Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) returns to series television with the CW’s Ringer. In “Pilot,” which aired last night, Bridget Cafferty (Gellar) is found to be in the protective custody of Victor Machado (Nestor Carbonell, Lost) after witnessing a murder committed by a very dangerous man. Scared she isn’t safe, even with Victor, Bridget flees to her twin sister, Siobhan Martin (also Gellar). But then Siobhan disappears while the two are on a boat, and Bridget assumes she is dead. In a panic, Bridget assumes Siobhan’s identity.
Fitting in as Siobhan is not as easy as Bridget hopes. For one thing, Siobhan is in a loveless marriage with Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd, Fantastic Four), living with a bratty stepdaughter named Juliet (Zoey Deutch, The Suite Life on Deck). Soon, Bridget discovers that Siobhan is sleeping with her best friend, Gemma’s (Tara Summers, Boston Legal, Damages), husband, Henry (Kristoffer Polaha, Life Unexpected). And Siobhan also has someone trying to kill her. Plus, it doesn’t take long for Victor to show up and ask “Siobhan” where her sister is.
Oh, and by the way, Siobhan isn’t dead; she’s just hiding in Europe.
Does Ringer sound deliciously complex enough to herald a Gellar return to TV? It should. It’s got dark and twisty mysteries, concerning both sisters, and enough characters to spur some viewers to begin a cork board to keep track of all the connections. With the twists in the first hour alone, Ringer clearly establishes itself as a very adventurous show, in for many surprises as the weeks go by. The message? Don’t trust anything you hear or see, because there’s probably more going on than is shown. Which sounds just fine for an avid TV watcher tired of predictable procedurals.
Gellar shines in Ringer, of course, both as the seemingly heartless, manipulative Siobhan, and the warmer, scared, ex-stripper Bridget. She is the lead, plain and simple, and everyone else in the series revolves around her. But she can handle that. A peek Bridget’s relationship with her AA sponsor, Malcolm (Mike Colter, The Good Wife), and the fact that Bridget lets slip to Malcolm enough clues that he will eventually be able to find her, show there is some love and trust between them. Whether Siobhan has grown so cold that she won’t mind her sister being murdered or not remains to be seen. Yet, Gellar plays both with enough levels that neither seems simple to figure out.
The four men who are Gellar’s co-stars also do quite well. It is not surprise that Carbonell can handle mysterious drama, given his previous track record. But Polaha really stands out, completely shedding his past roles, and holding his own against some very talented actors. There isn’t a lot of Colter in “Pilot,” but Gruffudd manages to show some vulnerability in the scenes with his daughter.
Of course, the point of the first episode of Ringer is to open up a lot of questions, and it does. Why doesn’t Juliet’s mother want her? Why does Siobhan fake her death? When will she return? What happened to a boy (Siobhan’s son?) that drove the sisters apart six years ago? Is Henry the father of Siobhan’s unborn baby? And who will catch Bridget first?
Do not miss Ringer, airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.