A boy and his dog…. sort of.
As always there are SPOILERS in my review, so read at your own risk.
Wilfred is a dark comedy about a man in his late 20s/early 30s who befriends his new neighbor’s dog named Wilfred. The show is actually based off an Australian version titled the same name. The show is produced and starred in by Jason Gann. Gann, created the idea for Wilfred in the early 2000s and after the popularity of it, he took it to the U.S. and it became a cult hit. It originally ran from 2011-2014 for four seasons.
First season trailer
I first started watching Wilfred as soon as it came out, my friend Garrett and I could not get enough of it during the first few episodes. We watched the entire first season that summer but after summer ended, I lost track of the show until this year. I binge watched it this past summer. All four seasons.
The show’s cast doesn’t have many recognizable faces but it doesn’t matter. They pull of the humor. So without further ado, here is the main cast.
The main characters:
Ryan Newman – Elijah Wood (Yes, Frodo from Lord of the Rings)
Wilfred – Jason Gann
Jenna (Wilfred’s owner and Ryan’s neighbor) – Fiona Gubelmann
Kristen (Ryan’s sister) – Dorian Brown
The series begins with Ryan writing a suicide note as his new neighbor Jenna and her dog Wilfred move in next door. Ryan is obsessed with writing the perfect suicide note as you can tell on the copy it’s been revised three times. As Ryan chugs a shake that has been grounded with a ton of pills, he goes to bed expecting to die. Instead, Ryan tosses and turns the whole night and at around 8 A.M., Jenna knocks on his door to introduce herself. Ryan looking half dead due to no sleep, agrees to watch Jenna’s dog, Wilfred while she runs a few errands and so begins a wonderful friendship…..sort of.
Now, to Ryan’s shock and surprise, he doesn’t see a dog, but a man dressed in a dog suit. Wilfred however acts just like any other dog, he likes to go for walks, he has dog mannerisms, gets scared easily, has potty accidents and enjoys watching movies with Matt Damon in it. But Wilfred also has an other side to him. He is a borderline psychopath, who enjoys smoking weed all day, taking drugs, and has violent episodes whether he abuses Ryan, vandalizes buildings or threatens to kill strangers.
Wilfred season two promos
Now before you ask, Ryan’s sister Kristen is a doctor, and gave him placebo pills (sugar) because she thought he would abuse the pills. That’s why Ryan doesn’t die in the beginning although I questioned throughout the show whether Ryan actually died or was in a coma and that’s why he could see Wilfred.
So to kind of summarize the show up, Ryan has a lot of issues. He lets everyone and everything walk all over him starting with his sister who blames all of her problems on him and Jenna who constantly puts the burden of taking care of Wilfred on Ryan.
The entire show is based on Ryan overcoming his problems with the help of Wilfred, often is very hilarious and bizarre ways that get Ryan beat up or question Wilfred’s intentions. Ryan grows through Wilfred. He gains confidence, speaks up for himself, introduces himself to new people, and just generally learns who he is. Now, I know Wilfred is in the light of “man’s best friend” but he really is an asshole. He is kind of like a big brother or older cousin who knows how everything will turn out and has your best intentions in mind but terrorizes you in the process. It makes for good comedy and adventures between the two. One of my favorite adventures is when Ryan gets into a car accident with a single mother who is a big bitch and about 15 years older than Ryan. With no money to pay for the accident, Wilfred convinces Ryan to sleep with the mom to pay off the debt. Wilfred however has his own desires, in the car accident, he sees a huge stuffed giraffe who he himself would like to sleep with. The duo go over to the mom’s house and Wilfred manipulates Ryan into humping the stuffed giraffe. It’s hilarious and a good example of how Wilfred is always manipulating Ryan into doing his deeds.
Wilfred season three promos
Wilfred also has a relationship with a stuffed bear throughout the series. It’s very sexual between the two and often leaves Ryan uncomfortable.
Ryan also has a big crush on Jenna. He does pretty much anything for her and never stands up for himself. She isn’t mean to him but she asks him to a do a lot of things for her in a passive aggressive way. She flirts with him because she knows he likes her and can possess him. Jenna has a really loud and competitive boyfriend who seems like a frat bro in his 30s. He is played by Chris Klein who is known as Oz from American Pie. He nails his character and actually becomes one of my favorites, there is a lot of drama with Kristen and Jenna when they interact with Ryan, but when Jenna’s boyfriend Drew comes to town, you know he is good for a laugh or two.
Ryan at first is concerned with how he views Wilfred as no one else can see him the way he does, but he eventually embraces it and before you know it, you also forget Wilfred is a dog.
I literally just typed up the main plot lines throughout the series but decided it was just too confusing to sort out. In short, throughout the series, Ryan goes through a personal journey where he changes who he is while trying to discover who Wilfred actually is and where he came from. During season three, there is a plot that Wilfred is an alien, which upset me. I was very relived when that plot turned out to be Wilfred just messing with Ryan, after all, Ryan’s mental problems and the inside look at his psyche is much more interesting and thought provoking then Wilfred coming from space.
Season four promo
Every relationship Ryan has pretty much falls apart. His dad who he is trying to reconcile with, dies. His mother who takes steps forward to join society in, prefers to act crazy so she can live freely in the mental house. Jenna and him confess feelings for each other, sleep together before she leaves Ryan for the boring, safe life she had with Drew. The only character who actually seems to benefit from Ryan is his sister Kristen who was a total bitch who walked all over Ryan for much of the series. She realizes that her problems are her own and not caused from Ryan. So there’s that happy ending.
The series finale is actually really sad and dark, which is why I like it so much. There are A LOT of questions that needed to be answered and for the most part the show does it. Wilfred is dying of cancer and Ryan is losing the only person uhhh friend in the world that he has. Wilfred lies dying on the floor in a vets office, with Ryan by his side balling his eyes out. It was pretty tough for me not to get emotional as I myself am extremely close to my dog Chewbacca.
Ryan starts to put it all together during Wilfred’s last moments of life. Ryan created Wilfred in his mind. The dog is real, but Wilfred’s character was not. Ryan did all of the crazy things with Wilfred but it was just a dog sitting there with him. Everything Ryan did was because his subconscious created Wilfred and made him do it. Ryan’s mental state is obviously pretty poor, filled with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, Wilfred helped save his life. I think there is some truth to that with real dogs, I know I get cheered up whenever I see my dog, and he has no judgement toward me. Always happy to see me wagging his tail and sitting on my lap. Wilfred was Ryan’s companion so when Wilfred died, it was tough to watch.
The closing scenes of the series has Ryan thinking to himself. Alone and depressed on a couch, Ryan takes the jump and creates his own mental state, forever losing his sanity. Now on a couch on a beach, Wilfred the character is back beside him. Ryan chose his imaginary world, over his reality of depression and loneliness.
This series gave me a lot of laughs and a lot of things to think about. It’s very dark as I mentioned before but it pulls it off. Before every episode, the show displays a famous quote about the theme of the episode. Here were my top three favorites.
“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” – Mark Twain
“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” – James A. Garfield
“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” – Malachy McCourt
As for the best episodes, I would have to say in no particular order….
Season 1 Episode 7 Pride: (the stuffed giraffe episode)
Season 2 Episode 4 Guilt: Wilfred wages war with Kristen’s baby. There is a clothes hanger scene. Hilarious.
Season 3 Episode 6 Delusion: Wilfred and Ryan make a birthday present for Jenna.
Season 3 Episode 9 Confrontation: Wilfred crashes Ryan’s family Christmas.
Season 4 Episode 6 Patterns: Ryan and Wilfred play mental games non stop.
Overall, the series had a lot of twists and turns, but for the most part they kept it humorous with the adventures that Ryan and Wilfred get in. Season 3 is the weakest season as it has the plot about the aliens and a cult of guys dressed in dogs suits but the episodes are still funny. Overall, this series makes you think, makes you evaluate yourself and how you treat and are treated by others, and really makes you miss your man’s best friend if you have a dog. The series is a perfect length at four seasons. The gags don’t get old, questions get answered for the most part and there are no long drawn out plots, the series progresses. There is a lot of comedy in this but a lot of darkness too. It’s the perfect combination to make you laugh and evaluate yourself. I give it a 9.0/10.