FX’s Wilfred is an odd series. Most episodes take the fact that Ryan (Elijah Wood) sees Wilfred (Jason Gann) as a man in a dog suit, while everyone else sees Wilfred as a normal dog for granted. But the ones in which the mythology of the show is explored – what is Wilfred and why does Ryan see him differently – are what make it special. Season three, which culminated in “Regrets” this week, explores this mystery much more than the first two years combined.
A long-standing clue plaguing fans is the drawing we now know Ryan’s sister, Kristen (Dorian Brown), made as a child, depicting their family with the human Wilfred in the background. Kristen remembers the character as “Mr. Floppyears,” even though the resemblance to Wilfred is uncanny. But she doesn’t remember why she drew it.
At the end of “Regrets,” Ryan finds a broken statue in the foliage of Wilfred / Mr. Floppyears. This explains what Kristen drew, and it also might provide the origin of Ryan’s hallucinations, if in fact Wilfred is a hallucination, which seems likely. There is some connection to the family’s past in this statue, and it will certainly combine with the drawing to merit further unraveling next year.
It’s really cool that Kristen is part of this now. Although she doesn’t know Ryan’s secret, she clearly has an important role to play. Since she originally appears as an unnecessary side character, this is gratifying to see her interwoven with the family’s thread, along with their mother, Catherine (Mary Steenburgen), who had a cat similar to how Ryan sees Wilfred.
The odd person out, and by “odd” I mean sane, in the family is Ryan’s father, Henry (Dexter‘s James Remar), who thinks Catherine and Ryan are just plain crazy. This season has focused on Henry trying to get Ryan back in his life after a two year separation, and “Regrets” brings that to a head. Henry confronts Ryan with footage that makes Henry think Ryan is talking to a dog like a person. But instead of locking Ryan up right away, as he did Catherine, Henry offers Ryan the chance to work in his office, where Henry can keep an eye on him.
Henry is not a bad person. His concern for his son is understandable, and while he does resort to secret video taping and blackmail, his end goals are kind. He doesn’t want to hurt Ryan; he wants to help him. Henry is hoping that working together will refocus Ryan, and maybe Ryan won’t need to end up as Catherine has. This is a noble gesture, proving Henry is not a bad father, and I found myself hoping Ryan would take the deal.
Sadly, this is not to be, as Henry falls down a staircase and dies. I must say I am disappointed by this turn of events, even as it neatly solves the corner Ryan is backed into. I wanted to see Ryan have help struggling with his sanity, something lacking from the show so far, and was hoping Henry could either understand or explain what is going on. Instead, removing Henry means Ryan can continue as he is, preserving the basic story of Wilfred, but taking away a very interesting, potentially major change to the tale. I do love that Henry’s story ties in Anne (Kristen Schaal, Bob’s Burgers), who was utterly wasted this season.
With Henry dead, Ryan’s more pressing issue, since he doesn’t have to worry about hiding any more, is how to resolve his relationship with Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann). After a shared kiss, Jenna pulls away, wanting to avoid further infidelity, since she is married. Ryan respects her wishes, stopping short of confessing his feelings, but the real victim is Wilfred, who doesn’t get to hang out with Ryan all the time any more.
Whatever Wilfred is to Ryan, the dog helps Ryan work through his issues. Maybe Wilfred is a symptom of Ryan’s craziness, but the way Wilfred pushes Ryan and Jenna together all season, despite seeming Wilfred’s disgust at the pairing, is part of Ryan trying to assert himself. Should Ryan be the one behind Wilfred’s actions, as many viewers suspect, this year is about Ryan trying to take a chance with Jenna, despite her marital status, and Wilfred is key to that movement.
Jenna deserves the chance to make an informed decision. I am not in favor of wrecking a marriage, and Drew (Chris Klein) is a nice guy and better friend to Ryan than Ryan is to him, but Drew and Jenna don’t quite seem right together. They’ve made it work, as many do in the real world, but that doesn’t mean they should keep at it indefinitely. If it’s not right, it’s not right, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Which is not to say that Jenna should be with Ryan. Ryan is mentally unstable, and a tad creepy at times. While most want him to have a happy ending, I just can’t see Jenna being part of that right now. However, Ryan must confront his feelings for her and work through them, rather than fighting against them, if he wants to move forward, and that’s what is regrettable that the writers don’t bring out fully.
Presumably, next year will find a way to get Ryan and Wilfred back together, Kristen will expound upon Mr. Floppyears, and Jenna will finally figure out what man she wants, if any at all. But the wait shouldn’t be too hard, as long as the series gets renewed (it has not been yet), because “Regrets” is an excellent half hour, answering and raising questions, and exploring the dynamics at the heart of the show.
Wilfred is done for the year, and will hopefully return next summer to FX.