Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to The CW in the new thriller Ringer, and while the series is a far cry from the vampire staking antics of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the premiere of this dark mystery of assumed identity should still attract throngs of Gellar devotees – but can it keep them tuning in?
Let's be honest; the draw of Ringer is seeing Gellar back on television after eight years without her. Thankfully, SMG isn’t the only draw. Ringer producers have assembled a top-notch cast, which includes familiar faces like former Mr. Fantastic Ioan Gruffudd, and the Mayor of Gotham City, Nestor Carbonell – with Kristoffer Polaha taking a drastic turn from his role on the teen-centric drama Life Unexpected as Henry, a man sharing a secret with Siobhan (Gellar).
So how does Ringer play out? Well, if you've been following, you'll know that Ringer is the story of estranged twin sisters: the über-rich Siobhan and the troubled, recovering addict Bridget (also Gellar). The series has been teasing the seemingly simple premise that Bridget has assumed the identity of her missing – and presumed dead – twin.
Though it sounds like someone is trying to put a dark spin on The Parent Trap, Ringer quickly proves that the world in which Gellar finds herself is not so black and white – but it’s not all that complex, either.
Ringer begins in Wyoming where Bridget is under the protective custody of F.B.I. Agent Victor Machado (Carbonell) while waiting to testify against the crime boss who she witnessed committing a murder. Things go south quickly, and Bridget finds herself on the run from the law and the mob – seeking refuge with her alienated sibling in New York.
The mystery of what drove them apart is briefly teased before Siobhan offers a seemingly obligatory exoneration to Bridget – and then, hours later, appears to have drowned while the sisters went boating. Desperate, Bridget does what any down-on-her-luck identical twin would do in the face of such tragedy – assume the identity of the now deceased twin, of course.
Given that Ringer has a great deal of plot that needs to be explained in the series premiere, it was pleasant to see how the episode actually took off like a rocket, and included a few of the twists that series creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder (Supernatural) say will be a big part of Ringer's draw.
As mentioned before, Ringer does a great job of setting up the series' premise, while providing enough information about the world Bridget is trying to leave – and the one she is entering – without being bogged down by too much expository dialogue.
Sure, there are points where Bridget and Siobahn's exchanges border on tedious, but the inherent importance of the siblings' fractured relationship – and how it will play into the continuation of the season – more than accommodates for any slowdown in Ringer's pace.
However, the interaction between the two is also the episode’s weakest point. In this day of cutting edge special effects, the back-and-forth editing between Bridget and Siobhan looks downright sophomoric. Additionally, the dialogue feels stilted and forced – as though Gellar is all too aware her performance will only be made whole later on.
Case in point: the scene in which Siobhan and Bridget go boating seems to be actively working to convince the audience these are not two separate characters. Furthermore, the scene is not only incongruent with the look and feel the program has already established, but is so utterly convenient that it practically spells out the final twist at the end of the episode.
Provided Ringer limits the amount of time Bridget and Siobhan share the screen, it will likely find a more solid performance from Gellar – and an audience more willing to take the program seriously and believe what is happening.
Therein lies the other challenge for Ringer, however. As the series relies heavily on the fact that all (or at least most) of the characters believe Bridget to be Siobhan, the ease with which Bridget assimilates into a world she arguably knows nothing about creates the effect that Siobhan’s friends and family aren’t altogether bright or observant, leaving the audience unsure what to feel about them.
Sure, Siobhan’s husband Andrew (Gruffudd) suspects something is amiss, which will likely be more drawn out later in the series, but other people with whom Siobhan had been intimate are conveniently none the wiser. Still, a viewer’s disbelief in Bridget’s Jason Bourne-like assimilation skills could very well be trumped – or thrown out the window altogether – if the series amps up the entertainment level by constantly throwing a wrench into the audience’s assumptions about each character.
Should Charmelo and Snyder deftly navigate the tightrope that is a television mystery (i.e., the perfect balance of lingering questions and shocking reveals) Ringer could easily become a show worth sticking with.
For now, Ringer is a fun mystery that is hindered by some glitches and limitations (technical and otherwise), which can easily be ironed out as the series progresses. While there is concern as to how sustainable this mystery series can be, hopefully the writers and producers can make it worth sustaining.
Ringer airs Tuesdays @9pm on The CW.
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