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Is “Wilfred” Becoming “Fight Club”?

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

If the immediate introduction to the show by way of suicide attempt wasn’t enough to distance the new version of Wilfred from the Australian original, perhaps this past week’s episode (the series’ third, titled “Fear”) has done the trick. Where the first two episodes — or at least the first episode and a half — still toyed with plot devices which the original series previously utilized in its first season, “Fear” continues to shift the FX version toward the direction of a twisted buddy comedy, primarily focusing on interaction between Ryan (Elijah Wood) and his neighbor’s dog Wilfred (Jason Gann). While this not only goes against the direction of the original show and its story of a girlfriend and boyfriend being pulled apart by her overly protective dog, it’s also beginning to feel quite similar to another well known story which once did well to engross the collective pop culture consciousness. In fact, following the last episode, a very familiar fictional name is starting to work its way into the peripheral: that name being none other than Tyler Durden.

“You don’t know what life is till you’ve tasted the salty brine of death.”

Not to circumvent Wood’s importance in all of this but not unlike the original, the standout of the show thus far has been Gann’s role as Wilfred. It’s hardly commonplace to have a character deliver such lines as that mentioned above, let alone having a dog deliver them, but above all else what is most striking about the character is his ability to get inside Ryan’s head. Within three episodes the paranoid, belligerent and vastly influential Wilfred has already overcome temporary betrayal and sabotage in becoming the voice of reason to Ryan’s otherwise empty life. It could be that a talking dog who can only be heard by Ryan simply wreaks of generic multiple personality disorder, but the longer the show goes on the more Wilfred starts to actually sound like Fight Club‘s much-admired anti-hero.

“How can you be a good friend to me when you can’t even keep from betraying yourself?”

Okay, a lot like Fight Club‘s much-admired anti-hero.

As “Fear” progressed, Ryan and Wilfred found themselves in the heat of a predicament, with Wilfred encouraging Ryan to come clean to a neighbor for a crime they committed and stand up for himself. But through the duo’s discussion, the allusion toward something far more significant slid by without much consideration being given toward it. “Waltz over there, look him straight in the eye and say ‘I’m the man that shat in your boot.’ Then bend him over and root him right up the ass,” demanded Wilfred. “You want me to have sex with him?” “It’s called domination. It’s how dogs handle it. Believe me, it’s very effective.” “And have you done this with another dog?” “Every goddamn day.” “I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would do something like that.” “Well, then, you have no imagination.” “If only that were true.” The questioning of Ryan’s own imagination through such a sequence seems unnecessary given the context of the scene, but one that adds depth to the Durden-theory: While Wilfred is certainly a living, breathing dog, would his dialog not sound achingly natural if it were to come out of the mouth of Tyler Durden; if only to help combat the numb feeling of spiritual bankruptcy that Ryan was feeling mere hours before meeting the dog?

“Everything has to do with everything.”

Could the American version of Wilfred be heading in an entirely unique direction? One toying with the depths of personal delusion and psychosis? Wherever the series does go from here, its divergence from the original’s inconsistent dark humor and linear storyline appears a brilliant one to this point.