Dubbed as a “Special Preview Episode,” “Progress” originally aired one week before the official season premiere. Fans who caught it were treated to a taste of Wilfred without actually beginning the new season. At first glance, “Progress” picks up sometime after the first season finale. But it quickly spirals into a psychological thriller-styled tale, filled with the same dark humor the show has come to wear so well.
It’s four months after Wilfred’s car accident, and Ryan has finally sought professional help for his “I see dog-people” problem. He’s split between fuzzy, bizarro-world nightmares and picking up the pieces of his life at the asylum-like clinic he’s staying at. Thanks to pill popping and pep talks from a bearded, bow-tie wearing Robin Williams, it looks like things are finally looking up for Ryan—until Wilfred shows up, still a man-dog, smoking in a wheelchair.
Wilfred has never been a show meant for hearty, laugh-out-loud enjoyment. It’s a dark comedy, the kind you enjoy with a private chuckle and an appreciation for its twisted witticisms. “Progress” greatly exemplifies this. The episode quickly spirals into an ominous mental mystery, as Ryan questions Wilfred’s purpose and intentions before turning the examination on himself. As he races to figure out what’s real and what really is the dream, he’s busted out of the asylum by none other than Wilfred himself in a getaway car driven by…you guessed it, Bear. The episode finally turns the show back onto steady feet as Ryan rejoins the real world and rediscovers the basement, along with Wilfred’s words of advice: “Keep digging.” Questions are answered, but not in the way you might expect.
“Progress” is a perfect way to pull viewers back into the wacky world of Wilfred without revealing too much of the new season. The show’s humor traipses playfully back and forth between the absolutely absurd, such as Wilfred being unable to roll his wheelchair over a tic-tac, to referential comedy, such as Ryan finally recognizing Robin Williams after he spouts one of his famous Good Will Hunting lines. It’s filled with subtle winks toward fans who’ve kept up with the show, especially those who know Wilfred’s love of Matt Damon.
But throughout it all, the best thing about the episode, and Wilfred for that matter, is its ability to challenge and redefine the rules of TV. The show has never been normal by any means, but it’s always been funny. With a repeatedly strong performance by Elijah Wood as the good-hearted-but-disturbed Ryan, and the ever-crude, always hilarious Jason Gann in the title role, Wilfred continues to be one of TV’s best comedies to follow. And that is a good enough reason to keep digging.