Heading into tonight's premiere of "Ringer", I was worried that the abundance of promotion done for the show had given away too much of what happened not only in the pilot but in Season 1 as a whole. Fans who'd been reading the preview material and interviews with the cast already knew that Bridget (the "messed up" of the two twins played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) had issues with the law, that she would replace her sister Siobhan (pronounced "Shavonne") after what appeared to be the latter's untimely demise on a sisterly boat trip, that Bridget would pretend to be Siobhan and learn that Siobhan was cheating on her husband and that it would turn out Siobhan was alive.
Well, as it turns out, the producers of "Ringer" still had a couple surprises left in store for us, in tonight's impressive premiere. The pre-"death" portion of the episode at the beginning was a little rough, only if because the tricks used to get the two sisters on screen at the same time were a little painful. But once the show moved beyond that and got into the meat of its conceit going forward, it really started to shine.
Things got a little complicated at times, so let's try to break this down by character:
- Bridget is on the run from the FBI, having fled from testifying at a murder trial. She's now officially a fugitive, because charges against her were dropped on the condition she testified. She's posing as her estranged twin sister Siobhan, who never told anyone in her life about Bridget's existence.
- The FBI officer who had been protecting Bridget in Wyoming (played by the incredible Nestor Carbonell) is now in New York. He met with Bridget-as-Siobhan (who, for simplicity, I'll be calling "Bribhan" until the blogosphere comes up with something better), who lied to him, and he's suspicious of her, but doesn't appear to suspect the dual identity... yet.
- Siobhan's husband, Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd), immediately picks up on something being different with Bribhan, first just physically, then in personality. He also appears to be up to something, based on a phone call scene we only saw briefly.
- Siobhan was having an affair with Henry (Kristoffer Polaha) and -- TWIST -- she's supposed to be four weeks pregnant. Siobhan didn't know this for sure before she disappeared (though she obviously suspected it, since she ordered blood tests), and Bribhan obviously doesn't know who the father is.
- Gemma (Tara Summers), Siobhan's best friend, suspects that Henry is having an affair, and by the end of the episode, she claims to have figured out with who.
- Oh, and Siobhan. She faked her death, is now looking STUNNING in Paris, and appears to have put out a hit on... herself? Sort of. Maybe?
We don't know too many details about that final twist. Did Siobhan assume Bridget would take up her life, and is now trying to have her killed for some reason? Or did Siobhan try to fake her death for insurance or other reasons, and is she now trying to clean up the Bridget-created mess?
Obviously that's a lot happening in a 40-minute episode, but I think "Ringer" made the right choice to go heavy on the reveals in the pilot, rather than dragging mysteries out over the first half of the season. I think the strength of the show is in the characters being in the dark, rather than the audience, like we were with something like "The Event". How "Ringer" handles the steady reveal of information in the coming weeks will be a huge determinant in its long-term success.
I thought Gellar did an admirable job handling the dual roles, with the exception of the scenes when the sisters were together. Each of the three characters (counting Bribhan as her own unique entity) has their own feel, and Gellar subtly brings each one to life. The show also did a nice job addressing how Bridget can slide into Siobhan's life -- via the Type-A Siobhan's obsessive day planner -- while also not being overly convincing to those closest to her. The pregnancy situation also gives Bribhan, a recovering addict, a convenient reason to continue not drinking, in a world of champagne and fancy cocktails -- and fancier clothes (holy crap, the wardrobe on this show is so beautiful).
One last minor note, that really has very little to do with the show as a whole. Siobhan's step-daughter is played by Zoey Deutch. Disney Channel fans will probably recognize her from "The Suite Life on Deck" (I certainly did not), but I wasn't familiar with her. I went and looked her up, and it turns out that she's Lea Thompson's daughter. Lea Thompson, from "Back to the Future", has a 17-year-old daughter who is acting on a TV show I plan on watching regularly. Holy shit, I'm so fucking old.