The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Why Is Ringer No Fun at All?

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer


Don’t act surprised, you knew it was coming, my inevitable review of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s new show Ringer. As a Whedonite and Buffy-holic, how can I forgo commenting on SMG’s return to the small screen after so many years? I’ve managed to hold off until I had seen at least two episodes, but that’s the best I could do and now it’s time for my thoughts on Ringer.

Although I really wished it wasn’t. Because I don’t have a lot of nice things to say, no matter how much I might want to. As almost the entire Buffy fandom, I am one of those people trying very hard to like Ringer, because we want good things to happen to the stars we love. The only good thing I can say about Ringer so far is that its premiere gave The CW its highest ratings in three years, but those numbers still weren’t even close to anything Buffy or Angel delivered back in the day and not as high as some at The CW headquarters were hoping for.  The “teenage network” is struggling these days overall and they were hoping Ringer would be a break-out hit from the start. It’s not.

So let’s start spreading the blame. The premise isn’t terrible, although we’ve seen it before. SMG plays twins Siobhan and Bridget, the latter soon assuming the identity of the former, after she thinks Siobhan to have committed suicide, in an attempt to escape a criminal she, Bridget, was supposed to testify against in court.
Don’t worry, if that is too complicated for you already, Episode 2 (and I am assuming subsequent episodes) have a nice, trite little SMG monolog in the beginning, explaining exactly what happened. Heavy-handed? You betcha.

The symbolism is also more than heavy-handed (paralyzed-handed?), especially in the pilot episode mirrors (or reflective surfaces) keep appearing everywhere and there are very noticeable issues with the green screen used when SMG has to star opposite herself. Episode 2 dialed this back quite a bit, to no general effect of improvement, but the problem of SMG actually not being two people still makes the show look very predictable and boring in those scenes where she has to encounter herself as the other sister. We get to see a lot of cross-cutting and over-the-shoulder-shots, a technique even the most basic drama shows have been moving away from, because it is so conventional and so easily spotted as lazy scene blocking.

Ringer’s biggest problems, however, lie in the script and pacing of the plot. The show simply piles on way too much way to fast and tries to get by on the supposedly shocking twists it throws at us every ten minutes. Two episodes in Bridget as Siobhan has already managed to escape disaster and discovery more times than I can count, not to mention she has already killed someone and now has to cover up a murder, while the cops, who are looking for Bridget, are already knocking at her door and crashing parties she is throwing with Siobhan’s husband.

Siobhan, on the other hand, didn’t kill herself at all, but seems to have been a real bitca in her every day life. She is pregnant and has escaped to Paris, where she is making mysterious phone calls that sound conspicuously like she is ordering her sister to be killed. Not to mention that the guy Bridget as Siobhan killed in New York was actually an assassin sent after Siobhan.
And I haven’t even mentioned yet that Bridget is a recovering alcoholic, who is responsible for killing Siobhan’s first child, a son, in a car accident.

Is your head hurting yet? Yes, we have found out all this and more in just two episodes, so I have to wonder: where is Ringer planning to go? They have already fired so many weapons in their arsenal, the show runs the risk of becoming campy and contrived (even more than it already is) very soon. Of course there is something to be said in favor of balls-to-the-wall storytelling and not holding anything back, but simultaneously this means that Ringer will become very complicated quickly, making it all the more unlikely to gain viewers that haven’t started watching in Episode 1. This should be a major concern to The CW, because maintaining an audience – if not building on it – is the number one factor for the survival of any TV show. Missing one episode of Ringer may very well leave viewers so confused that they will give up on the show, the exact opposite of what you would want to happen.

Finally, I can’t help but spreading some of the blame on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s sandwich as well. It’s still early in the show, but she doesn’t have me convinced that she actually has a firm grip on the two characters she is supposed to be playing. Part of the intrigue of the show, naturally, is that we can never be sure which one of the sisters we are actually seeing at any given moment – or at least I think that’s what the intrigue is supposed to be. However, in most scenes it is quite clear who we are seeing, so I would like the two characters of Bridget and Siobhan to be more distinct from each other, something SMG should be able to accomplish with her acting.  

I have to say that in the few scenes we have seen her be Siobhan I have enjoyed her more than as Bridget, because the character of Siobhan is so evil and cunning, it brings back glorious memories of SMG’s character in Cruel Intentions. As much as I love Sarah Michelle Gellar when she is the lovable, relatable, good-hearted girl, I think I love her even more when she is sly and bad-ass. For right now the two sisters are separated by the Atlantic, but I fear the day that Ringer has to reunite them, as inevitably it must, because their plans run crosswise, because that will lead to so much green screen chaos I can already feel the eye cancer coming on.

At this point I can’t even recommend a fix for the problems Ringer has. There quite frankly just might not be one. Maybe if the whole concept had been approached more from a The Usual Suspects’ kind of angle, keeping us in the dark about one sister entirely and setting in just when Bridget first assumes her sister’s identity without actually telling us that’s what she is doing, the show could have worked better.
Right now I am at a stage of praying for anything good or daring to happen on the show, because I really, really want to like it and I want only the best for SMG. Ringer, sadly, is not it.