Don't worry, I ain't gonna bite you. I can smell your fear like I can smell the sour milk in your fridge. I'm seven years old, and too wise for lies.
Wilfred is an American comedy starring Elijah Wood as Ryan, a troubled young man, and Jason Gann as Wilfred, a dog who appears to Ryan as a human man in a dog costume but as a normal dog to everyone else.The show's origins are in an Australian short film, "Wilfred," which was a finalist at Tropfest 2002 and later adapted into a darkly comic Australian series on SBS. In this version, Wilfred belongs to Sarah, and he can be seen by her boyfriend Adam. Wilfred dislikes Adam and decides to test him, having endured the ups and downs of Sarah's love life. So, in addition to winning Sarah's heart, Adam must also contend with Wilfred. The show ran two seasons.Family Guy showrunner David Zuckerman adapted the show into an American version with a much darker and psychological edge. This time, Wilfred is seen by Ryan, a depressed former lawyer who attempts suicide, only to be interrupted by his beautiful new neighbor Jenna and her dog Wilfred. Ryan and Wilfred form an tumultuous friendship as Ryan attempts to work through his problems and find a love life. Wilfred's motives and origin are a recurring mystery, and show frequently teases various answers as to whether Wilfred is real or Ryan is insane.See this page for the original Australian show.
This show provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: It's left ambiguous as to whether Ryan's father is really as bad as he says, or if Ryan is just insecure and projecting his problems onto a scapegoat.
An Aesop: Each episode is centered around Ryan learning a lesson about something in his life (it's the remaining word after the pre-episode quote fades). For instance, an episode in season 2 was about Ryan learning to abandon his guilt.
All Just a Dream: Wilfred was just a regular dog. The whole thing was in Ryan's head.
Alpha Bitch: Jenna definitely does this to Ryan, especially in "Sacrifice".
Amoral Attorney: Ryan was known as the Archaeologist at his old firm for his ability to dig up dirt on the opposition.
And You Were There: Ryan's interpretations of Mattdamon and Krungle are implied to be derived from people he vaguely remembered while he was still an infant.
An Arm and a Leg:Wilfred loses one of his legs after getting hit by a car. Though it appears to Ryan he lost an arm.
Author Appeal: There are a lot of "anal" related things in this show.
Basement-Dweller: Ryan spends a lot of time in his own basement getting high, even though he owns the entire house. At the end of season one, it's put into question whether the basement really exists.
Bi the Way: In episode 3, Wilfred states he roots other dogs all the time to establish dominance. Later, in the same episode, he plays "fuck/marry/kill" with Ryan and says he'd "screw Toto, marry Lassie, and kill Marmaduke."
Ryan: What's the one thing Jenna hates most about Drew? Wilfred: Vaginal tearing from his huge cock?
Big "NO!": Sneakers after failing to kill Kristen and Dr. Ramos.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: As pitiable as Ryan can be, he can do some rather nasty things when he thinks that he's in the right.
Bittersweet Ending: The real Wilfred dies of lung cancer. Then Jenna gets back together with Drew and dumps Ryan because she's afraid of change. If that wasn't bad enough, Ryan finds out that he really was crazy and his misadventures with Wilfred were all in his head. However, he does discover the truth behind the cult (and his origins), finds out that all three of his parents truly cared for him, gains the respect of his sister, and conjures up a phantom of Wilfred who promises to downplay his gross malevolence and help him out whenever he needs it. At the end of it all, Ryan learns that he is worthy of love and that it's okay to love himself, even if part of him is a rude, boorish, if well-meaning man in a dog suit.
Wilfred also mentions that dogs settle their differences sometimes by rape-fighting. In the season three opener He settles things with his clone this way. He doesn't like talking about its outcome.
During an after credits sequence, Wilfred asks Ryan if he would rape somebody if he could get away with it. Repeatedly.
Wilfred tells Ryan that his first sexual experience was raping a dog who had just been hit by a car so she was injured and unable to fight him off. He recalls the memory fondly and is oblivious to Ryan's horrified expression.
An elderly male doctor at the sanitarium where Ryan's mother is treated was once gangraped in a big, black van.
Blatant Lies: Jenna obviously has good intentions. After Wilfred has fooled everyone into thinking Ryan has broken into all their cars, she tells Ryan that everyone is glad he came to the annual block party.
Bookends: The first and last episodes of the show are called "Happiness". However, the quotes relating to both are different.
Brick Joke: Several references are made to Kristen exclusively dating black men in the past. When her date with Michael goes badly, she says it wouldn't have worked out anyway, listing one of the reasons why as the fact that "he's so pale".
Bungled Suicide: Ryan attempting suicide with (unbeknownst to him) placebos opens the series.
Cargo Ship: Wilfred enjoys relations with a large teddy bear and later, a stuffed giraffe. invoked
Conspiracy Theorist: Wilfred is terrified of veterinarians and screams out microchip plots when Ryan takes him to one in episode 2. In episode 9, he apparently has similar theories about the post office.
Continuity Nod: Ryan makes a quick reference to the car accident plot of episode 7 in episode 8.
Covert Pervert: Ryan's father had a particular fondness for black women and kept a secret stash of interracial pornography in an out-of-town storage locker.
Cringe Comedy: Not much of what Wilfred does is unusual for a dog, but since the character is anthropomorphized to the point of being played by a man in a dog suit, his casual discussions of normal canine behaviors definitely pushes the show into cringe territory on a regular basis.
Wilfred: I once cracked a Nazi skinhead in the face with a beer bottle, and you know what he did to me? Belly rub.
In "Dignity", Ryan's otherwise complete dick of a boss loses all coherency at the sight of Wilfred. Later in the episode, Ryan's coworker explains how this trope is based in neurochemistry. Also subverted; Ryan's coworkers get annoyed after a few days.
Deadpan Snarker: Wilfred obviously, though don't be surprised to catch Ryan in on the action.
Wilfred: So chemistry, baking, and Ping-Pong. I guess my only question is how were you not blowjobbed to death by the entire cheerleading squad?
Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Wilfred frames a dead homeless man for a string of thefts. Ryan wants clear his name before realizing his alternatives are to confess (and be hated) or tell the truth (which no one will believe).
Despair Event Horizon: The end of season 1. Ryan winds up splitting up his sister and her husband, gets Jenna to go back to Drew because the replacement urine he used for her drug test said she was pregnant, and worst of all, Wilfred gets hit by a car and forgets who Ryan is. Ryan is also forced to seriously question his sanity upon finding out the basement he was spending time with Wilfred in is actually a closet.
Wilfred gets revenge on the kid down the street, who always faked him out by pretending to throw balls, etc, by framing him for breaking into all the cars on the block.
Wilfred poisoned Ryan with chocolate for hitting him with a newspaper.
Wilfred had a neighbor dog killed after Ryan complimented the dog's handkerchief.
Dogged Nice Guy: Ryan by this show's standards, though he does try to move on and dates other women even being prepared to marry Amanda.
Dreaming of Things to Come: In episode 3, Ryan dreams of the moment his biker neighbor comes over to kick his ass for breaking into his house and stealing his weed, which occurs a bit later in the episode. Muddling the matter, however, is the fact that the dream is also full of the sort of weird things that happen in dreams, like a clock with spinning hands and Ryan having baby feet and pulling a tooth out of his mouth. The tooth bit actually happens when Spencer punches him in the face in the waking world.
Everyone Has Standards: Wilfred might be a tremendous deviant in several ways, but the fact that Jellybeans' mother is also his sister really, really grosses him out.
Fantastic Racism: Wilfred seems to consider it racist to forbid dogs at a beach or be given a bone as a gift. However, he's apparently bigoted against Dobermans, calling them "Dobies"
Flipping the Table: Inverted; Drew flips a lawn chair after winning at ping-pong. He's just insanely competitive. Played straight, by Wilfred, who "wins" board games by flipping the board over and punching Ryan in the face.
In "Anger", Kristen is surprised to hear from Ryan that their family home has a basement.
Kevin, one of Ryan's coworkers, says that jalapeños are going to be the death of him. Cut to the season finale, where we discover that Amanda framed Kevin, picking him as the fall guy for the sale of company secrets because he stole the jalapeños off of her bagel five times.
At the start of "Resistance", Ryan muses that happiness is a rather flighty state of being. He loses Jennna at its end after just getting together with her in the previous episode.
Ryan and Kristen's manipulative tendencies, displays of passive-aggressive behavior, and tremendous difficulties with emotional control are a result of being chiefly raised by their father, who had similar psychological hang-ups.
Throughout "Questions" Ryan can't figure out why Kirsten's baby crying makes him panic. Turns out it was Kirsten telling the baby to stop crying that sent him into a panic, as she did the same thing to Ryan when his parents were fighting.
A God Am I: Wilfred does one of the greatest of these EVER, in "Respect". On a roof, in the pouring rain:
Ryan: You've lost your mind. It's like you've got some kind of...God complex. Wilfred: I'll let you in on a little secret, Ryan. I don't have a God complex. I AM GOD! THUNDER!! [Thunder] Ryan: How did you do that?! Wilfred:Lucky coincidence!
Harmless Villain: Wilfred attempts to poison Ryan. With chocolate. To be fair, it would've worked on Wilfred...
Heel Face Door Slam: At the end of episode 8, Kristen reveals that it was her fault that Sneakers died and begs Ryan for forgiveness. She hopes that Wilfred will let her pet him, only for him to slap a glass of red wine at her.
Informed Judaism: Spencer (Ryan's biker neighbor), who complains about his old friend Jesse banging his girlfriend on the Shabbos.
Insane Troll Logic: Spencer's ex-girlfriend is a prostitute. Having sex with clients is considered work and not cheating. However she does not work on the Shabbos, so when his friend banged her on the Shabbos that counted as cheating.
Insult Backfire: In "Compassion", Wilfred fails to see why "son of a bitch" and "eat shit" is insulting.
Episode 11 reveals that Bruce, a mysterious man from Wilfred's past, sees him just like Ryan does. However, whether or not Bruce himself is real may be argued, as only Ryan and Wilfred ever see him.
Amanda can also see Wilfred, but a different version. Her Wilfred wants her and Ryan together and has a French accent. Though its possible she is truly delusional as Wilfred tells Ryan that he has no idea what she's talking about. Or maybe Ryan and Amanda both have their own delusions about the dog.
It Runs in the Family: Ryan has pretty big concerns about ending up crazy like his mother, who had a mental breakdown around his age. The Stinger reveals that she sees her cat Mittens as a woman in a cat suit...
The series finale lends more weight to this, as Ryan discovers that his birth father Charles also suffered from hallucinations and is now medicated. When Ryan asks if his dog talks to him, Charles says "not for a long time."
Kristen is revealed to have inherited her father's fetish for black people.
Ryan's boss at his job in the second season. He interrupts Ryan and a female coworker discussing a future date with this:
Boss: The CNVN 311 patent. I need you to review and summarize by Friday. Possible? Ryan: This Friday? ...Sure. Boss: Ooh, you sound confident. Thursday. Possible? Ryan: ...Sure, Thursday. Whenever you need. Boss: I like your attitude. Let's make it Wednesday. (clicks tongue, leaves)
Drew borders on this. He's never seen doing anything overly dickish and is mostly just an obnoxious overgrown child who takes competition way too seriously, but he's bragged about doing things that would absolutely qualify him for this. Of course, it's never confirmed if he actually did them or if he's just a blowhard.
Jerkass Has a Point: Wilfred is a selfish bastard, but he's often pretty accurate with his assessment of Ryan's shortcomings. Sometimes his schemes and advice really do seem like good ideas.
Just Friends: Jenna and her "old college chum, Bobby 'Blueballs' Davis". Wilfred warns Ryan that he is nearing the friendzone in episode 6.
Also, this is the only show on television where it's dog who kicks the dog.
Kick Them While They Are Down: Jenna's boyfriend Drew is a beer salesmen for Sheboygan Lager. He tells Ryan this anecdote in episode 6: when Drew discovered another brewery talking to his clients, he turned around and carried the same plan to completion. A month later he encountered a salesman for the rival brewery at a bar, who had been fired thanks to Drew. Drew decides to buy him a bottle of Sheboygan Lager. He later reveals he didn't even buy the guy a beer; he bought himself one and told the guy to lick his nuts
The Lad-ette: The beer-chugging, cheesesteak-gobbling Jenna, Ryan's object of affection in the series. The problem is that Ryan spends all of episode 2 thinking that she has a dick, and all this manliness does not help matters.
Large Ham: Wilfred at times. Commonly accompanies an affected accent.
Laser-Guided Karma: Wilfred usually escapes an episode without getting his comeuppance, but "Responsibility" has karma catch up to him when a car runs him over and he loses a leg. After spending an entire episode mocking a three legged dog.
Magical Native American: Parodied in the form of Ryan's "Spirit Guide" from "Questions". He notes that he's so stereotypical, cause he's in Ryan's head.
Man Child: Ryan, sort of. His personality isn't very childish however a lot of his actions stem from him acting against things he's held grudges against since he was a child. Drew might be this moreso than Ryan, though...
Wilfred. You never know whether he's really trying to help Ryan become a better man or if he's working some other angle. Ryan gets wise to it, but he's still drawn into Wilfred's schemes, often because Jerkass Has a Point.
As revealed during the season 1 finale, Ryan was one too. When he returns to his old ways he screws pretty much everyone's life up.
Wilfred: What Darryl does to Bear is even worse! Ryan: It's a stuffed animal. Wilfred: Yeah, Ryan. Stuffed with pain! ...and humiliation! ...and Darryl's cum! ...and bits of foam I think.
Wilfred:(as he chips away at some wall molding presumably painted in Arctic Glow Semi-Gloss) Well, that's because you let your boss walk all over you. You can't let him keep chipping away your dignity like a cheap coat of Arctic Glow Semi-Gloss.
Mind Screw: The picture we see in the second season finale, drawn by Ryan as a child. "Who's the dog?"
Moral Myopia: Ryan has a hard time accepting the idea that dogs have the same feelings and rights as people. Wilfred on the other hand, can't seem to understand that the feelings and rights of others aren't his to violate as he pleases.
Motif: The Truth. There are a lot of secrets, lies and uncertainty in the show, especially concerning Wilfred. Sometimes learning the truth helps, but other times the lie seems to be better.
Mr. Vice Guy: Wilfred. Ultimately deconstructed in the final season where it's revealed that all his substance abuse has given him lung cancer.
Munchausen Syndrome: Wilfred shows frequent obsession over having the monopoly on providing emotional support to the cast.
My Greatest Failure: In episode 8, Ryan reveals that his childhood dog Sneakers drowned because Ryan left the gate to the pool open.
Not So Different: Ryan and his father, to the point that they both entered relationships with mentally unstable women that ended very badly.
Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Usually averted at the end of each episode. Notably played straight, however, when series 1 ends; Wilfred sacrifices himself for the greater good and forgets Ryan, Ryan may or may not be insane, Jenna thinks she's pregnant after Kristen's urine is unknowingly tested instead (causing her to settle down with a man she doesn't really like) and Kristen, who doesn't realize she's pregnant, tells her husband about her affair so Ryan can't blackmail her anymore, ending her relationship and causing her to disown Ryan and run off to India.
Spencer has a transsexual for a father, finds his father's porn hot, and considers her to have perfect breasts.
Turns out Wilfred managed to trick his friend Bruce into making out with his own father. Assuming it wasn't just one of the many lies they told as part of the plan.
Jellybeans, one of the neighborhood dogs, was a product of this.
Ping Pong Naïveté: Wilfred can be tremendously insightful at one moment and incredibly dense the next.
Played for Laughs: Ryan's complete failure at suicide is initially treated lightly: Wilfred even remarks that the fourth revision of his suicide note wasn't very good. Later, the topic is revisited with a much darker tone.
Rage Quit: After getting a Clue accusation wrong in episode 7's tag, Wilfred flips the game board and sucker punches Ryan.
Red Herring: Everything to do with Dog Gods. Wilfred is just Ryan's hallucination.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Ryan's boss Jeremy walks in late and rants about how there needs to be a special speed lane on highways for "the people who contribute the most to society".
Second Episode Morning: Technically occurs in the first episode, but after Ryan meets Wilfred and wakes up after a minor NyQuil coma, he sees a normal dog in his yard, causing him to write off the man-in-a-dog-suit weirdness as a dream...until he looks in another direction and sees that there's a man in a dog suit in his house.
The Stoner: Wilfred gets high pretty often, but he doesn't fit the rest of the stereotype very well; he's too much of an asshole. Ryan is also an example, especially once he gets a medical marijuana recommendation in episode 2.
The Tag: Most episodes of the series end with Ryan and Wilfred chatting and getting high in his basement, though sometimes this is left off when it wouldn't make sense with the episode's ending.
Tall Poppy Syndrome: Kristen has a habit of trying to cut people down so they can be as miserable as she is when she's in a bad mood, which is incredibly often.
The Unfavorite: In the present, Ryan. During their childhood, it was actually Kristen because her parents considered her to be the reason that their relationship went south.
Ungrateful Bastard: In episode 3, Ryan buys Wilfred a Kobe beef chewing bone. Wilfred simply complains that it's not a bong or vaporizer.
Unreliable Expositor: Wilfred makes a habit of bending the truth on several occasions, but it's usually to make a point or get his way (such as telling Ryan that Jenna has a penis, only to reveal he was actually just fucking with Ryan to get revenge).
Episode six has Wilfred giving Ryan a lethal dose of Theobromine, only for the pair to discover it's the chemical in chocolate that makes it lethal to dogs, making it one of the few examples of Wilfred getting his facts wrong.
See Drew's anecdote in "Kick Them While They Are Down" up there? What actually happened was that Drew bought himself the Sheboygan Lager, spit it in the other guy's face, and yelled at him to "lick my balls".
The Unreveal: We never do find out if the day-care owner in episode 4 actually molested Wilfred or not or whether Wilfred actually killed anyone at the hospital or not in episode 5. We also never find out if Wilfred was genuinely possessed by Ryan's old dog Sneakers, or how Bruce and Wilfred met, and how he sees him like Ryan does.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Ryan only became a lawyer to please his father and to keep him from throwing him into the loony bin like his mother.
Wham Line: From "Confrontation" regarding Ryan's childhood painting featuring Wilfred.
Ryan:Then, who drew it?
Xanatos Gambit: In episode 6. It was meant to be a Batman Gambit, but it worked out after the "lose condition" happened anyway. The plan was for Ryan to challenge Drew to a ping-pong game and win, hoping that Jenna would be in the vicinity to see him lose his shit. He still went pretty crazy after winning.