Wilfred: Doubt

By August 31, 2011TV Reviews

Doubt must be no more than vigilance, otherwise it can become dangerous.” — George C. Lichtenberg

Entering the final stretch of its freshman season, “Doubt” starts with Ryan at his highest point in the season so far.  Cannabis-free for 10 days now, Ryan has spent his time cleaning the apartment, catching up on some reading, attending yoga classes with his sister, and has even polished up his résumé as he has begun searching for a new job.  Wilfred, on the other hand, is not too keen on Ryan’s life changes, particularly the idea of Ryan leaving him to take on a full-time job.  His skepticism and resistance of Ryan’s life changes begin to provoke doubt within Ryan that Wilfred may not in fact have his best intentions in mind, but Wilfred tells him he’s simply being paranoid.

Of course, when Ryan notices a strange man in a hat and glasses creepily watching him from a far, Ryan begins to wonder how right Wilfred really is.

The man in the hat eventually reveals himself to Ryan as Bruce (Dwight Yoakam).  He too once had a relationship with Wilfred very similar to Ryan’s, but he warns that Wilfred is not the fun-loving pup he appears to be and urges Ryan to get rid of him before it’s too late.

(I spent some time thinking of a way to discuss this episode without revealing too much about the ending, but I think some spoilers may be necessary here for a more thorough discussion.  So, for those of you who have not yet watched the episode, you may perhaps want to do so before reading any further.)

From the very beginning of the episode, Bruce comes across far more gimmicky than many previous guest characters.  Whereas the appearance of Ryan’s mother last week felt like a very worthwhile character around which to build an episode, Bruce’s role feels foisted within the narrative as a self-contained comedic gag with no broader relevance to the series as a whole, and the conclusion of the episode directly supports this sentiment as Bruce does in fact prove to be an all-but-irrelevant, one-time character.

On the other hand, the episode frequently hints that Bruce may be a completely fabricated hallucination of Ryan’s imagination, and this added component of Ryan’s mental instability could crop up again in the final two episodes.  But even if this proves to be the case, it seems like slightly lazy writing to bring in a one-time character simply to suggest that Ryan may be a little crazier than we initially thought.

I don’t mean to say the entire script was a waste, and the healthy portion of dog-related humor that crops up numerous times throughout the episode includes some of their better puns.  In what could possibly prove to be the most clever canine joke of the season, Ryan takes Wilfred to a shoe store, which Wilfred gleefully sees as an all-you-can-eat-buffet; he carries a plate, silverware, and carton of milk on his red tray and walks before a row of shoes on display, picking out which is the right meal:

“Oooo, red velvet,” he says as he picks up a red slipper.  “I think I’m going to be a little bit naughty today.”

It always impresses me how the writing team has continued to create clever new ways to exploit the man-in-dog-suit gag, and their ability to keep things fresh with brilliant puns such as these so late in the season bodes will for the future of the series.

That being said, however, episode-to-episode inconsistency has proven to be a frequent problem for the series, and the constant rotation of writers surely plays a party in that—Reed Agnew and Eli Jorné handled this one, and it is their only writing credit for the show other than as staff writers on “Trust.”  Wilfred constantly varies in how directly each episode effects the next, so leading into the last two, it still remains unclear if there’s something much larger in store for us or if we can expect the show to fizzle out its first season through a few episodes not too different from this one.