “Fear”. A returned attentiveness to Ryan’s psychic space was another welcome focus of the episode. Wilfred has a great line early in the episode where he asks Ryan: “You, me, what’s the difference?”. Indeed, the audience is encouraged to read Wilfred as a manifestation of Ryan’s id in this episode, and we’re beginning to explore what exactly is going on with Ryan to make him see Wilfred when no one else can. The series began with a look into Ryan’s disturbing head space, but wanders away in favor of slightly lighter comedy in previous episodes. “Fear” draws all this out, and when Wilfred drops off the spray paint can used to deface the Patels’ statue, we’re forced to wonder what the manifestation of Wilfred is making Ryan do, or if Wilfred is somehow acting on his own.

Overall, this was a great episode for Wilfred. Adding outside characters is both crucial and dangerous, but “Fear” successfully inserts Spencer into Ryan’s world without disrupting the dynamic. As long as the show keeps bringing in characters successfully while developing the ongoing mystery of Wilfred, the season looks to be shaping into excellent form.

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