Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pilot Review: Ringer

Ringer (Tuesdays at 9:00 on CW)

If you go back and look at some of the previous posts from upfronts and before, you'll see that I've been rooting for this show's success since it was first announced. I'll admit that I'm a little bias because for many years Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my life. I literally cared more about that show than just about anything else. So any series that features the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar would have me on board immediately. It's just a bonus with Ringer that the show is actually good.

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins Bridget and Siobhan. Bridget is an ex-stripper and former addict who is attempting to mend fences with her sister, a Manhattan socialite. Something tragic happened between the two of them six years ago, something dealing with a young boy named Sean (presumably Siobhan's son). Bridget is currently in Witness Protection after seeing her former boss murder a coworker, and his conviction rests solely on her testimony. But the day before the trial Siobhan finally reaches out to Bridget and extends an invitation to visit her Hamptons home for a weekend. While the two are out in a boat, Bridget falls asleep and awakes to find an empty bottle of pills and her sister's diamond ring, but no Siobhan. Bridget decides that in order to escape the murderer who has her number and to cover up the disappearance of her sister, she will become Siobhan. But as Bridget becomes more involved in her sister's life, not everything is as perfect as it looks.

Ringer moves along at breakneck speed in this first episode. Siobhan's idyllic life shatters in front of Bridget's eyes as the lost sister begins to realize how awful this "perfect" life really is. Sarah Michelle Gellar deftly plays three characters, juggling each with aplomb: Bridget, Siobhan and Bridget-as-Siobhan. There is a carefulness and subtlety to each performance. She finds moments everywhere in this first hour to shine, which isn't difficult considering how surprisingly strong the material is. The life-switching premise isn't exactly new (in fact it's already happening on another show currently airing on ABC Family, The Lying Game), but the script is filled with enough intriguing twists to make it feel like it is. Ringer doesn't rest on its laurels, addressing in this first episode many of the logical questions typically asked of such a plot: How could sisters who haven't spoken in six years know intimate details of each other's lives? Wouldn't those closest to them know something is off? Are any two people really completely identical? All of these questions and more are touched upon, providing a realism that is inherently questioned in a life-swapping story like this.

There's also a style displayed that is not only slick but clever. Director Richard Shepard (Ugly Betty, Criminal Minds) makes excellent use of mirrors here. Their presence is always keen, particularly in scenes when Bridget finds new secrets of Siobhan's life. Can she even trust her own reflection? Does she see Bridget or Siobhan looking back at her? And the use of the mirror in the final scene is ingenious; I won't spoil what happens, but it's a very small moment that comes across beautifully.

And that's really the best part of Ringer. A lot happens, and most of it is very entertaining. But it's the small and subtle moments that really make this show an intriguing mystery and an intense character piece. Upon being asked how she can be certain of her sister's actions when they haven't spoken in so long, Bridget-as-Siobhan cryptically answers, "We're twins." Two small words that can be read into so deeply, I could go on for hours. That's what will not only keep me tuning in but will make me looks forward to watching every week.

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