One of the most stressful things in life are expectations, a concept we’re introduced to pretty early on in life, and we deal with well into our adult lives. ‘Dignity’ is all about these expectations, and looking at how expectations shape our everyday lives, and the views we have of ourselves. It’s also the show’s first real foray into Ryan’s new workplace, which holds a shitload of comedic potential for the rest of the season.
But more than being a fun new environment for Wilfred and Ryan to screw around in, ‘Dignity’ continued to dig further into Ryan’s psyche, exploring the one half of his parents we haven’t put a face to yet. We had already learned how Ryan’s father treated his own wife, and knowing how similar Ryan is to his mother, he probably not only viewed young Ryan as weak and inadequate, but the next generation of his crazy wife (I’m inferring here, but it’s not a big leap considering what we know).
All family history aside, that RSVP card represents every indecisive moment from Ryan we’ve seen on the show in its 15 episodes to this point. Ryan’s timid nature, lack of confidence, and even the depression we met him in back in the pilot… they play into Ryan’s weak backbone, and it’s on full display throughout ‘Dignity’, showing us exactly why he couldn’t pull Jenna away from her boyfriend if he tried. In short, Ryan’s missing a pair of balls, and ‘Dignity’ is all about him trying to find them.
Meanwhile, Wilfred’s having the same problem, even though he’s perfectly aware of where his balls are – and in fact, quite enjoys sharing them with everyone in the office. The ‘dog in the office’ jokes in ‘Dignity’ weren’t the most original things I’ve ever heard, but seeing Wilfred out of his confident comfort zone is always interesting to watch – and interestingly enough, his lack of confidene moment only seem to come up the same time Ryan is having them (think back to last week, or last season whenever Wilfred and Ryan spent any time around Drew). As I tweeted last month when talking about the show, I’m keeping my theories to myself for the time being on what it means.
Whatever it may be, I do think this episode is important in understanding the psychological relationship between Wilfred and Ryan. In many ways they are different, but there are a lot of times when their faults and shortcomings line up well with each other’s (last week, Ryan was jumping through hoops to impress Jenna by training Wilfred, who was literally doing the same for Drew). Through the episode, Ryan is trying as hard as he can to live up to the expectations of his boss, all while ignoring how Wilfred’s inability to live up to his own expectations are affecting him. The only way he solves it, and understands what’s going on around him is by looking in the mirror – on the advice of Wilfred, of course.
(Note: this may not be important in the end, but like I said, I’m a sucker for mythology and I’m determined to crack this nut. Feel free to call me a shithead or share your own theories below.)
The non-Wilfred/Ryan parts of the episode were largely hit or miss, hitting more when Amanda is on-screen, and less when the boss is being wildly all over-the-map with his emotions (without breaking a sweat) and gay for the janitor – although it’s fittingly weird black comedy material for the show we’re watching. I do like how Wilfred is genuinely embracing its philosophy of moving on so far this season (Ryan moving on from what he caused Wilfred to do last season, moving on from Jenna, moving on from his father’s BS), without becoming preachy or losing its weird side.
- “I just had a salty lunch!” – might be the best quote of the series thus far.
- everybody paying attention to Amanda’s uncomfortable nature around Wilfred? This is bound to cause problems as Amanda and Ryan get closer.
- that fucking tennis ball! This time, it’s Wilfred holding it and using it as a comparison to the Earth.
- all the ‘dog’ jokes of the episode felt pretty lifeless to me this week… I don’t know, Wilfred trashing the house for no reason and sliding across the floor intentionally felt a bit dull. I think it was because there were so many jam-packed in the episode that they cancelled each other out.
What did you think of ‘Dignity’? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!