Stars: Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubelmann | Created by Jason Gann, Adam Zwar
‘Comfort’ is a largely standalone episode compared to the premiere’s heavy mythology. They don’t pick up on any of the threads leftover from the previous episode, like the drawing or Ryan seeing Stinky as a lookalike Wilfred (albeit one with a different personality). Instead, they offer up a layered episode that has a lot going on but seem to feel overstuffed. They throw in new people, religion and death into an ever spinning cocktail.
They start changing a little bit of things here and there. For instance, they open up Ryan’s world a little bit in this episode by giving him a friend in Mailman Bob. It’s a good device because all we usually see of Ryan’s world is Jenna and his family, they hadn’t really given Ryan a friend since the show began, although he had his friend at his father’s law firm, and he only encounters weirdoes in his life. Things in Ryan’s world can seem a little hazy, like looking through the world in his point of view. So, adding this character to his world, a person that actually seems to have some interest in him, they have the same personalities and he isn’t being seemingly judged by Bob like he would with Jenna or Kristen. The little scene with Ryan and Bob at the bar, reading through the increasingly horrifying Dear John letter sets the relationship up pitch perfect.
This subplot gives us a little more insight into the people in Ryan’s world, namely the mailmen, which may be the worst example of postmen since Newman on “Seinfeld.” They’re rooting through packages and hoarding contraband. They even have their own little sub-sub plot regarding their fear of dogs, with the friend of their co-worker Barry. And Zachary Knighton’s acting during the scene where they all confront their feelings about Barry is just a nice slice of acting. It’s such an odd bit during an episode that deals with so, so much but it gives someone else besides the main characters realism. And it has a decent fireworks-laden payoff.
All this bleeds in with Wilfred’s inherent jealousy and outright hatred of the mailman, leading him to first question death and the real meaning of what happens in “Marley and Me.” SPOILER to Wilfred, he really dies. (and the show actually handles this matter pretty seriously, Ryan mentioning that “it’s like turning off a light switch” feels darkly real) and that path has Wilfred then finding religion or a skewed perception of religion. And the way that they handle Wilfred’s religious conversion is hilarious and horrifying. From his legitimate marriage to Bear (finally) to Wilfred wearing underwear to hide his shame. And his constant judgmental attitude towards Ryan in his religious haze is great, and the toilet baptism? Oh, man. And as all things Wilfred finds interesting, he drops it in the blink of an eye. Wilfred’s inability to stick to something he’s interested in is something that will never, ever get old. And Wilfred’s dog mannerisms are one of the best things the writers have honed perfectly, like Wilfred’s fear of loud noises resulting in his peeing on the floor in fear or the tag during the credits with the dog whistle and the air horn.
The scene between Ryan and Jenna that closes the episode is quite nice. It tells a lot and doesn’t all the same. It’s clear Ryan harbors his feelings for her, and can you blame him? Jenna’s seemingly concerned with Ryan’s mental state (as she should be), and worried that she doesn’t notice his warning signs. It’s a different tack because there’s always a sense of warmth to their relationship, even as it’s been shaky in the past. The writer’s smartly moved them away from a couple by having Jenna marry Drew, and they still keep dropping those lingering feelings but it’s unclear if she wants to be around Ryan because of her fears of his mental illness or the fact that she actually likes him. It’s obvious that Jenna thinks Drew is a lunk head and Ryan may not be the exact perfect person for her but both Wood and Gubelmann mesh well together. These are things you don’t find in your average comedy. You don’t see mediations on death, religion, love and mental illness and scatological humor and all of it working together well.
You just don’t.