When you’re a single parent, having grief and learning to cope with it is almost inevitable. After all, what should be a task split between two people is now relegated to one person. And if there’s anyone who knows this, it’s writer/director Abe Forsythe. Not only is he a single parent himself, but he has also channeled his own experiences into his latest project Wolf Like Me. Luckily for us, this show tackles these heavy themes in an elegant and beautifully scripted way.
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The six-episode romantic dramedy series follows a couple named Gary (Josh Gad) and Mary (Isla Fisher). Each of them are carrying their own emotional baggage when they first meet. Gary is a single father raising his daughter Emma (Ariel Joy Donoghue) while Mary is carrying a secret of her own that she’s been unable to share with anyone for over a decade. These two must learn to handle their own, and each other’s, trauma as the universe continually pushes them together.
From the very first scene, it’s clear what Forsythe is going for. Wolf Like Me is first and foremost a drama, despite starring two well-known comedians. However, the range of both Gad and Fisher really shines through as they give funny and tear-jerking performances. Gad, in particular, gives one of his better dramatic performances to date. Gary has spent so much of his adult life chaperoning his only daughter to the point where he uses it to justify being single. His pensive over-parenting is easier than putting himself back out into the dating world.
Gad is able to deliver a compelling performance as the overprotective father that doesn’t pander to the audience. His fears and trepidations are on full display while subtle nuances remind the audience that he’s still human. His scenes with Donoghue feel genuine and authentic to the point you’d think they were a real father and daughter. Emma deals with severe anxiety and depression that culminate in panic attacks. These frequent panic attacks leave her father scrambling to try and help. The show doesn’t shy away from the erratic nature in which anxiety attacks or bouts of depression come forth. Another child actor might not have been able to pull off such dramatic moments but Donoghue gives a believable and intense performance.
The stand-out of the show is Fisher. I found myself captivated when she was on-screen and missing her presence when she wasn’t. Fisher has some of the more dramatic moments as well as some of the better jokes. She brings her trademark unbridled nature to Mary and it works well. Mary goes from cursing like a sailor to having genuinely palpable moments with Gad at the drop of a hat. The way she becomes entangled in Gary and Emma’s lives completely flips the meet/cute trope on its head. This subversion helps the audience prepare for the unexpected. She shares some truly powerful moments with Emma as she slowly becomes the surrogate mother Emma wants and needs.
Forsythe and company do an exemplary job at keeping the plot moving. In one of the better-paced shows I’ve seen, they’re able to let moments breathe without making the scene feel trite or boring. This is a show that will be binged whether the viewer is meaning to or not. Wolf can become predictable at points but the charisma from the actors is what keeps the show feeling fresh. The chemistry between Gad and Fisher is the foundation for this entire show. I really felt the two characters were genuinely falling for one another. The way the show presents each of their traumas and baggage and how they respectively navigate it lent to the show’s authenticity.
Wolf Like Me shouldn’t work on paper but it does. The sound and set design do a fantastic job of creating that feeling of isolationism and loneliness. The show is set in Australia and the creators use the Outback to really show how alone we can truly feel. I would really like to see the show continue for an additional season at the very least. The show balances its drama and comedy incredibly well. The final episode ends on a bit of an anti-climactic note but also leaves us off with an exciting opportunity to see this story continue. – Kellen Murack
Wolf Like Me drops all episodes on Peacock on January 13th.