Review by C.J. Bunce
Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a dual role as estranged twin sisters in her new series Ringer on the CW network. The “ringer” in the title is presumably Gellar as sister Bridget, who ends up as a pretender and “dead ringer” for high-class sister Siobhan. The difficulty for Gellar will be getting viewers to forget she was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The pilot episode featured non-stop plot twists, so many that it the show is very engaging, but begs the question: Can the writers keep up the momentum, or will this ultimately fall flat like Buffy co-star Eliza Dushku’s overly hyped but short-lived series Dollhouse?
Ringer plays more like Gellar’s early soap opera work but there may be more here to stick around for. As Bridget, the focal character of the series, Gellar shines as a weatherbeaten survivor of one or more 12-step programs, barely making it in the world, and currently plea bargaining a prostitution rap in exchange for turning states’ evidence on a local crime boss. But Bridget is smart and clever and concocts a plan to go away with a long-lost sister, Siobhan, who no one in Bridget’s current world knows about, a classy and smarter sister who is wealthy and has a seemingly perfect life. But Siobhan too reveals a more vulnerable side and we slowly learn her life is in shambles in various ways.
On a boat ride the sisters bond but Siobhan drugs Bridget and by all accounts Siobhan throws herself overboard. This leaves Bridget to step into her life like in The Riches or Dave, but Ringer is no comedy. Bridget learns her sister had a dysfunctional relationship with her husband, played by Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Fantastic Four). She easily takes to her sister’s best friend, only to learn her sister (and now she) is having an affair with her friend’s husband. Yet we get the feeling she likes Siobhan’s husband and could make her new life work as his wife. See the soap opera-esque branches starting to form?
As almost an afterthought she learns the problem behind her sister’s marriage: their son must have met some early death. This is befuddling and we only know this from a brief reaction to a snapshot on a shelf. Wouldn’t this son have come up in a prior conversation? We must assume this was also held back for some reason as part of Siobhan’s planned death.
To leave us further hanging, Bridget picks up the phone to learn her sister’s test results are back, Siobhan was pregnant, and Bridget repeats this aloud so now her new husband thinks she is pregnant.
But wait–there’s more. We see a last-minute murder attempt on Bridget’s life. And the person behind the hit? Flash to Paris, France and here is the real Siobhan, alive and well after all.
Ringer will be the ideal star vehicle for Gellar and opportunity for Emmy glory. She gets to play a down-and-out fish out of water with Bridget, and Bridget’s opposite in jet setter, fashion forward Siobhan, both caught up in this complicated web of deceit, with Gellar onscreen for every minute of it. Do they pay actors twice for playing two roles? Do you think Gellar asked her agent this question? (Buffy would have). Viewers will find themselves asking: which sister is Gellar more like in real life?
Except for the huge Buffy fan base that is eager to see the next new Gellar project, the cards are stacked against any show like this being successful. Will each episode be about lies built on other lies, with Bridget skating through all the barriers thrown at her? How long can that story last, or will they play up the soap opera plotting to make this go on forever? With most series cancelled abruptly we may never learn where the story will end. Ringer’s producers and writers will need to offer more than twists to keep viewers watching.
That said, episode one pummeled us, along with character Bridget, with a lot of material to digest. Gellar’s acting is more nuanced than her Buffy days, and what she has to offer new each week is what will likely keep viewers coming back for more.