Wilfred, "Compassion": like mother, like son

Quick Take: Wilfred, "Compassion"
"I'm not crazy." - Ryan

wilfred
Review: Wilfred, "Compassion"
(S0109) One of the more interesting ongoing sub-plots of FX's version of Wilfred has been the exploration of Ryan's (Elijah Wood) mental state. Many of the episodes feature little hints that suggest the possibility that Ryan is genuinely crazy. The audience is constantly wondering whether or not Wilfred (Jason Gann) is a real dog, a man in a dog suit, or completely a product of Ryan's damaged psyche. My feeling is he is some combination of all three (if that is even possible). The really interesting (and at times, frustrating) thing is that despite all of these hints, we don't really ever seem to get any closer to definitive answer about who/what Wilfred actually is.

"Compassion" gives us the biggest clue yet regarding the root of Ryan's hallucinations (if that's really what they are): genetics. We meet Ryan's mother, Katherine (Mary Steenburgen), who has spent the last 20 years in a mental hospital. Ryan receives a call from his mother's doctor (John Michael Higgins), who informs him that Katherine is ready to leave the hospital and venture out into the world.

Initially, Ryan is hesitant to introduce a new, crazy element into his already fairly nutty home life. But Wilfred, who takes an immediate shine to Katherine, pushes hard. "For a guy who once tried to kill himself, you don't have a whole lot of compassion," he says. And as we've learned time and time again, what Wilfred wants, Wilfred gets.

We learn from Katherine that "when [Ryan] was a little boy, people said he would grow up to be just like [her]." The implication of this is that Ryan has always taken after his mother and there is a chance that he could all of a sudden go off the deep end. Obviously, this process has sort of begun to happen, despite Ryan's protestations of the contrary. "I'm not crazy," he says. "Said the man to the dog," Wilfred replies. Point well taken, pooch.  

The most telling scene occurs when Katherine decides she would prefer to go back to the mental hospital. When she returns she greets her cat, Mittens, warmly and we see that Katherine imagines Mittens as a middle-aged woman dressed in a cat suit. Not a good indication for Ryan's future. Is it only a matter of time until he joins his mother in the loony bin?

Lingering thoughts on “Compassion”:

  • As a child, Ryan’s favorite breakfast was fish sticks and peanut butter tacos.
  • Ryan’s sister Kristen used to “be into black guys.”
  • "Mrs. Newman is my slave name, you can call me Katherine."
  • By Lucas High

    About the author

    Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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    2 Comments
    On: Friday, August 19, 2011
    Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

    I was just discussing this topic with my wife. I can't help feeling a little let down that we now have (I believe) a pretty clear read on what's going on with Wilfred (i.e. a product of hereditary mental illness). I guess I say that because it was intriguing not quite knowing what was going on. I wouldn't be surprised if this explanation is somehow uprooted at some point (perhaps to your notion of it being multiple things at once Lucas), but for now I guess we have to assume that this is what it is. 

    On: Friday, August 19, 2011
    Lucas High said:
    I really wonder how this will play out if the show lasts for multiple seasons. For 10 episodes, playing the "What exactly is Wilfred" Game has been fun, but I imagine it will get tiring at some point. If the writers decide that they don't want to tells us exactly where Wilfred comes from, they are going to have to somehow find a groove they can cruise along in where they don't have to constantly address the situation.
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