Wilfred: Confrontation (2013)

There are the Christmas episodes you seek out, then there are the ones you trip over. I've been slowly making my way through the series, Wilfred, and I stumbled across a holiday episode in season 3.

First a few words about the series. More specifically, this is the American remake of an Australian show with the same name. It follows Ryan, played by Elijah Wood, a disturbed former lawyer who perceives his neighbor's dog as a grown man in a dog suit.

Just describing the bizarre premise doesn't do the series justice. This is far stranger and darker than it sounds. It regularly delves into existential questions, as Ryan attempts to determine whether his experiences are mystical in nature or if he's simply losing his mind. The series's tone oscillates between dark comedy and psychological horror.

This episode is surprisingly restrained, though it ventures into some dark territory. It's Christmas, and Ryan's family is reuniting for the first time in years. Wilfred, meanwhile, wants to be part of the family. A lot of the episode feels far closer to a conventional sitcom than the show normally is, though that's actually somewhat misleading.

The episode is structured as a sort of mystery, as Ryan (and the viewer) attempt to interpret meaning from the characters' actions. Ryan starts the episode with multiple narratives about each of his parents, and the scenes we see could ambiguously support any of these. His father's behavior could suggest a depressed and anxious man trying to put his family back together, or we could be watching the actions of master manipulator without a conscience. The writing is surprisingly balanced, particularly in comparison to most of what makes it onto TV.

Early on, Wilfred offers an explanation for his lifelong hatred of Santa Claus that's certainly logical for a dog's point of view. Other than that, the Christmas elements were more setting than plot, though they were a good catalyst for the story. In addition, the familiar "awkward family at the holidays" trope served them well here.

Overall, it was a good - but not necessarily great - episode of a very intriguing series. I'm a little hesitant to recommend this show to anyone, though: if you're not a fan of extremely dark comedy, you'll likely be more uncomfortable than entertained. If you're willing to explore some extremely dark ideas, however, it's a fascinating show.

Needless to say, though, start with the first episode.