After last week’s head-scrambling “Answers,” “Forward” offers up another experimental, if much less somber narrative. Here, the writers pull a quasi-Rashomon narrative, portraying an event from both Ryan and Wilfred’s conflicting perspectives. Considering that Wilfred is a show so thoroughly centered on the ever-shifting question of perspective, I’m very much amazed they haven’t attempted many episodes like this before.
“Forward” opens in media res with Wilfred tied to a chair and being interrogated by Ryan. In the wake of recent events, Ryan believes Wilfred to be Krungle, the trickster man-dog God who will lead him to ruin. Wilfred denies this accusation and the two proceed to revisit the events that led them to this moment. Ryan’s recollection begins with him and Wilfred drunkenly discussing Ryan’s job and how much he detests his boss. Ryan even shows Wilfred an unflattering doodle he made of her. After Wilfred passes out, we see that Ryan is not actually hammered, but has set Wilfred up. He wants to see if the dog will end up trying to complicate his life by mailing the crass drawing to his boss. Later, Ryan sees Wilfred approach a mailbox with a letter in hand only to turn away at the last moment.
The second event occurs after Kristen asks Ryan to help her enroll Joffrey in a prestigious and exclusive daycare. During the interview, Ryan spots Wilfred outside with his backpack. Wilfred then forces Ryan to open the bag, letting loose an assortment of questionable items, including a gerbil, lube and alcohol. Needless to say, the school administrator sees this and dismisses Joffrey’s application. It’s then that Ryan ties up Wilfred and demands to know the truth. Is he the Trickster?
The episode then switches to Wilfred’s side of the story (presented in “dog vision” black-and-white). One of the more immediate joys of this is getting to see how Wilfred views the stuffed Bear, who appears as a woman loosely clothed in fur attire with a stuffed bear hat. Right off the bat, Wilfred swears that he was not planning to send off Ryan’s drawing and balks at the idea of being compared to a “mailman.” Second, he claims that the items he brought to the daycare were not meant to sabotage; rather, they were merely props for him and Bear’s future sex games. Moreover, he thought Joffrey was already guaranteed a spot in the daycare and didn’t consider that he might be undermining his application status by bringing such things into the school. After Ryan pokes holes in his story, however, Wilfred eventually admits the truth. While at the daycare, he saw Ryan’s ex Amanda and concocted the events so that Ryan could leave and not run into her.
When Ryan returns to the daycare to track down Amanda, he finds her to be merely a shell of her wacky (if unhinged) former self. Amanda claims she’s been to therapy and is doing much better. That being said, she fears she’ll regress by interacting with Ryan or Wilfred. With only five episodes left, there’s a strong possibility this will be the last we see of Amanda—hands down, one of Wilfred’s strongest creations. While it’s good to see that she’s (theoretically) in a better place, it’s a definite bummer to see her zapped of the spark that made her such a charismatic character in the first place.
Overall, the episode presents a nice change from Wilfred’s usual structure, but I do wish the writers had picked a slightly stronger story to act as the foundation. Indeed, this particular story was most likely used was because it works as a somewhat mundane, standard Wilfred-messes-with-Ryan’s-life plot. Still, with the exception of Amanda’s appearance at the end, the plotline does not feel like it has quite the proper amount of intrigue to justify such a form-breaking exploration.
What’s unquestionably great are, again, the episode’s magnificent cinematography and its moments of inspired humor. The show differentiates Ryan and Wilfred’s perspectives with two distinctive visual looks. Wilfred’s perspective is defined as the aforementioned black-and-white cinematography whereas Ryan’s story is filmed with a super shallow depth of field, rendering everything in the background super blurry (perhaps reflecting the blurriness of hindsight?). What’s more, the writers throw some great dog-related gags, my favorite of which— besides the Bear-as-sexy-woman visual— is Ryan’s form of doggy torment, i.e. rattling a jar full of pennies and the dog food bag before feeding time).
“Forward” might not quite be as strong or as jaw-dropping as last week’s installment, but it does act as a nice comedown episode without, at the same time, diminishing the show’s ongoing playful edge. We’ve now come to the halfway mark of the show’s final season and it’s been an amazingly solid stretch of episodes so far. Entries like “Forward” make it all the more hard to reconcile that we have only a couple hours left in the wonderfully strange world of Wilfred.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.