Wilfred‘s first season ended with a flurry of destruction at the hands of Ryan (Elijah Wood), the suicidal former lawyer who sees his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann) as an unpleasant Australian man in a dog suit. You’ll recall, Wilfred leapt into the windshield of a car so that Ryan could switch Jenna’s (Fiona Gubelmann) urine sample meant for her drug test to restore her career with pee from his pregnant sister Kristen (Dorian Brown). Now Jenna thinks she’s pregnant, pushing her back into Drew’s (Chris Klein) arms and away from Ryan’s. Kristen’s marriage is over and considers her brother dead to her and the scariest thing is Wilfred lies in a veterinarian’s recovery room immobilized from the waist down and with amnesia. Oh and that closet door that lead to the basement, was in fact just a door to a closet. The basement never existed.
Season 2 kicked off on multiple online and video-on-demand outlets with a special Preview episode called, “Progress,” a hopeful, positive concept for viewers to believe in that Ryan is one his way to being cured. If you haven’t seen it yet, go do so through one of the outlets in the link above before reading below.
To our surprise, Season Two starts off, not with a quote, but in a blurry meeting room, Ryan clenching the tennis ball he was holding at the end of last season. It is four months since that head-scratching discovery and Ryan is being berated by Jeremy (Steven Weber, Wings) a project manager who is asking about a crucial report. Across from him sits Amanda (Allison Mack, Smallville) and next to him is Kevin (Rob Riggle, The Hangover). They are part of team working on a clinical trial for cancer research and apparently, Ryan is the team’s legal counsel.
Ryan is actually describing his recent dreams to Dr. Eddy (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting), to which he diagnoses the visions as a stress dream due to his upcoming visit by Jenna and Wilfred, their first meeting in four months. Ryan’s prepared to see an actual dog on a leash, a barking, yapping ball of hair, but instead out behind the bushes appears Wilfred, puffing away at a cigarette, sitting in a motorized wheelchair.
You didn’t really believe Ryan would be cured, did you? Look, progress is overrated anyway and recovery doesn’t happen overnight.
But enough of my cracker jack therapy; It’s clear that Ryan is far from being “cured,” and that he’s not ready to know who or what Wilfred actually is, even though the mutt was willing to tell him. He does believe that Wilfred is the part of him that lies to himself, and that’s enough to know he doesn’t want to be a part of that. Then there’s this admission from Wilfred during a second visit that ends in a scuffle.
Wilfred: I need you Ryan. Without you, I have no purpose. I’m nothing. It’s like I don’t even exist… I was good to you Ryan, I helped you stand on your own two feet…
This sudden plea is sound evidence of our basic suspicions, considering that Wilfred appears to be a figment of Ryan’s imagination. Or is he? After attacking Wilfred, Ryan mistrusts the hospital after they up his medication; Wilfred independently plans a breakout disguised as an orderly (Brian Baumgartner, The Office) and attacks Dr. Eddy who was trying to use shock therapy to cure him. Another familiar friend drives the getaway van, which prompts Ryan to another revelation before waking once again in the office with much clearer vision. Ryan excuses himself and staggers home to see Jenna contradicting something she said during her first visit at the psych ward and in a panic, rushes to the original scene of confusion, the hypothetical root of his troubles. Will it give him all the answers he seeks or further confuse him? Well, we have all season to find out.
I have my suspicions about this mysterious project and employment, but I’ll save them as more episodes roll out, but I do believe this will add new intrigue in the series, as should Ryan’s co-workers. Mack is a welcomed addition and reminds us of how long it’s been since Smallville was on the air and she plays a character so far removed from Chloe that you can tell even Mack is ecstatic to play her. There are plenty of metaphors that will feed curiosity, attaching an unforeseen mystery for Season 2 while we try to sort out what this trip to the hospital has done for Ryan, in combination with the dark choices he made in Season 1. The early episodes of Season 2 promise to construct a unpredictable starting point than what returning viewers were expecting and that only builds the anticipation for future episodes.
Wood and Gann return like the reliable Santa Anna winds, capable of sparking gales of laughter in the summer. Wood portrays imperfection perfectly, a man so desperate to be joyous but is anchored by his paranoia, who battles being fearless one day, regretful and fearful the next. Meanwhile Gann continues to play the enigmatic and antagonistic tick sucking the blood beneath Ryan’s skin. As Ryan’s shoulders slump at Wilfred’s arrival, his positive outlook is undermined once again. It is a classic scene in the show’s brief history.
Wilfred toes the line of what’s real and what’s imagined, and I must bring attention to the unparalleled cinematography, which is more impressive this season and continues to add additional layers to the story. For instance there are story-specific reasons why certain scenes have particular visual styles. Watch an episode a few times and you’ll see what I mean. What do they mean? That’s for you to decipher.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until June 28 for the next episode, but know that Wilfred returns on a visual and cerebral level, but can still cut a fart joke like nobody’s business. Forget learning new tricks, I’ll take the old ones again and again.
• Wilfred’s tricked out wheelchair complete with a pipe converted out of his wheelchair arm.
• A Tic Tac stops a wheelchair dead in its tracks–the plights of the handicapped.
• Some of Wilfred’s funniest parts is to see Wilfred acting like an actual dog, so when a frisbee brings a dog in his wheelchair to his knees I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
• There’s no sign of Kristen, or Ryan’s mother, but we wouldn’t expect anything less. Plus Kristen is supposedly in India on her own. So just imagine what enlightenment she’ll return with.
• They didn’t get Matt Damon to guest-star but they did get Robin Williams who gives Good Will Hunting a nod.
8.5 / 10
FX will air “Progress” Thursday, June 21, 10:30 pm ET/PT, and the season’s next episode, “Letting Go” premieres June 28, at 10pm ET/PT.