The plot thickens.
After taking a more low-key detour last week, Wilfred returns with a phenomenal mind-bender that reminds viewers of how ambitious the show can actually get. It revels in its strangeness the way only an assured program with a great grasp of its world and characters can. Of course, in a somewhat predictable bit of irony, an episode entitled “Answers” ends up raising more questions than anything else.
Things begin relatively normally with Ryan and Wilfred visiting a social psychologist named Dr. Grummons. Grummons’ name appeared on a list of Henry Newman’s expert witnesses. The doctor promptly evades Ryan’s inquiries and, instead, focuses his attention on Wilfred. Grummons then offers what appears to be a quid pro quo—if Ryan offers up Wilfred as a test subject for his team’s latest experiments, Grummons will divulge his knowledge of the Flock of Grey Shepard cult.
Ryan is hesitant until he ends up looking through his emails and discovering that Wilfred tipped Henry off about their adventure together back in the series premiere. Feeling angry and betrayed, Ryan agrees to the experiment. What starts as a seemingly simplistic set-up (Wilfred gets shocked every time he tries to eat from a bowl) quickly turns into nightmare fodder when Ryan realizes that he’s the real subject. Ryan’s after-experiment talk with Wilfred leads to the dog opening a door on his own—something he’s never been able to do before. Our hero then realizes that the creature is both wearing a camera and being fed instructions from an earpiece.
Frightened, Ryan escapes the area only to run into several acquaintances, including Kristen, who tries to subdue him. It all leads to one of the show’s most jaw-dropping visuals. Ryan hides in a costume area and watches in horror as Wilfred enters the room and removes his suit, revealing the tired, longhaired man underneath. The chase sequence concludes with Ryan running into a room and finding his life and associates all mapped out, documented and diagrammed like some kind of Truman Show-inspired series. It’s here that Wilfred enters and tells Ryan that he’s been fed hallucinogenic drugs and none of what he’s seen is real. As if on cue, our hero wakes up and realizes that, yes, it was a paranoid dream brought about by Grummons’ experiment.
Fulfilling his part of the bargain, Grummons tells Ryan what he knows about the Flock of Grey Shepard. As established in the premiere, the cult believed that a Dog God named Matdamon would lead a Chosen One to happiness. The twist, however, is that there was another, malevolent Dog God named Krungle whose one desire is to destroy and subvert. To make things more confusing, both dogs look exactly alike. Thus, the episode ends on a major ambiguous note and a new mystery—which Dog God is Wilfred?
In a mere 21 minutes, the Wilfred team deliver an impressive and beautifully surreal installment that highlights everything unique about the show, with director Randall Einhorn and DP Tom Magill really pulling out all of the stops. Right from the moment Ryan takes a sip of the drugged beverage, the show’s precise visual style begins to distort—at first in small, subtle ways. Shots begin to look more stretched out than normal and everything begins to get more and more over-lit. By the time Kristen pops up as Ryan’s “emergency contact” and promptly pushes her brother to the ground when he gets suspicious, you know you’re in for something crazy. Indeed, the rest of the episode attains the feel of some kind of Lynchian fever dream.
Certainly, “Answers” greatly benefits from a guest spot by Rutger Hauer. Not only does he bring an appropriately creepy presence as well as some fantastic deadpan humor (“We’re developing this drug for enhanced interrogation. Big money in that”), but the writers even take time to give him a meta-joke where he explains that they got the idea for their research project from a “Batman movie” (Haueur co-starred in Batman Begins).
“Answers” marks the best episode of the show this season and one of the most effectively constructed half-hours of the entire series. With only a limited amount of time to make a final impact, the Wilfred team has pulled their first major punch. Something tells me there will be many more to follow.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.