Thursday, April 19, 2012

Through the Ringer

Decisions, Decisions; or So Many Men, So Little Time
(Nestor Carbonell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ioan Gruffudd)

The season finale of Ringer that aired earlier this week may very well have been the last episode of Ringer that will ever be produced. Although "I'm the Good Twin" pulling in a 0.5 rating based on 1.1 million viewers is seen as a good thing, very few people expect the series to be renewed by the CW network.

I absolutely adored Ringer, mostly because of the acting and the characters' lavish lifestyles. I thought Sarah Michelle Gellar was brilliant in her portrayal of twins Bridget Kelly/Siobhan Martin, as she was able to bring an enormous amount of emotional depth to her characters. I fell head-over-heals in love with Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Martin, and I hope his latest brush with American television won't scare him away for good. And what can I say about Kristoffer Polaha as Henry Butler? I'd probably fall in love with his character even if Polaha was playing the Boston Strangler!

I don't have time to go on and on about how much I also loved all of the other characters, but I will give special cudos to Zoey Deutsch, Andrea Roth, Jaime Murray and Tara Summers for making their off-putting characters of Juliet Martin, Catherine Martin, Olivia Charles and Gemma Butler a lot of fun to watch. On another note, although I equally adored Mike Colter and Sean Patrick Thomas as NA sponsor Malcolm Ward and driver/bodyguard Solomon Vessida respectively, I felt a bit uneasy about how their characters veered uncomfortably close into undying loyalty of the African slave territory. I also thought the producers were awfully brave (no pun intended) to make their chief villain, Bodaway Macawi (Zahn McClarnan), a Native American, which probably explains why his character hardly ever appeared on the show.

Watching Nestor Carbonell's FBI Agent Victor Machado turned into a real eye-opening experience for me. Initially, Machado was the only character that I actively disliked, to the point where I wondered at first why he was even on the show. I didn't even find Carbonell to be all that attractive! I think I started gradually warming up to the character when I found out Machado had been romantically involved with the murdered stripper Shaylene Briggs (Nikki DeLoach). However, I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw the bar scene in "Let's Kill Bridget", where the demoralized and (temporarily) ex-Agent Victor Machado opened up to an extremely sympathetic Bridget Kelly/ Siobhan Martin, aka, "Shivette". At that moment, my least-favorite character turned into my favorite one outside of Gellar's Bridget.

I was happy to find an active forum for Bridget/Victor shippers over at FanForum. It turns out that a lot of people got caught up with that pairing quite a bit earlier than I did. Regardless, in addition to a lot of longing to see them together in upcoming episodes, there was also a lot of good-natured comments about how Sarah seemed to have an almost endless supply of good-looking men to nuzzle up with every week.

Carbonell himself probably said it best when he stated last year that "She [Sarah] has chemistry with a chair!" Although that's kind of an odd way to put it, he did bring up a point that I've been wanting to write about for a long time: Sarah Michelle Gellar is at her best when she's interacting with a strong co-star. That's not to say that Sarah is incapable of carrying a scene on her own! It's just that I've noticed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer that although Sarah, as Buffy, was a lot of fun to watch when she took on vampires as a solo act, she was that much more enjoyable to watch when she had a solid ally by her side, like Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), David Boreanaz (Angel), Eliza Dushku (Faith), and James Marsters (Spike). It was almost as though having a partner made Buffy more complete. That "chemistry with a chair" is actually Sarah's incredible ability to develop marvelous chemistry with just about anyone, which makes everyone's performances that much stronger.

The Bridget Kelly/Victor Machado relationship on its own is enough to make me want to buy the series DVD's if and when they're ever released. It would be nice to look at all of Nestor Carbonell's performances one more time with a fresh set of eyes. An analogy I can make is that a woman can work with a male co-worker for quite a while and never give him a second thought. Then, one day, she passes him in the hallway and wonders, "Wow! Who the hell is this guy? He's hot!" (Let's forget the idea that he may have switched aftershaves.)

Despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of Ringer, I can certainly understand why a lot of viewers must have been turned off by the series. Executive producer Pam Veasey hinted that the show may have been too "complex" for viewers, but I think "convoluted" is the more accurate term. "Complex" implies that viewers might have had some difficulties understanding or interpreting some of the themes that were being presented.

When a viewer watches a show and shakes his head in disbelief after ten minutes while snorting, "I'm so sure!", that's never a good sign. If you're incapable of suspending disbelief for an hour while watching Ringer, you're doomed. Continually whipsawing characters and events back and forth (e.g., is Andrew Martin evil, or isn't he?) is not the same as creating intriguing plot twists and turns. With Ringer, the producers were only inducing motion sickness in their viewers. In the end, it all boils down to respect for the audience.

Despite some major criticisms, I'd love to see a second season of Ringer. Many of the issues from the past were resolved (including the fact that evil villain Macawi was killed and Bridget found out Siobhan was still alive), but the season finale kept a lot of issues up in the air. Will Andrew grow to love Bridget even though he kicked her out of the apartment after he found out she had been impersonating Siobhan? Will Siobhan try to find other ways to kill Bridget? Will Bridget be able to reconcile with Juliet? Is Malcolm really dead?

Most importantly, will Bridget ever get together with Machado? This seems highly unlikely, mostly because the series itself never promoted the idea that the two of them were potential love interests. The continuing Bridget/Andrew story line is too compelling to bring in Machado as a complication. It's also worth noting that actor Nestor Carbonell has been cast to appear in the pilot of a new ABC comedy series, Smart One. But it appears there's plenty of wiggle room that would allow him to return to Ringer if a miracle occurs and CW brings it back for a second season. Nonetheless, there certainly is a lot of room to speculate about Bridget and Machado, particularly with how he openly admired her Siobhan persona for being a good wife and mother, and how he made it a habit to swoop in and dramatically rescue her on a pretty regular basis. Even Machado's willingness to keep risking his FBI career increasingly seemed to spring more from a motivation to help Shivette rather than a desire to take revenge for the killing of his former girlfriend.

Which brings me to a frequent problem I have as a casual TV viewer, in that I'm often willing to two-time on my favorite characters. Andrew Martin established himself as my one-and-only in Ringer, yet it didn't stop me from casting my eyes towards Victor Machado. Although it would be interesting to see a Bridget/Andrew/Victor love triangle, my wishes for TV shows are rarely ever granted, which makes me all the more certain that we'll never be able to see that happen.

So, long live Ringer, and if the series disappers from our TV screens for good, may the characters enjoy a long prosperous life in the hands of fanfic writers.

Idle Thoughts. I was disappointed with Misha Collins' appearance as Dylan in "Whores Don't Make That Much". It looked like he was constantly trying to keep from cracking up, and I thought the episode itself was way too calculatingly melodramatic.

Someone needs to come up with a Ringer episode name generator, where the words "bitches" and "whores" and "ho" can come up on a regular basis, and new terms like "skank" and "douche-bag" can be added . (Here's a list of the actual episode names.)

It was a mistake to make Siobhan Martin a much less sympathetic character as the series went on.

I also liked Ringer's theme music, which I believe was composed by Gabriel Mann. I thought it fit the mood of the series quite well.

Notice that, as of this date, Zahn McClarnan's Bodaway Macawi doesn't show up in the "Cast and Characters" section of Ringer's main Wikipedia page. The names do, however, show up in the series synopsis. Hopefully this will be corrected soon.

I was absolutely certain that it would be revealed that Bridget's driver/bodyguard Solomon was actually one of Bridget's potential assassins. That never happened.

I hope Carbonell's reference to Sarah's chemistry with a chair wasn't a reference to Bridget's profession as a stripper.

I've never had such a hard time spelling actor/character names as I did with this post.

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