Wilfred, Season 4: Episodes 1 & 2 – “Amends” & “Consequences”
Written by Reed Agnew & Eli Jorne (“Amends”) and David Baldy (“Consequences”)
Directed by Randall Einhorn
Airs Wednesday nights at 10 on FXX
In the first two episodes of its final season, Wilfred embraces its mythology head-on. It’s hard to say whether or not this will go down well with viewers, because I don’t even know who is watching Wilfred anymore and why. So, to say that there are fans who enjoy these kinds of mythological turns in the story and that there are fans who enjoy the straight-up comedic episodes and that these two groups of people are in opposition is only conjecture. My guess is that anyone who is still watching Wilfred (one of television’s absolute best half-hour experiences–incredibly dark, psychologically disturbing but ultimately aimed at some of the core ideas of what it is to be a human being) knows that the series goes back and forth between these two types of storytelling and probably expects to see mythology episodes both at the beginnings and ends of seasons. Showrunner David Zuckerman has promised some answers to long-running questions before all is said and done, but the continuations of those and their implications in the final season premiere reinforce the idea, for me, that the journey and not the destination is what gives Wilfred its poignancy.
No doubt, many viewers will have already been frustrated with Wilfred‘s strong refusal to come down on any side of its various mysteries to the point of giving up on the series altogether. “Amends” is a great (?) example of that quality in the way it purposefully obfuscates just about every piece of information we get–mostly having to do with Ryan’s premonitions and calling their identities as premonitions into question–and what that information means. What is the importance of the case Ryan’s dad (once dead, then alive, now dead again for good…probably) worked on in his past? What do these various recurring symbols and images of dog-men and insignias mean? Do they mean anything at all? Is this an elaborate plot on Wilfred’s part? If, paying closer attention to “Consequences,” Wilfred is a divine entity meant to lead Ryan to happiness, does dragging Ryan through hell on the way to heaven justify itself as a reasonable course of action? Wilfred is throwing these questions at high velocity at both its main character–Ryan–and its audience and rather than the answers being the important things (this has often been the most tragic misreading of Wilfred by viewers and is probably why it hasn’t received the respect it deserves as an incredibly intelligent series), the trauma that Ryan has to endure is, I believe, meant to mirror the traumas of everyday life–of uncertainty, of emotional distance (a massively important aspect of Ryan’s history), of the influence of stress to point of inaction.
It’s likely Wilfred will drop a lot of these issues over the next few weeks in favor of the one-off, self-contained pieces it often does. That seasonal structure works in its benefit by letting some of the more sinister aspects of its story simmer to the side and then boil when the time is right. Really, “Consequences” could have just been a camping episode with Ryan, Wilfred and Drew. Having this premiere be a full hour (or having the premiere date include the first two episodes), though, warrants “Consequences” being a direct response to “Amends” by showing that no matter how Ryan tries to set himself on the right path there seems to be a governing entity pushing him to some sort of pre-determined fate. That is, in all likelihood, why Wilfred is here, but even removing Wilfred from the equation shows the inevitability of lying in the lives of humans. Lying is, after all, like the trajectory of a boomerang, and Ryan can try to throw it as far as possible regarding what happened with Jenna, but it comes back to its origin (here, represented in the literal origin of Ryan and Wilfred’s journey away from Drew). The consequences here are both positive and negative, depending on whose perspective you are looking through. For Drew, he’s lost the love of his life, but he has reached an understanding that he kind of already knew was there. For Jenna, she has maybe risked something safe for the chance at something that may end up being ephemeral and incompatible. For Ryan, he’s relieved himself of the pressure of keeping secrets and has maybe opened the door to something he thinks he’s been wanting for a long time. And for Wilfred, he gets exactly what he wants, which is to exert influence over Ryan, be that with ill intent or otherwise.
Things have a way of coming up Wilfred in Wilfred, which often lead to some of the series’ most disturbing sequences and realizations. “Amends” and “Consequences” set up some of that story that will certainly be concluded when the series ends (there will be ten episodes this season, all scheduled one-per-week from now on). I’m almost hesitant to want or expect that conclusion, however, since Wilfred has been so great at not providing comfort to its viewers and characters. In any case, I’ll be more than happy to stick with the series to the end, which has been one of my favorite on television in the last few years, and I look forward to reading others’ thoughts on these last episodes.
– Sean Colletti