As a general rule, I try to avoid thinking about episodes of dramas or sitcoms centered around a long con whenever possible – or even worse, a series of intricately-weaved long cons, all for an inane purpose. Unfortunately, that’s what ‘Distance’ is, an episode that feels like the show was checking off two boxes on its season list: filler episode and Bruce episode. As the former, ‘Distance’ almost works, forcing Ryan to walk away from what’s bothering him the most (the picture) to gain a little perspective. It’s a simple lesson, unnecessarily complicated by the presence of Bruce and a series of misleads regarding dog and/or human testicles.
Even without Bruce, ‘Distance’ feels like the show is saying “Look, we’ve got some shit to show you – but we’re just not ready for it yet.” It sends Wilfred and Ryan on a long, twisted road in search of the ever-elusive “answers” (something I know the show has to do, but never something I really enjoy) – but really only grants them an inch or two of progress in the end, in the form of a symbol that may or not mean anything at all.
After the Bruce adventures are done for the day (long story short: Ryan gets one over on Bruce and Wilfred, who were fucking with him for really good meatballs), Ryan returns to the old painting (the one Kristen so confidentally remembers she drew) and scratches off the blue crayon marks of a barn to reveal… a symbol. Really? Over the season, I’ve grown tired of the continuous references to the drawing, an increasingly-elaborate set of circumstances and visions and possibilities that is most certainly not going to give Ryan the inner peace he’s searching for. Since the first episode, the show’s told us the only way to heal himself is to forgive his father and let go of his painful childhood; finding the history behind something he may or may not have drawn is only important because it feels important.
Even if the drawing is revealed to hold some bigger truth about why Ryan sees Wilfred, it doesn’t matter – the mystery of who Wilfred is only works as an ancillary story line, not as the show’s focus. Like LOST before it, the mythology of Wilfred only works when it’s used to challenge and redefine its characters – not when it’s giving us the “answers” we think we want, but don’t really need. The more and more time we spend with the drawing (and the more complex its history gets), the less and less impact it has, both on Ryan’s character and on the show’s narrative as a whole.
In theory, ‘Distance’ should work better than it does: it presents us with this Escher-like construction of Ryan’s struggles. He’s at his best when he’s focused on his healing; but focusing too much on something proves to be damaging, as we often focus on a part (the painting), instead of the whole (his issues with his father that he continues to push away, even as he’s “ironing” them out). Problem is, when Ryan’s not focused, the more delusional parts of his brain (Wilfred) take over, and it becomes a distraction (a counterproductive one) to his ultimate goal of coming to peace with himself.
But ‘Distance’ uses Bruce as a vehicle to explore this walking contradiction, without really doing much with him. Bruce is crazy – and as Wilfred’s other buddy, he is supposed to represent everything Ryan is not. But Bruce isn’t much beside “crazy” in ‘Distance’ – there’s no perspective, or narrative distance, given to the Bruce/Ryan/Wilfred dynamic to exemplify the message the episode’s trying to get across.
It’s perfectly fine for a 13-episode season to take one or two episodes through it’s run to take a breath – shit, network sitcoms often have six or seven episodes of a 24-episode order that can be easily tossed aside and forgotten. I wish ‘Distance’ was one of those episodes: but while I watched Bruce, Wilfred, and Ryan run circles around each other, I couldn’t help but feel like nothing mattered – and without any solid character beats to fall back on, it leaves the majority of ‘Distance’ floating in the wind.
- Wilfred has 259 names in his iPhone listed under the name “Guy – number”.
- “Is it crayon-related?”
- I didn’t find anything funny with Wilfred’s Instagram jokes, though I would like to see it become an actual account.
- rape humor! Wilfred acting out lazy gay/bimbo stereotypes!