“YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPINESS IS? THAT PAIR OF TITS RIGHT THERE.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
Well, this is it folks: the end of both Wilfred and YouNerded’s coverage of it. It was a fun journey, but like all great things, it must come to an end. So how was the double-sized finale to FX’s most infamous dog-based comedy, then? Take my hand, and let’s find out together. Caution: There’s massive feels coming.
“Resistance” was the first part of the finale and picked up almost right where “Courage” left off, with Ryan imagining himself on the beach with Wilfred right before waking up in his bed… with Jenna. Things are all right between them, but Wilfred’s imminent demise is hard on her, and Ryan is looking for ways to keep him alive despite Wilfred’s insistence that he should just accept it and be happy with Jenna. We were then treated to a great scene with Ryan’s mom and her doctor/lover (pitch-perfectly played by John Michael Higgins once again) as Ryan and Jenna began arguing over Wilfred. In the usual Wilfred fashion, Wilfred warns Ryan that if these arguments make a rift between him and Jenna, his death might be for nothing.
Things escalated even further with the arrival of Drew, who hopped a plane when he heard Wilfred was sick. Of course, being Drew, he lacks sleeping arrangements. He eventually is offered a spot on Jenna’s couch, which only freaks Wilfred out. It’s this breakdown that leads to the thing both the viewers and characters of the show feared: Wilfred’s death. He collapses and is rushed to the vet, where a heartbroken Jenna has to leave the room because she can’t handle it. Drew goes to comfort her while Ryan stays with Wilfred, whom he gets one final, heartbreaking scene with. Wilfred explains that he is the god Mattdamon, and though he’ll miss Ryan, he wants him to move on after he’s gone and be happy, as that was his goal from the very beginning. This leads into what may be one of the most heartbreaking scenes, as Wilfred’s goodbye to Ryan ends with one final shot of Ryan sitting and holding him in his dog-form, lifeless in his arms.
Ryan mopes around for a few days trying to adjust to life without Wilfred, but his happiness with Jenna unfortunately doesn’t last. The two meet again and Jenna reveals that she’s decided to give Drew another chance. This led to a defining character moment for Ryan, as he lets her go, berating her for falling back into old patterns and not embracing what they had together. As a whole, “Resistance” was one of the strongest episodes of the entire series, as it addressed many of the overarching themes and questions of the show. But things didn’t cap off there, because the finale’s second half, “Happiness,” brought everything together for one final ride.
“Happiness” begins in exactly the same way that the show’s first episode of the same name did, with a distraught Ryan printing a suicide note and attempting to kill himself with pills, not knowing what to do without Wilfred and the girl of his dreams abandoning him. However, he isn’t stopped by Jenna this time, but by his mom, who attempts to comfort him by telling him the story of the dog god Mattdamon, of all things. From here we got the answers to the cult storyline that was seeded all throughout the season, as Ryan discovered Catherine not only knew of the story, but also that she was in the cult for a full three years! Handled poorly, these kinds of secret reveals can be hokey, but the revelation was done well here and fully believable considering the backstory of Ryan’s mom. But that wasn’t the only bombshell Catherine dropped. After some prodding, Ryan discovered that his father was in fact Charlie, the cult’s leader, whom Catherine had been drawn to by his message of everlasting happiness. She eventually had him arrested when he began to perform rituals on Ryan, believing him to be the “Chosen One” that Mattdamon would appear to. After Charlie’s arrest, Ryan’s now-adoptive father, Henry, stepped in from there, burying all information about the cult and raising Ryan himself.
Luckily, all this new information felt at home in the Wilfred universe, although this still left Ryan in the directionless position he was in before. Claiming to be “between host bodies,” Wilfred returned (only Ryan could see him) to see how happy he and Jenna were. When Ryan revealed what had occurred between them, Wilfred cursed himself for “miscalculating” what would make Ryan happy and insists he knows what would. They end up driving to the mysterious barn seen in the cult photos, and Ryan ends up face to face with Charlie, his biological father and keeper of all the cult answers. We got to see that Wilfred and Bruce have human counterparts named Richard and Shane (who played Mattdamon and Krungle in the rituals), and more importantly, Charlie confessed that while he did believe in the dog gods at the time, he made everything up and now thanks Catherine for turning him and getting him help.
With that, we finally have the answer of what Wilfred is: A figment of Ryan’s imagination. The series flirted with the concept time and time again, so it’s not exactly a surprise to find out. Ryan’s reaction to this, however, is interesting. At first the revelation causes him to shut Wilfred out, ignoring his spontaneously generating form constantly which lead to some hilariously sad moments of Wilfred trying to get past Ryan’s receptionist at the law firm, and yelling to him from on top of a building. Ryan is able to finally shut him out of his thoughts, but it gets interesting where it goes from there. He lives Wilfred-free for a time, and while speaking with Kristen (who is now happily employed at an abortion clinic), he explains he’s neither unhappy or happy, he’s just sort of… there. Then he begins to see flashes of Wilfred all around him. Running home expecting to find him, finding an empty house instead causes Ryan to confess that he needs Wilfred to make his life interesting, as he’s the only thing that’s made him truly happy. Wilfred then appears (by smelling terrible) and the two make amends, going to the beach and tossing that tennis ball they began playing with four years ago.
Overall, this was a very strong finish for Wilfred. The first part concluded a lot of storylines and amped up the feels to 10 as Ryan seemingly accomplished all his goals and then watched his world crash around him. Not to mention Jason Gann and Elijah Wood both gave great performances, and we got the treat of seeing Drew again. However, it was “Happiness” that really brought a surprising amount of closure to the show and managed to brighten the tone after the somber affair that was “Resistance.” While Ryan being insane could be predicted from the very beginning, it remains a logical choice for the answer of what Wilfred is and manages to explain some other mysteries the show set up along the way (remember that cat Ryan’s mom could see?)
But on a broader level, “Happiness” worked so well not just by providing answers to the burning questions of the series, but by tying back to the series premiere, which began with the Mark Twain quote “Happiness and sanity are an impossible combination.” This seems like the lesson Ryan learned over the course of the show, as the show’s ending showed him finding happiness by accepting himself, and arguably, his own insanity. For a show that loved to embrace mystery, it was great to see writer David Zuckerman give Wilfred the kind of poignant, unquestionable closure that many series don’t (Lost comes to mind) and tie all the series’ themes and arcs together so well. “Happiness” was a superb episode and a fitting send-off for what might be the great dog-based, dark comedy of our time.
What are your (respectful) thoughts on the finale? What was your favorite moment from Wilfred’s long run? (And will you miss the handsome Max Mielecki’s coverage of it?) Summon your imaginary dog friend and let us know in the comments below.
*We do not comment on anything relating to previews for the next episode and beyond.
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