Entertainment Magazine

Review #3011: Ringer 1.1: “Pilot”

Posted on the 15 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder
Directed by Richard Shepard

I will get this out of the way first: This is definitely not “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. “Ringer” is a show that tries its hardest to separate itself from that, even if Sarah Michelle Gellar’s fingerprints are all over it. She’s the lead (or double leads, if you want to get technical with the twin storyline) and one of the main producers of the series. Her seven-year absence from television does show up, unfortunately, in this and it remains to be seen whether that will be an ongoing hindrance or completely forgotten as the season moves along. I feel that it’s unfair for a series like this to be judged by the baggage of a formerly beloved show like “Buffy”, but it’s hard not to ignore it. “Buffy” was a great series. We should acknowledge that and move on.

Review #3011: Ringer 1.1: “Pilot”

“Ringer” jumps into the life of Bridget Kelly (Gellar), a former stripper and recovering drug addict who has a complicated life. She is a murder witness against a dangerous mob boss (I don’t know whether it’s interesting or a bit racist that there is a Native American mob boss) in Wyoming and she goes on the lam because said killer is coming after her. She meets her twin sister Siobahn and reconnect after several years of estrangement. Then Siobahn disappears soon after, is presumed killed, and Bridget must assume her identity in order to keep the authorities off her trail. Siobahn lives the high life in New York City (did we really expect any other city?), but it’s a more complicated pickle than Bridget ever expected. It is something right out of a soap opera, with an emotionally distant husband (Ioan Gruffold) and step-daughter. She is engaging in an affair with Henry (Kristoffer Polaha), her best friend’s husband. All while being chased by a US Marshal named Victor (Nestor Carbonell), who is in the city to look for Bridget and get her to testify against the Native American killer.

The brief explanations of the show’s plotline was, I admit, initially confusing to me. Now, after seeing the pilot, it isn’t that hard to figure things out. I think that was in part of rushing through plot developments within the hourlong space. For example, Siobahn disappears twenty minutes into the episode. Bridget thinks she killed herself, but smarter audiences know that Siobahn will pop up again. If anyone didn’t realize it, Siobahn’s step-daughter mentions that Siobahn likes to play “games” with people, and her husband seems to think that manipulation is a standard modus operandi with her.

Sure enough, the cliffhanger at the end confirms this. This is all obviously setup for the course of the plot through the season. What is Siobahn really up to? Why did she feel it necessary to disappear or make people close to her think she disappeared? Also, Bridget taking her identity seems to be a crucial part of the manipulation. This was the one part of the pilot I found intriguing, and it was in so little of the episode. Hopefully, there is more to come as the season progresses.

The intrigue with the long con Siobahn is pulling looked so good only because the rest of it was not that great. Bridget seems to be the twin who is in over her head. They never fully flesh out the relationship between her and Siobahn that it then becomes difficult to believe that the other characters in Siobahn’s life would just take Bridget-as-Siobahn at her word. How many times can you say that you “forgot” to do something? Or that she’s not acting like the “normal” Siobahn?

All of these questions is trumped by a twist that Bridget might not be able to fake: Siobahn’s pregnant, and it is not her husband’s baby. Introducing a pregnancy plot this early in a series is not a good sign and I have to wonder if the writers ever took that into consideration while developing the series. There is also some really groan-inducing dialogue, a mirror motif that was more annoying as the episode progressed (and really not as stylish as the director thinks it is), and a general sad and somber tone throughout the pilot.

“Ringer” is clearly a show that still needs more development. Sarah Michelle Gellar is a good actress when she’s given good material and the pilot doesn’t give off that impression. She mustn’t depend on the goodwill she gets from being the lead of a great show in the past. Fans will only give you so much leeway. If the show continues the same kind of tone as the pilot, it could become unbearable. They should have more fun with the plot; I felt like they should have worked more towards a campy, noir-ish feel, but that was seemingly hampered by the expositional nature of the pilot episode, something that’s all too common in television.

Emphasizing and/or balancing the true nature of Siobahn’s manipulation would be a step in the right direction. I’m intrigued enough by that element to stick with it, though it’s tempered by the ticking time bomb revelation of her pregnancy (which just demonstrates why the writers that should have been left that twist for a future episode) and I want to see where they go with it. Short of that, not much is there.

Grade: 6/10


I was willing to give it a bit more leeway, given that it is a pilot and the writers were working within expository constraints to get the basic plot elements in place, but then I really had issues with the poor direction. I agree with Henry: the mirror motif was overused, and worse, done without a shred of subtlety. If a director is going to use a visual metaphor, it can’t be so blatant.

There’s also the entire boat sequence, which was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a long time. The difference between the location and studio shots was palpable, right down to the lighting. I can only assume Gellar was just as uncomfortable with the cheap lack of authenticity of the whole thing, because that was some of the worst acting I’ve seen from her since before “Buffy”.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, where studios are doing everything possible to keep the budgets for pilots low and affordable, but that was a key scene for setting up the tone of the show. When I’m led to think more about how the shots must have been done to avoid seeing the edge of the backdrop, instead of the apparent tragedy on-screen, that’s a telling miscue.

But I will say this: I want to give this show a chance, to see if these are just the usual pilot problems, magnified by budget concerns, or something in the DNA of the show itself. I like Gellar and the premise enough to give them that benefit of the doubt.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 0/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 5/10

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