MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THOSE WHO HAVE YET TO SEE WILFRED
Wilfred has finally come to a close for me, and the truth about the charmingly contemptible but always loyal talking dog has been revealed. Reactions were mixed when it ended. In an age of twist television endings, surprise, brutal character deaths, and plot arcs so convoluted that they’re impossible to follow, though, the American adaptation of the Australian comedy/drama hasn’t disappointed me in particular. Actually, I found the entire thing to be surreally heartwarming. Critics will disagree with my adoration of the way the end was treated, but I stand by my conviction that Elijah Wood and Jason Gann gave us something special.
Let’s go over the events of the two-part finale. First off, Ryan and Jenna had to start coming to grips with Wilfred’s cancer, which was legitimately sad, and then Drew, that dude we kinda knew wasn’t out of the picture, showed up to swoop Jenna away from Ryan after their mating was finally a thing. Then Wilfred freaked out about his godly duties, then died. Ryan and Wilfred’s final moments in a pastoral fantasy were bromance gold, especially with the false reveal of Wilfred being Mattaman the dog god before disappearing. We finally got to see Jenna’s actual dog, as well as Jenna’s actual inner workings: she broke up with Ryan to be back with Drew, abandoning our poor hero for security and a puppy. Though, it was awesome to see Ryan explode a little at her, and shirk his idealization of the gal once and for all.
After that, Ryan’s mother interrupted another suicide to reveal that his father was actually the leader of the Flock of the Grey Shepherd cult (played marvelously by Saw’s Tobin Bell), followed by Wilfred reappearing as a vision and dragging Ryan to his true father’s home. Charles, the long lost father figure, admitted that he’d made up everything about the dog gods, wanting to protect Ryan’s mother and distract himself from his own delusions of chatting with a dog. Ryan brusquely left and tried to ignore Wilfred’s appearances, only to finally admit to himself how happy his own insanity made him.
So the ending was, simply, that Ryan imagined the entire thing, and Wilfred was only ever an asshole figment of Ryan’s addled mind. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a bold move in TV and an exercise in weird realism.
Some critics think the finale was a letdown, not nearly good enough an answer to the god stuff, the cult stuff, the conspiracy, and the related paranoia gripping fans for the four-season run. To me, though, the final episode was not about some over complicated plot, but about Ryan’s happiness. If viewers forget, the pilot began with the dude trying to off himself, only finding some slight semblance of happiness after getting roped into Wilfred’s crazy games and ploys. The writers of the show must have realized far into their conspiracy storylines that no overarching twist would ever satisfy an audience saturated with ridiculously over the top twists, so they went the most realistic route possible, and the effect didn’t take away from Wilfred’s character. His existence as part of Ryan’s messed up consciousness made him more believable, more charming, and only added to their chemistry, a shit-crazy friendship that (apparently) transcended the very fabric of reality.
As it turned out Wilfred was ultimately about finding one’s inner happiness and letting the insanity lurking in those dark corners of the mind finally find peace. Ryan’s insanity wasn’t something to cure, his imagination not a crutch. If we can learn anything from one of the strangest shows ever to grace the small screen, it’s that inner happiness can actually be found, once you stop resisting who you’ve been all along. The show may be over, but we’ll always have Wilfred and Ryan’s weird friendship to cheer us up in even the darkest of times.