WILFRED 1.04 ‘Acceptance’

Wilfred lets Ryan believe that he's been a victim of abuse, but is he lying again?

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Acceptance"

Writer: Jason Gann

Director: Randall Einhorn

This week, on a very special episode of "Wilfred," we deal with the subject of animal sexual abuse. But first, the sitcom!

Way back in the pilot episode, Ryan (Elijah Wood) essentially told his overbearing sister, Kristen (Dorian Brown) to get out of his life and stop dominating him. But when he finds bags of food being left on his porch, he correctly assumes that his sister is leaving them there. Ryan seems to interpret this as another means of control that she's attempting to use to get him to become dependent on her.

But the more charitable interpretation is that Kristen really loves Ryan. Underneath her shrill exterior and constant demands, she really does seem to care for her brother. That goes a long way towards redeeming someone who has been a one note character up to this point. At Wilfred's suggestion, Ryan sets up a sting to catch Kristen in the act of leaving food and inadvertently leaves an object on his porch that injures her ankle when she trips on it.

Using Ryan's guilt to manipulate him, Kristen gets him to set aside Wilfred while he takes her to work. To their mutual surprise, Ryan and Kristen actually start getting along again. But she can't quite give up her attempts to mold him into someone he's not; so she takes him to get a haircut and to work as a legal aid. At that point, Ryan figures out her game and angrily shoots her down.

Had the episode left them there, it would have been a more interesting character moment for both of them. Instead, we got the traditional sitcom reconciliation where they agree to accept each other for who they are, blah, blah, blah… Dorian Brown is pretty funny and I'd like to see more Kristen in the series. But "Wilfred" was really playing it safe in that plotline and it didn't go anywhere daring.

Which brings us to the other story of the episode. With the consent of Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), Ryan finds a day care center for dogs run by Darryl (Ed Helms), a creepy man who seems very strange. When Ryan is late picking up Wilfred, the dog seems withdrawn and sullen until Wilfred eventually reveals that Darryl used peanut butter to get him to lick his naked… well, you get the idea.

I'll give "Wilfred" this, it's definitely one of the bolder comedy series to come along in a while. It takes a lot for a comedy to offend me, so I usually just  judge it on a simple scale: "is it funny?"

And in this case, the answer is no. Your mileage may vary, but I don't see how anything with this subject matter could be. This episode is Jason Gann's first stab at writing for this series and it lacked some of the crazy charm of the first three episodes. The Ryan and Kristen storyline felt very familiar to every sitcom ever and Wilfred's story seems to be trying too hard to be edgy. As a performer, Gann is actually very gifted at playing Wilfred's more animal side. There are a few moments in the episode where Gann is able to make Wilfred's depression work as comedy, but they're fleeting.

At the very least, Ryan is starting to wise up and realize that Wilfred and Kristen both use guilt as a weapon against him. And after initially sympathizing with Wilfred, he rejects him to spend time with his sister. But Ryan later has a change of heart and races to save Wilfred from Darryl as a sick sequence plays of Darryl opening up the peanut butter jar and unzipping his pants. It's never quite clear if this is really happening or if Ryan is only imagining it.

There is a really great comedic visual of Ryan running down the street when the smock hanging from his neck makes him like he's wearing a superhero cape.

When Ryan arrives, he forcibly takes custody of Wilfred from Darryl and he holds the strange man at water gun point as Wilfred retrieves the giant stuffed bear that he's become so fond of.

The closing minutes of the episode appear to be some improvised scenes between Gann and Wood as they show us Wilfred and Ryan forming a rock band with the bear and even speaking to the bear as if it was the third wheel of their duo. Those are actually some of the best sequences in the entire episode. Just pure, unbridled "Wilfred" insanity.
This episode definitely had its moments, but molestation subplot made watching parts of it seem like a chore. "Wilfred" can get away with a lot, but it can't get away from not being funny. If it can't deliver the laughs on a consistent basis, then I'll lose interest in it pretty quickly.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.