“What’s the point?”
In just about every episode, Wilfred’s devious adventures are revealed to be underlined by some philosophic idea. Naturally, these vary from episode to episode, but they largely boil down to one thing: reconciliation. Yes, Wilfred is Ryan’s metaphysical guide to enlightenment (or sanity, to be a little less grandiose) – but he’s also the vehicle through which many of Ryan’s internal frustrations are externalized. As the best Wilfred episodes do, what Wilfred is doing ties directly into Ryan’s mental state – but in the context of ‘Intuition’, what does that mean?
Throughout the series, the writers of Wilfred have carefully established Ryan as a semi-unreliable narrator; we’re often given visual cues that suggest Ryan is living in reality, but the mere presence of a talking dog does suggest that there is something slightly askew with Ryan’s perspective. We can debate what Wilfred’s physical or spiritual presence may or may not be, but that’s really not important: what is important is what Wilfred represents to Ryan, and why he visualizes a talking dog to work through his mental problems.
It’s fairly simple, really: dog is man’s best friend, after all – and after being spurned by everyone in his life, Ryan feels the only being he can trust is a dog. There are questions within this idea, of course (was Wilfred a presence earlier in his life, as the painting from last season suggested?), but understanding the basic framework of Wilfred’s presence explains a lot about Ryan’s state of mind throughout the show, and as he deals with insomnia in ‘Intuition’. Whether it’s his sister, a girlfriend, his boss, the girl he had a crush on or his father, Ryan’s lost faith in the ability to trust people. And with that, he’s lost trust in himself: no job, no girlfriend (and the girls he has chased have not turned out so well) and nothing going for him, he turns to the one being in the world that’s always loyal to humans: a dog.
This issue of trust pops up all over ‘Intuition': he questions everyone he comes in contact with (awake or asleep) about their intentions. He thinks his elderly neighbor killed his wife, that his sister gave him placebo pills, that Wilfred’s got an ulterior motive – and most importantly, that his father is trying to do something evil to him. He’s paranoid as shit, and clearly plays into his inability to sleep: which lead to his dreams, inherently the most interesting and important scenes in the episode.
The second of these was the most important: Ryan walking into an intervention staged by his father is the epitome of Ryan’s paranoia – and also sends Ryan into a rapid regression, to a state we probably haven’t seen since the end of season one. In the dream, Jenna and Kristen start telling Ryan that something’s wrong with him, that he’s not being himself – and then his father steps into the frame, telling Ryan that he’s doing this for “his own good” and that “I’m not the bad guy” (which is immediately followed by a threatening image of Wilfred, the camera looking up at his shadowed face… but I believe that’s just in context of what he did to Jellybean, rather than his overall role in Ryan’s life).
To me, that’s the most important line of the episode – deep down in Ryan’s psyche, there’s something that’s telling him his father isn’t orchestrating some evil plan to imprison him like his mother, or abandon him forever. He’s obviously not an innocent party in Ryan’s mental decline, but there are a number of things to suggest that his father really isn’t the person trying to sabotage his life. How do I know this? Wilfred.
Wilfred’s reveal that he killed Jellybeans at the end of ‘Intuition’ sets off the climatic series of events leading to Ryan throwing bottles of champagne in a grocery store and running out, screaming “this isn’t real!”. And it’s a very carefully written scene (David Zuckerman, delivering another fantastic script), especially when Ryan tries to understand why Wilfred would kill him. Those who’ve watched the show since the first season remember Wilfred’s hatred for Jellybeans, the dog who gets all the attention, can do all the tricks, and never appears to feel the pings of self-doubt and everyday failures that Wilfred (and Ryan) both deal with.
Why does Wilfred kill Jellybean? Because he saw Ryan give Jellybean love and approval for his red bandanna; wanting the same affection, he kills Jellybean, thinking it’s the red bandanna that makes the difference. Ryan never felt he won the approval of his father: I’d dare to say it’s the driving factor in his depression, being mentioned in every single dark pocket of Wilfred’s 33 episodes. At the end of the day, Ryan’s deepest issue is his rift with his father: when the man you idolize as a child views you as a failure, it can be a severely damaging thing to one’s ego. Wilfred’s act only shows how desperate Ryan is deep down to win the acceptance of his father: he’d literally kill for it.
Near the end, Wilfred warns Ryan that he should trust his gut: but what is his gut telling him? Considering it’s the dreams of a highly unstable man using too many drugs for his own good, this is debatable; to me, the dreams suggest that Ryan’s finally starting to realize what he has to do to repair himself. He need to face his father, to finally deal with the pain and rejection he’s felt since his childhood, the feelings that sent him to seek solace and love from an alcoholic dog who sexually assaults stuffed animals on a regular basis. The saddest part of ‘Intuition’ is that he’s telling himself this – and doesn’t even realize it until it’s too late, and he runs into his father at the grocery store. He’s definitely awake this time (the absence of Wilfred in his dreams is evidence of this; he’s only around when he’s awake) – and the episode ends there, Wilfred and Ryan staring at each other from across the parking lot. It’s time for Ryan to come face to face with his darkest demons – there’s nowhere to run anymore.
- Of course, there’s one other way to read this: that Ryan’s got it all backwards, and he’s been awake when he thought he was asleep (the absence of Wilfred in the dreams could also be read that he’s fully grounded in reality). I don’t necessarily prescribe to this (in the first sequence, his father knows a little too much about his adventures, as if he’s in Ryan’s head), but the title of the next episode – ‘Perspective’ – definitely suggests that the puzzle assembled in this episode isn’t fully completed yet.
- “fetal expulsion technique” is a poetic turn of phrase.
- Wilfred’s study of people taking shits as a way to explore human nature is a fascinating little bit of dog psychology; touches like these have been missing in previous episodes. I love when his activities are given real philosophical perspective, instead of him just humping stuff or shitting somewhere.
- Ditto what I said above for his Scooby-Doo theories. ‘It’s a goddamn minstrel show.”
- “My gut is telling me muuuuurrrdeeeerrrr.”
- something interesting: remember that tennis ball that fell out of Ryan’s closet at the end of season one? I wonder if it was the same one Wilfred rolled out into the street to kill Jellybean. If it is, it certainly suggests that Ryan is still chasing something – a chase that could kill him if he doesn’t figure out how to end it.
- Anne’s scenes were hilarious, both her letting toothpaste dribble all over her shirt and shitting with the bathroom door open, and then commenting on it.
- really interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on tonight’s episode: if you have any theories, feel free to share them below!