TV Rewind: The CW’s Ringer Is One of the Best One-and-Done Shows

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TV Rewind: The CW’s Ringer Is One of the Best One-and-Done Shows

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our TV Rewind column! The Paste writers are diving into the streaming catalogue to discuss some of our favorite classic series as well as great shows we’re watching for the first time. Come relive your TV past with us, or discover what should be your next binge watch below:

One of the best one-and-done television shows in the last decade is The CW’s Ringer, which accomplished quite a lot and told a well-rounded, exciting story over 22 episodes. Starring the beloved and iconic Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame as identical twins Bridget Kelly and Siobhan Martin, the short-lived series embraced the soapy goodness of the network—think the adult sister of Gossip Girl—before it shifted gears and became intensely focused on the superhero genre. While the cancellation certainly still stings, we’re here now to look back on what made this thriller so special.

The series begins with our lovably flawed protagonist Bridget fleeing from protective custody in Wyoming just days before she is set to testify as a witness against crime boss Bodaway Macawi (Zahn McClarnon) for the murder of her friend. (It’s a long story.) She runs to the Hamptons to find her estranged sister Siobhan, whom she hasn’t spoken to in roughly five years. But, after their short reunion, Bridget falls asleep while they are out on the water, waking to find signs that point to Siobhan having killed herself. Given that her own life is in danger and she has nowhere to go, Bridget steps into her sister’s shoes (literally) and pretends to be Siobhan in the extravagant life she has created for herself in Manhattan.

However, Bridget quickly learns that the perfect life Siobhan presented to her during their brief time together was an elaborate facade. Siobhan’s marriage with businessman Andrew Martin (Ioan Gruffudd) is on the brink of falling apart, and her relationship with Andrew’s daughter Juliet (Zoey Deutch) is fraught with so much tension that no interaction goes unpunished. (Although, by the series’ end, the relationship between Bridget and Juliet is probably one of the absolute best aspects of the show, but I digress.) Plus, Siobhan has been having an affair with her best friend’s husband Henry (Kristoffer Polaha). And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

By comparison, Siobhan’s life might be even messier than Bridget’s, but Bridget seeks to honor her sister’s memory by helping to mend as many of these relationships as possible before she inevitably resumes her own life. From the very start, Bridget’s on a whirlwind ride, but it helps us get to know who she is (including her many flaws and challenges) right off the bat, allowing for the series to rapidly delve into exploring the many supporting faces in the sisters’ lives. 

Of course, as with any good story, Ringer is full of spectacular plot twists—including several in the pilot episode alone—that shake up the story and this world. Despite Bridget thinking she’s found peace in New York, that illusion is quickly ripped from her when someone makes an attempt on her life. However, it isn’t Bridget they’re after, it’s Siobhan. Thus, Bridget finds herself simultaneously searching for answers about who wanted Siobhan dead and why her sister would kill herself, as anything is safer than the certain death that awaits her should she return to her old life. 

What Bridget doesn’t know is that Siobhan isn’t dead, but knew someone was trying to kill her and wanted Bridget to die in her stead. As a result, the series morphs into a war between the sisters. Siobhan treats Bridget as a means to an end in her plan, using others to manipulate Bridget into doing what she wants from afar, leaving Bridget to face all of the consequences for her untoward actions. 

Unfortunately, we see very little of this from Bridget’s side, as she doesn’t know Siobhan is still alive until the series finale. That said, it’s still interesting to think about what could have been, especially as so much of the show showcases Bridget’s exceptional wit and ability to think on her feet. The list of people who want Bridget or Siobhan dead grows continuously throughout the season, yet Bridget receives nearly all of the heat for both of their actions.  It’s pure soapy madness, which is utterly delicious and enrapturing to watch, no doubt in part due to Gellar’s impeccable performances as not only Bridget and Siobhan, but also as each twin impersonating the other, all of which manage to stand on their own with small, yet noticeable differences.

Perhaps the incredibly fast pace of the story led to the series’ untimely undoing. Each episode pushes the plot forward at breakneck speed, while still managing to explore the characters and their relationships. In that way, this single season of Ringer managed to do something that a ridiculous number of shows fail to do, even those on the air for years. In 22 episodes, it tackled the story with purpose, fully opening up this world and developing an impeccable slew of supporting characters—including world-class bitches Catherine (Andrea Roth) and Gemma (Tara Summers), that you can’t help but love despite how utterly terrible they are—left in the wake of the sisters’ war and madness.

12 years later, the fast-paced nature of the story is much appreciated as we received so much from this show, taking the bite out of the series’ premature cancellation, if only slightly. The cast was absolutely incredible, as was the story and the many unexpected shifts it took along the way. It would’ve been nice to see what surely would have been an even wilder second season. This was top-tier television that would have shined even brighter (and probably not met an untimely end) had it been saved just a few years for the era of streaming and the new demand for dramas that move so quickly that you can’t pull yourself away until you find yourself at the end of an hours-long binge-watch.

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Jay Snow is a freelance writer. He has published many places on the internet. For more of his thoughts on television and to see his other work (or to simply watch him gush again and again over his love for the original Charmed) follow him @snowyjay.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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