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‘Wilfred’ Review: Series Finale – ‘Happiness’

‘Wilfred’ Review: Series Finale – ‘Happiness’

FX's Wilfred came to an end tonight after four seasons on the air. The strange TV series about a man, Ryan (Elijah Wood), who sees his neighbor's dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann), as a guy in a dog suit finally explains itself, while giving viewers emotional closure. Not every mystery or secret may have been addressed, as some fans of the mythology would have liked, but overall, the conclusion, "Happiness," is satisfying enough, and there aren't any nagging threads hanging around. Funny Vs. Mythology I like to sort fans of Wilfred into two camps: those who want to know why Ryan…

Review Overview

Critic's Score

Average Score

Summary : Wilfred concludes its four season run with explanation and emotional growth, satisfying both major camps of its fandom.

User Rating: 3.66 ( 4 votes)
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FX’s Wilfred came to an end tonight after four seasons on the air. The strange TV series about a man, Ryan (Elijah Wood), who sees his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann), as a guy in a dog suit finally explains itself, while giving viewers emotional closure. Not every mystery or secret may have been addressed, as some fans of the mythology would have liked, but overall, the conclusion, “Happiness,” is satisfying enough, and there aren’t any nagging threads hanging around.Wilfred

Funny Vs. Mythology

I like to sort fans of Wilfred into two camps: those who want to know why Ryan sees Wilfred the way he is, and those who just enjoy the comedy of the two pals hanging out. The series finale serves both of those groups by making their friendship and antics the reason behind the Big Question. Ryan is mentally unstable and lonely, and he’s imagined Wilfred to provide himself a chum. When the real Wilfred dies, Ryan has to bring back his imaginary friend, even if there is no longer the hook into reality to ground Wilfred, in order to find his happiness.

Happiness

Can Ryan be considered happy as Wilfred comes to a close? I think so. He’s crazy, to be sure, but at least he comes by the craziness honestly, as both his mother (Mimi Rogers) and his biological father (whom he finally meets in “Happiness”) share similar traits. They have found a way to live their lives, dealing with the eccentricities and not worrying about what other people think. So, too, has Ryan, now that he has Wilfred back, despite the dog’s death.

In a way, this version of Ryan is almost more stable. At least now he knows what’s going on his head. He also has greater emotional maturity, accepting himself and not needing to be in a romantic relationship to be happy. Rather than obsessing over what he cannot change, Ryan lets go of those things and embraces who he is. While some viewers may still think Ryan should seek help from a medical professional, if it works for him, who are we to judge? As long as he doesn’t hurt anyone, including himself, whom he almost offs prior to his revelations, why stand in his way? And with this kinder, gentler Wilfred, everything looks to be OK.

In fact, everyone on Wilfred gets a happy ending. Ryan’s mother, Catherine, is out of the mental institution and in love with a caring man (John Michael Higgins). His sister Kristen (Dorian Brown)  finds that helping the needy actually brings her pleasure. Ryan’s crush, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), decides to make her marriage to Drew (Chris Klein) work; after all, he’d made her very happy once upon a time. As down on life and himself as Ryan could be, there has always been a major pulse of optimism running through the show, and this is echoed perfectly in the series finale.

Mystery Solved

The way Ryan’s imaginings come to life totally makes sense because of what he finds out over this final season. Born into a cult-like group, Ryan is exposed to people and ideas that eventually become his fantasy. Even one so young, who doesn’t have clear memories, can form impressions. That’s why, even if Wilfred doesn’t lay everything out on the table, the ending makes sense, the explanations rooted in solid back story. I also like the way we see past scenes re-shot with an actual mutt.

The only complaint I have about the final season is the recasting of Catherine and Bruce. Both are major recurring players, and to see someone else take over in the final days of the show is beyond disappointing. Even if scheduling caused this issue, it’s still highly regrettable and casts a tinge on Wilfred. Since there is already an established issue with reality on the show, why couldn’t they at least explain the different appearances, rather than laughing them off?

Verdict on Wilfred

Overall, though, Wilfred sparks the imagination, maintains an entertaining consistency, and allows real emotional growth and development, building to a conclusion that feels earned, rather than tacked on. “Happiness” is nearly unimpeachable, and it leaves me wishing I could see more of Ryan and Wilfred’s adventures, which is exactly how I wanted to feel. Excellent work.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com