Episode Title: "Isolation"
Writers: Steve Baldikoski & Bryan Behar
Director: Victor Nelli, Jr.
If the anthropomorphic dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann) only exists within the mind of Ryan (Elijah Wood) as a way to help himself improve his life, he's got a strange way of doing it.
For the latest episode, Wilfred does his best to bring Ryan "into the pack" of his neighbors… by going on an unsubtle crime spree and suspiciously leaving Ryan's car and house untouched. Because Ryan is so isolated from the people around him, the neighbors already regard him as the stranger in their midst and they immediately assume that he was behind the robberies. Wilfred also helpfully left a baseball bat by Ryan's side while he was sleeping to further the frame up.
Jenna ( Fiona Gubelmann) also seems to suspect Ryan, as Wilfred calls for Ryan's head behind her and he doesn't understand why no one else brought torches. Even if Wilfred really is a completely separate identity from Ryan, his actions don't make a lot of sense. If Ryan gets arrested for the thefts, Wilfred loses his best friend and easiest sap. And if this is Wilfred's idea of help, then that's much scarier for anyone who ever crosses him.
"Wilfred" isn't always consistent about whether Wilfred's persona is real or imagined. While touring the neighborhood before a block party, Wilfred tells Ryan things about his neighbors that Ryan clearly didn't know ahead of time. If that was all in his head, there's no way that Ryan should have been aware of any of that. And the neighbors all seem to love and know Wilfred.
Since the first few episodes of the series, there have been fewer and fewer chances for Wilfred to act like a dog. In this episode, some of Gann's best moments are when he imitates canine behavior and expresses his suspicion that a young boy named Adam (Maxim Knight) is a warlock because he can't comprehend that the boy holds on to a softball after making a throwing motion to Wilfred. The dog's bewildered reactions are actually Wilfred's most believable scenes.
During the block party, Ryan is greeted with scorn by the neighbors while Wilfred is treated as a trusted friend and companion. And every time Ryan speaks to his neighbors and mentions the info supplied by Wilfred they immediately turn on him for mocking them. The local homeless person nicknamed Trashface (Peter Stormare) actually has some sound advice for Ryan… until he drops to his knees and propositions Ryan for sex to feed his drug habit.
Later, Wilfred seemingly kills two birds with a single frame up: all of the stolen items are found in Adam's tree house and Ryan is exonerated by his neighbors as Adam is sent to juvenile hall… much to Wilfred's delight. And for once, Ryan is actually welcomed and accepted by his neighbors, while Adam's mother becomes ostracized for her son's alleged crimes. Ryan witnesses her crying while washing egg off of her windows in a genuinely sad moment.
Emphasizing with her, Ryan prepares to "confess" to his crimes to free Adam; which Wilfred adamantly opposes. And just before Ryan can go through with his gesture, "Trashface" is found dead in the alleyway with the rest of the stolen possessions in his shopping cart. Ryan even considers going forward with his confession, but he ultimately relents to Wilfred's suggestion that "the bum did it."
Ryan does suspect that Wilfred may have killed Trashface, but the dog denies it and he adds that at least now Trashface will be remembered for something… even if it's just as a junkie thief who robbed the neighbors. At Trashface's grave, Ryan and Wilfred are the only mourners before Ryan joins Wilfred in a ceremonial piss to mark Trashface's passing.
While watching this episode, I realized that Wilfred is essentially brought to life in order to relate and act upon the darker and base thoughts of Ryan. If a ventriloquist's dummy said the same things that Wilfred has, than this would have been a horror show instead of a comedy. I don't mind Wilfred terrorizing Ryan as a dog, but the show does get a little too bleak at times. And for all of Wilfred's stated opinion about the benefits of being in a pack, Ryan doesn't really get anything from dealing with his neighbors. At the end, Ryan is still the odd man out on the block and even Jenna increasingly seems to see how strange he can be.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.