Ringer: Pilot

The new fall shows are here! Let’s check out The CW’s Ringer, shall we?

We open with things already in full swing: In a vast, unfurnished loft, a young woman hides from a burly masked man. The woman is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, erstwhile Buffy star, making a much-ballyhooed return to network television. Good to see you back on the small screen, Gellar; hope you stick around for a while. While hiding from the man, she accidentally hits the power button on a CD player. Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” begins to play, thus alerting her pursuer to her presence. She makes a dash for it, dodging through scaffolding. He tackles her to the floor. Struggling beneath him, she shouts, “You have the wrong girl!”

And now we flash back nine days, to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting somewhere in Wyoming. Gellar is Bridget Kelley: current waitress, former stripper, and former addict (as she has an outstanding charge for solicitation on her record, we can presumably add “former prostitute” to that list as well). Post-meeting, Bridget indulges in a little flirtatious banter with her sponsor, Malcolm (Mike Colter), before she’s distracted by the arrival of a mysterious man in a dark suit. Ah, it’s Lost’s Nestor Carbonell, he of the striking dark eyelashes and the perpetual aura of bemused menace. This is a promising sign.

Carbonell plays Special Agent Victor Machado, a Fed charged with protecting Bridget before she testifies against a fearsome crime lord named Bodaway Macawi. Skeptical of Machado’s ability to keep her safe from Macawi’s wrath, Bridget slips out of his custody and secretly meets with her wealthy and polished twin sister, Siobhan. Siobhan, naturally enough, is also played by Gellar.

Huh. Here’s the thing: I’m pro-Gellar. A great deal of credit for the success of Buffy rests on her tiny shoulders. And yet… Remember that Buffy episode where Faith and Buffy switched bodies, which should have resulted in much gleeful mayhem but instead fell flat because Gellar and Eliza Dushku only took glancing stabs at mimicking each other’s salient characteristics? The same thing happens here: Gellar isn’t trying hard enough. In terms of appearance, it’s easy to tell Siobhan from Bridget (frosty Siobhan is well-heeled and glamorous; dour Bridget is ragged and ratty), but in terms of mannerisms, there’s not enough difference to make it fun to watch Gellar flip between roles. Siobhan is just Bridget with better hair.


Siobhan takes Bridget to her empty beach house in the Hamptons. She confesses her husband of five years, Andrew, doesn’t know about bad-seed Bridget’s existence. Bridget stammers out an apology for some tragic past incident -- “I think about Sean every day,” she says -- but Siobhan cuts her off and assures her she’s already forgiven.

While out boating with Siobhan, Bridget wakes from a nap and finds herself alone on deck, the boat bobbing in the waves. She finds a prescription pill bottle, which turns out to contain Siobhan’s wedding ring, but there’s no sign of Siobhan.

Presuming her twin drowned, a frantic Bridget decides to impersonate Siobhan, figuring she’ll be safe from Macawi that way. She arrives at the lavish Manhattan apartment Siobhan shares with Andrew. Hey, it’s Ioan Gruffudd! I’m delighted to see him, though it’s slightly disappointing he’s not using his weird-and-wonky Fantastic Four-era American accent. Andrew is icy and English and bitchy, and he clearly doesn’t think much of Siobhan. He also fails to notice that his wife of five years has been replaced by an untrained imposter. Andrew is not terribly bright and kind of spiteful, but at least he’s very cute. And he tends to whip off his shirt and walk around bare-chested at the slightest provocation, so that’s certainly a point in his favor.

Anyway, Bridget calls Malcolm and tearfully briefs him on her situation. While all this happens, a super-breathy, super-special, super-ghastly cover of “25 or Six to Four” plays in the background, and I consider stabbing forks in my ears to make it stop.

(Bridget is a glum, dour, dreary little thing. This might be the single biggest problem I had with this pilot: As both Siobhan and Bridget, Gellar exerts the barest minimum amount of energy required to remain upright and breathing, like she picked exactly the wrong week to give up her morning coffee and stop taking her vitamins. Come on, Gellar! Look sharp! Shoulders back, chin up! I’m in your corner here. I want this show to be great, and I want you to be great in the role, but this is a rocky start.)

After a frosty night (upon seeing Bridget curled up in their bed, Andrew narrows his eyes and slithers off in a huff to sleep somewhere else), Bridget wakes to a phone call from Siobhan’s best friend, Gemma (Tara Summers). Still pretending to be Siobhan, Bridget meets her at a penthouse loft Gemma is renovating for Siobhan and Andrew. Gemma confides that she’s worried her husband, Henry, is having an affair. Clueless about all of the intricacies of Siobhan’s social life, Bridget looks gloomy and fakes her way through her end of the conversation as best she can.

Bridget and Andrew attend an opera recital, which is being held smack beneath the huge blue whale at the Natural History Museum. In public, Andrew is sweet and charming to his wife. Bridget slinks off to the Hall of African Mammals -- okay, I’m showing off my museum knowledge; I was just there on Monday -- where she’s grabbed and smooched by a mysterious well-dressed man.

There might be too many mysterious well-dressed men on this show.

The surprise smoocher is Gemma’s randy husband, Henry (Kristoffer Polaha), and yep, Siobhan is the Other Woman. He arranges to meet Siobhan/Bridget at a hotel on Thursday afternoon; Bridget wanly agrees.

First impressions? Henry’s a creepy, bullying jerk. Hopefully that’s what viewers were supposed to take away from that scene, because if it turns out he’s meant to be sympathetic, the writers really botched his introduction.

Back in their apartment, Andrew reverts to being icy and bitchy. Confused and distressed by this mood swing after his public show of affection at the gala, Bridget stammers out, “I thought we were cool.” For one shining moment, Bridget seems very likeable and genuine, like there might be a real person hiding beneath that dour, low-wattage exterior. She asks Andrew if they can continue to be nice to each other. This makes Andrew deeply suspicious.

After sneaking off to an NA meeting in Brooklyn, Bridget returns home and finds Siobhan’s teenaged stepdaughter Juliet (Zoey Deutch) in bed with a blindfolded and naked hunk. While I can appreciate a good sleazy character introduction, Juliet turns out to be a spiteful little snot. There’s some tedious inter-familial stuff with Andrew squabbling with Juliet, who got kicked out of boarding school for drugs and who wants to go live with her mom. Unfathomably, Andrew seems opposed to this.

And then Victor Machado and his Eyelashes of Doom show up at Bridget’s door. Assuming she’s Siobhan, he fills her in on Bridget’s disappearing act. Bridget claims she hasn’t seen her twin in years.

Bridget meets Henry at the hotel for their rendezvous, but tells him she can’t jeopardize her friendship with Gemma by sleeping with him. Henry does not take this well.

Meanwhile, Bridget gets a call from Siobhan’s doctor, informing her that she -- Siobhan, that is -- is four weeks pregnant. Argh. There’s going to be a fake-pregnancy plotline, isn’t there? I fricking hate fake-pregnancy plotlines. I stopped watching Glee in the first season because of that feeble, contrived plotline with Terri’s fake pregnancy. Andrew and Bridget meet Henry and Gemma for drinks to celebrate; Henry, who is convinced he’s the father, takes Bridget aside and begs her to leave Andrew for him.

Andrew has a terse and ominous phone conversation with an unknown party: “I know we negotiated that, but I want out.”

Gemma calls Bridget and asks to meet her at the loft. And now we’ve finally caught up to the opening scene, which is shown once again in its entirety, Patsy Cline music and all. You know, showing the same exact (lengthy) scene twice in one forty-four minute episode is not a great way to hold viewer interest. In fact, it screams of padding, since there was no justifiable plot-based reason to first show the scene as a teaser.

After the masked man tackles her, Bridget kicks him off, then grabs a gun she stole when she escaped from federal custody and shoots him. She assumes he’s one of Macawi’s henchmen, sent to kill her so she won’t testify against him, but when she searches his body, she finds he’s carrying a photo of Siobhan.

And in some unidentified location, we find Siobhan, alive and well and wearing a slinky dress.

Hmm. There’s unrealized potential here, but right now, it needs to be more: more complex, more devious, more layered, more engrossing. I’m willing to give it another week to see if it gels together (and to see if Gellar boosts her caffeine intake), but based on this, it’s probably best to keep expectations low.

Comments

Morgan Dodge said…
As I was watching this show, starring Gruffudd, I was hoping you caught it. That Gellar chick is okay, but it should be clear who the real star is here, yes?

Is it safe to say that I heart Nestor Carbonell? He'll always be Batmanuel to me, but still, awesome. So glad someone was smart enough to keep him on TV.

I totally agree that Gellar didn't stretch the two sisters far enough apart in how they were presented, but I kinda blame the director. I think the director needs to push for there to be more difference in the two performances (clearly not done at the same time). They're supposed to have that perspective on the two different performances. Then again, maybe the director tried and she just didn't get it. What do I know.

The rhythm of everything reminded me too much of Gossip Girl or something. I don't know if they think that's what sells now, but if a woman just took the place of her (presumed) dead twin-sister while on the run from a dangerous killer don't you think the pacing should feel a bit more like a thriller and a bit less like a who-cares-about-these-people society column show?

I thought it was very well written, on the plus side. There is potential here. I'll give it another chance. Maybe two?
Morgan Richter said…
I would probably watch Nestor Carbonell in anything. I heart him, too.

Yeah, glad you brought up the pacing. I think they missed the chance to create a lot of tense, moody atmosphere in favor of a very languid, almost stagnant pace. A lot happened in the pilot, some of which probably seemed pretty exciting and involving on paper (deceptions! intrigue! gunshots!), but the presentation was flat. I will say the show looked great -- nice set design overall. I hope it grows into its potential.
Dan said…
I only skimmed the review, because if I decide to watch this I don't want to be too badly spoilerified.

But I'm just chiming in to say that I, too, heart Mayor Richard Alpert.

It's a heart-a-thon!
Morgan Richter said…
Consensus: Everybody hearts Nestor! I think it's all the viewer bonhomie he acquired from being so damn cool on Lost, but yeah, I'm always happy to see him on my screen.
doppiav said…
The thing I found more surprising is that two twins, who lived apart for years, have the same hair-cut and color...very convenient for an unscheduled change of identity.

I am also happy because I finally discovered how to pronounce the name Siobhan.

apart from this...I am too used to Gellar as brave, witty, feminist-role-model Buffy to really appreciate her either as ex junkie/stripper or as icy upper class lady...
Morgan Richter said…
Yes, it was mighty lucky for Bridget that she and her twin both kept their hair the same length and color, wasn't it? Ah, well. I can forgive the show that coincidence. I'm a little more concerned about how Bridget and Siobhan are so alike in terms of speech patterns and mannerisms -- I really wish there'd been more distinction between the two. It would have made watching Gellar flip between characters a whole lot more enjoyable.

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