WILFRED Season 2 Premiere Review

Wilfred Jason Gann as Wilfred and Elijah Wood as Ryan

FX’s WILFRED returns tonight. When last fans left WILFRED, the titular dog (Jason Gann) had just been hit by a car, and pal Ryan (Elijah Wood) thought he was going crazy. After all, Ryan opens the door to the basement where he and Wilfred hang out to discover it’s a closet! Oh, and Ryan’s crush, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), thinks she is pregnant after the duo switch her urine, which they know will show the drugs they gave her, for Ryan’s sister’s (Dorian Brown), leading to Jenna accepting Drew’s (Chris Klein) proposal.

Unfortunately, this week’s episode, “Letting Go,” isn’t actually the first episode of the second outing. Last week, there was a preview episode called “Progress” that dealt with Ryan’s precarious mental state and the basement. So “Letting Go” picks up later, dealing a bit with Jenna’s situation, and not at all with practically any of the other hanging threads.

This feels like a cheat. Viewers who loyally tuned in last season may be confused. If they miss the preview episode, it will definitely feel like something is missing, because it is. What’s more, “Letting Go” is more pedestrian than “Progress,” with a focus on the love story, rather than the mystery. Are fans of WILFRED really looking for romance over exploration of the mind? If so, why aren’t they watching one of the many shows on television that centers on love stories, rather than this misfit of a sitcom?

That’s not to say that WILFRED is bad in the romance department. Ryan’s relationship, or lack thereof, with Jenna has been done very well. But as much as Ryan would like to be with her, he simply isn’t ready. He needs to get his own house in order before he can worry about bringing anyone else in. Thus, Jenna is doomed to be stuck with Drew, who is kind of a jerk, awhile longer, and may even date a couple other guys after before it is Ryan’s turn.

In fact, while Ryan is waiting on Jenna to be free, something he decides to do in “Letting Go,” showing some progress for himself, he also embarks on a diversion of his own. Realizing that Jenna will not be dumping Drew anytime soon, he accepts a date with sexy, funny new co-worker Amanda (Smallville’s Allison Mack). Amanda probably won’t be the woman that Ryan settles down with, but Mack is a great actress, and a heck of a score for a recurring character in this second season, practically guaranteeing an avoidance of the sophomore slump.

Back to what WILFRED is really about. Namely, what is going on inside of Ryan’s head. We are no closer to knowing this than when the series started. Wilfred is still the creature everyone else sees as a dog, but Ryan sees as a man in a canine suit. The basement being back could be a sign that Ryan is succumbing to the same mental disease that plagued him last year. Or it could be a sign of a break through, as he literally breaks through the closet wall in “Progress” to find the steps again. Is Wilfred a help or a hindrance? Why does no one notice Ryan’s obvious insanity?

WILFRED is also a buddy show. Ryan is sad that Wilfred seems infatuated by Drew, having seemingly forgotten about his best pal during their long time apart. It’s an obvious act, though whether Ryan realizes this and declines to point it out to spare Wilfred’s feelings, or is just too oblivious to see it, isn’t clear. Ryan does his best to be there for his friend, because imaginary or not, Wilfred is the only thing keeping Ryan going these days. Though Wilfred rightly points out that their relationship has been a bit one-sided. So Ryan strives to correct that.

Is “Letting Go” presented as the official season premiere because it is better at appealing to a mass audience than “Progress” was, being a little less “out there?” Why is WILFRED not letting its freak flag fly much in this outing, when the freak flag is the best thing it has going for it, despite the mixed reviews last week? Will viewers have to debate reality as fervently as they did for the series Lost for the entire run of WILFRED? Tune in to season two every Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FX to find out.