With finale season and season finales beginning to emerge from the lake in the Hamptons where we though they’d offed themselves – duplicitious twin-fenangling encased in their terrible designer coats – I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how disparate shows are handling what can at times make or break a season. Hence, Anatomy Of A Finale.
And of course, as ever, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Oh, Sarah. SMG. The big Mich-Gell. Mrs. Freddie Prinze. We had such high hopes. Not just you – effortless, glorious, Buffy you – but two of you. As twins. It sounded amazing. High camp, yes, soapy, yes, overly convoluted, yes, but still… it was SARAH-MICHELLE-THE-FUCK GELLAR.
And here we are, at the end of surely one of the most incompetent first seasons of any show to ever grace our goggle-tubes, firmly straddling the breach between unnecessary complexity and sheer idiocy.
For the uninitiated, Ringer tells the story of Siobhan and Bridget Martin, identical twin sisters with wildly different lives. Bridget, a former stripper and drug addict, goes on the run from a witness protection program before she can take the stand, and winds up on her wealthy sister’s doorstep in the Hamptons. They go for a highly unnecessary boat ride, Bridget falls asleep, and when she wakes up she finds that Siobhan is missing – and must have killed herself. Long story short, Bridget takes on Siobhan’s life, including her husband, her step-daughter, her lover, her best friend, her chauffeur, her walk-in wardrobe FULL OF SYMBOLIC MIRRORS, and of course her terrible, terrible, clothing.
In the opening episodes there was a certain charm to the wacky high jinks, watching Bridget stumble her way through duplicity after duplicity that Siobhan had left in her wake, all while attempting to find out why Bridget-knowing menacing ethnic drug dealer Bodaway Macawi (whose name-spelling I refuse to Google one more time) or any other number of people were trying to kill her.
There was also the small matter of the supposedly dead Siobhan, who was actually living it up in gay Paris and had tricked Bridget into taking over a life that was one double-ended spear away from a Lifetime version of The Hunger Games.
Over the ensuing twenty or so episodes, we watched as Bridget escaped numerous attempts on her sister’s life, attempted to bond with her assumed husband and step-daughter, got her best friend killed, and cut all ties with her lover-in-a-polo-neck Henry. She also uncovered her husband’s secret Ponzi scheme (FUN FACT! Nothing makes Ponzi interesting) and discovered that his ex-wife had framed their step-daughter’s teacher for sexual harassment. This all culminated in the penultimate episode with said ex-wife going on a Batshit Crazy Attempted Killing Spree (TM) that was as much fun as anything that doesn’t make sense and employs the “she’s so crazy she’s turned into a LESBIAN” style of story-telling can be. All that was left in the finale was to clear up the small matter of Bidiwayway McWai’s attempts on Bridget’s life, and for the sisters to finally come face-to-face.
Why oh why did I expect you to do what I wanted you to do, Ringer.
The problem with Ringer from day one has been its employment of increasing degrees of insane complexity not as a way of driving plot forward, but of obscuring the fact that the plot isn’t going anywhere. For a show that sets up a “sisters at odds” premise in its first episode to not have them come face-to-face in the ensuing season is nothing but narrative wheel-spinning, and has left all the actors involved with the unenviable task of explaining away their constant heel face turns depending on the necessities of that week’s craziness. Andrew Martin goes from doting husband to possible killer depending on Bridget’s suspicions, his daughter is either an innocent product of a broken home or a manipulative rape-crying mastermind, and Siobhan’s lover Henry starts off as a bravado junkie in a turtle neck before descending into a murderous arch villian (in a turtle neck). It’s all too much, and yet not enough – like straining your eyes at a photo for an hour before realising that the picture itself is blurry, not your vision.
The final episode, then, was classic Ringer – Bridget did come face to face with Bom-diggity Wikka-wikka, dispatching him in the rushed manner befitting a villain who we were consistently told was pure evil, but never actually did anything. Siobhan was also doting over her new-born babies (more twins!) while trying to kill Bridget, but then decided against it because… well, whatever. The final scene did offer one brief moment of respite when Bridget found out through terrible CCTV footage that Siobhan was still alive, but otherwise it was dull as dishwater. As the old adage goes, don’t pop your hatchet-wielding drug-addicted ex-wife jizz-bomb before the finale.
It’s still up in the air whether Ringer will be renewed for a second season, which makes it all the more confusing why the show opted for a finale so light on actual revelation, discovery, or any sense of finality to any of the show’s plot lines (I don’t count Bady Smith Black Mambozi as a real plot line). But it’s part of Ringer’s MO by this point, to ignore what the audience might actually want to see resolved, and instead focus on how funny it is that the twins keep missing each other by mere seconds.
So on a consistency level, this finale is true to the spirit of Ringer. The actors struggled to draw breath in a quagmire of horrendous dialogue and nonsensical decisions, while Sarah-Michelle Gellar ran in high heels and watched as the entire Martin clan put a collective bullet in the head of her career.
If I sound like I’m being overly harsh on a show that never marketed itself as being anything other than a primetime soap, I make no apologies. There are far better shows out there playing that game. What made Ringer infuriating was its insistence on insulting its audience with in-episode flashbacks, and characters so stupid it made it seem like the entirety of Lower Manhattan was experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning (if one more person, apropos of nothing, reminds Bridget of things Siobhan regularly does or doesn’t do I’ll kill her myself). If you’re going to earn yourself a reputation as a place where crazy plots reside, at least commit to the bit – have those bitches meet in episode seven, do a game-change in a mid-season finale, and dispatch one or more of the leads in the finale. Don’t whimper over the finish line by coasting on a mystery that you insist on not solving.
And speaking of reputation, any ill will I feel towards the show is compounded by my feelings at the outset. I genuinely wanted to like Ringer, if for no other reason than Sarah-Michelle Gellar was getting back into the TV game. But the show squandered her acting skills with roughshod characterisations and no sense of internal logic, and now I can barely handle one SMG, never mind two.
And for that, Ringer, I will never forgive you.
Success As A Finale: 4/10
Success As An Episode: 5/10