Ringer 1.01: Pilot

Broadcast Date: 13 September 2011
Director: Richard Shepard
Writers: Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder
Cast: Nestor Carbonell, Mike Colter, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ioan Gruffudd, and Kristoffer Polaha

© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures
© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Going by the commercials, one might think Ringer a thriller in the vein of The Prisoner. In fact, the show is a lurid soap opera with noir undertones. Hey, if you like that sort of thing, I’m not judging. However, I do question the CW’s wisdom in attempting to pass perfectly viable maple syrup for barbecue sauce. Those who would’ve appreciated the rich and sticky feel of the series probably went to bed early while those looking to add some kick to their meaty primetime viewing might feel like they’ve just wasted an hour of their lives.

The premise: recovering addict Bridget Cafferty (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is trying to turn a new leaf. She’s attending AA meetings, reconnecting with her twin, Siobhan, and helping law enforcement prosecute a dangerous crime lord by serving as a prime witness. The only problem is she doesn’t think the police can protect her. A spectacularly ill-conceived solution comes when Siobhan disappears, and, instead of calling the authorities, Bridget decides to take over her sister’s identity, which, of course, turns out more than she bargained for.

As these things go, Siobhan led a miserable life despite her considerable wealth. She was stuck in a loveless marriage, kept getting into fights with her junkie stepdaughter (Zoey Deutch), and somehow ended up pregnant from an affair with her best friend’s husband (Kristoffer Polaha). Also, someone’s trying to assassinate her, though that may just be Siobhan trying to rid herself of that troublemaking sister of hers and get her convoluted plan back on track. Next step: unleash the lizard men!

What the pilot lacks in plausibility, it makes up for in style and atmosphere. Every shot seems designed to make us tilt our heads and think, “Pretty.” Sure, one can feel the TV budget here and there, especially in the yacht scene that leads to Siobhan’s disappearance, but ultimately the CGI environments add to the show’s dream-like quality and help us share Bridget’s alienation. At some point, I thought the two sisters would turn out the same woman suffering from multiple personality disorder.

© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures
© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

After all, the narrative keeps skipping over key moments, forcing us to rely on flashbacks and cryptic revelations to fill in the gaps. I suspect some will complain that the writers are using time jumps to generate suspense where there is none. To me, stories are bound only by dramatic logic. As such, it’s not that the writers are refusing to tell events in their proper sequence. It’s that the story itself doesn’t follow chronological order. The drawback lies in the viewers having to distance themselves from the drama to understand it. Of course, with Ringer, that may be the point.

I can’t tell whether series creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder are taking a tongue-in-cheek approach or a ponderously symbolic one. Truth be told, it all comes across a smidge heavy-handed. We get it: the show discusses duality. The characters are neither good nor bad. They’re merely making decisions that reflect opposite sides of their personalities. The actors do a solid job conveying this notion, especially Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose Bridget seems more reckless than opportunistic, so was it necessary to place a mirror in every other scene?

I’d have gladly exchanged all those shots of Gellar staring at her own reflection for a handful of jokes from the characters. Ringer feels strangely humourless for a series that trades in the sort of material one might find on Days of Our Lives. I also question how long the writers can hold our interest with such a finite premise. If they hold back the revelations for too long, viewers might get bored. If they move too quickly with their twists and turns, the show might come off trashy or, worse, like One Tree Hill. Then again, that series has been on the air for nearly a decade, so what do I know?

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Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."