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December 21, 2014

'Ringer': Sarah Michelle Gellar Tackles Twin Role in New Thriller Series

by Stephanie Earp, posted Sep 21st 2011 9:00AM


The highlight of the fall premiere season for me so far is 'Ringer' - and I'm so glad. I wanted to like it and was worried I wouldn't, but the pilot impressed me. I like the film noir feel, the fantastic cinematography and the (admittedly plot-heavy) set-up for a cracking good thriller. Like so many others, I loved Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, but I've been underwhelmed by her film roles, and began to doubt if she could anchor anything without Joss Whedon's writing to guide her.

But it turns out she's perfectly cast as a recovering addict who is exhausted and run-down, but still has glimmers of spunk. Gellar's Bridget is a nice person, but weak. She doesn't make choices so much as she lets circumstances wash over her. It's frustrating to watch, and she's not the easiest character to sympathize with.

Her sister is even worse. Thanks to some fairly dubious circumstances, Bridget finds herself posing as her wealthy twin sister Siobhan. Over the course of the pilot, her disguise forces her to pretend a number of things I think most of us would find pretty difficult - she has to pretend to know people intimately that she has never met or seen before, pretend not to be an alcoholic, pretend to want to sleep with her husband (who is actually her sister's husband and one of those people's she's never met before), and, finally, pretend to be pregnant - and also pretend that the father of the baby (which she isn't carrying, remember) is her husband (who isn't her husband, remember) and not her best friend's husband with whom she is having an affair, and who seems to genuinely love her - well not her, but her sister.

It's a lot to keep track of, and miraculously, Gellar pulls it all off with aplomb. She hesitates and stumbles enough that we never forget she's playing a role within a role, but doesn't stray so far off track that we no longer believe the people around her wouldn't get suspicious.

So it's kind of ironic, considering the heavy load she carries as Bridget, that Gellar falls apart as Siobhan.

Or maybe it's the ultimate compliment. Siobhan is supposed to be a cold, flat, calculating lady-who-lunches, and I guess Gellar just can't play an ice princess. She turns Siobhan into a Manhattan Cruella de Ville - but without the fashion sense. It makes Siobhan's scenes a title tough to take. If the writers know what's good for them and their lead, they'll deepen the evil twin character or get rid of her.

Because the show doesn't need Siobhan. Oh I'm sure she features heavily as a plot point, but I mean we don't need her onscreen. The energetic pilot has set up enough identity crises to last at least a few seasons - and I think many of them could be very resonant with the very fans who came of age with 'Buffy'. I know some of them got to me.

The most poignant scenes were between Bridget and Siobhan's husband Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd). Bridget walks into her first encounter with him expecting to be uncomfortable with the intimacy and warmth she'll have to fake - you can see her steel herself to make believe. Instead she's met by Andrew's coldness and indifference. This rift in the relationship is convenient for Bridget, yet she still can't leave it alone. She reaches out to him several times - and he can't see that not only is this woman not his wife, he can't even tell she is genuine. Kudos to Gruffudd that I totally believe it - and even understood it. I've been there, at dark moments in my own relationships, where I've been so hurt by the past, that I was blind to a genuine attempt at reconciliation.

It made me ask, what if one day Siobhan had woken up ready to change their relationship? Is this the Andrew she would have encountered? How many times would she try to repair the damage before she gave up and went back to the silent treatment?

One of the things that made Buffy Summers so relatable was her loneliness. She may have been beautiful, powerful and confident but she was just one girl against an army of darkness. At least the Buffster had the Scooby Gang - Bridget has no friends, no family, and no great destiny to make all that sacrifice worthwhile. Whatever else happens on 'Ringer,' I hope Bridget is able to forge some kind of human connection.

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