“I’LL GET IT. RYAN OPEN THIS DOOR!”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
Wilfred’s mission to wrap up lingering plotlines as it marches towards its series finale continued this week with the return of Ryan’s mother Katherine, who like Bruce last week, has also been recast with Mimi Rogers taking the reins from Mary Steenburgen. With Katherine thinking she’s ready to leave the mental hospital, things begin heating up between her and Kristen, her legal guardian now that Ryan’s father is out of the picture. Ryan, as per usual, finds himself in the middle of the family quarrel as he tries to keep his mother and sister from tearing each other apart after Kristen reluctantly agrees to letting his mother out of the hospital.
This episode had plenty of standout moments, most of them coming from John Michael Harris who returns as Elliot, Katherine’s former psychiatrist, and, as we learn in the second act, current lover. Higgins again proves his natural talent for deadpan comedy here, delivering perfect lines like “How could I put this delicately… I knocked the dust off it.” He also brought with him his dog Ralston, a three-legged dog that sets off a hilarious subplot for Wilfred as he becomes incredibly jealous of how much attention he gets over him, producing perfect lines like “He’s too damn inspirational!” and another great exchange with Bear where they try to cut each other’s arms off. The emotional core of the episode, of course, was classic Wilfred, as Ryan had to learn not to feel responsible for keeping conflict down in his family and let Katherine and Kristen duke it out.
The fight that ensues provides a good amount of character development for Kristen, who hasn’t gotten much in the way of depth this season, and Dorian Brown was able to show more facets to the character. Mimi Rogers did fine as well, smoothly filling the unavailable Steenburgen’s shoes and provided a more balanced take on Katherine. The ending felt more organic this time, with Kristen allowing Katherine to stay out of the hospital, and Ryan and Wilfred out and out deciding not to follow any clues they could have gotten about the cult from Katherine (who earlier denies any knowledge of bruce). While it may seem cheap for the show to leave that breadcrumb and just abandon it, it’s nice to show every episode isn’t just existing to advance the cult storyline. Plus, the ending with Wilfred gleefully becoming a three-legged dog himself was as darkly humorous as it can get.
Overall, “Responsibility” was a prime example of how to craft a Wilfred episode. There was some excellent humor courtesy of John Michael Higgins’ great performance and a stellar Wilfred storyline, and some great character drama between the various members of the Newman family. Unlike last week’s installment, which sometimes clumsily balanced plot and humor, “Responsibility” balanced the two well, providing some nice character growth for Katherine, Kristen and Ryan while providing tons of laughs along the way. Although I do wonder what other returning characters we’ll get to see before the season is over.
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