Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ringer: It's Called Improvising, Bitch! (1.21)

I don't think I've ever experienced more critical whiplash in all my years of watching television than I have over the last year. Ringer is a show that has achieved near consistent levels of banality, but it's surely something worthy of scientific investigation that, right before the show is launched into the cancellation abyss, it pulls out of its butt something so ridiculous and so terrible that it becomes sort of, kind of... great? It's Called Improvising, Bitch! was the abject soapiness that this show has seemed to avoid for so long -- a frenetic, hilarious mess that wound up crazily entertaining, like Showgirls-awesome.

I can't help but feel that this episode worked so well because the story remained somewhat linear. While we had a glutton of flashback sequences to explain away hidden motivations and secret lesbian scheming, this episode was very much about a bunch of people held hostage by a sexually-ambiguous crazy-woman. There was nothing too convoluted, no extraneous over-plotting, just a simple story of revenge and the individuals caught up in it. Catherine hasn't been a hugely consistent character, and I'm not sure how her Wild Things fake-rape plot fit into the grand scheme of things, but Andrea Martin was a hoot here. The sapphic team-up with Olivia came out of left-field (and it's depressing to see Sarah Michelle Gellar of all people headlining a show where lesbians are portrayed as man-hating money-grabbers -- Willow Rosenberg is weeping in a corner), but I actually got really into the story. The hostage crisis, Machado's involvement, Olivia's dithering allegiances -- it all came together in an exciting nuttiness.

Unexpectedly, the story did bring to mind that the twin angle to Ringer was presumably never the end-goal for this season, that our collective desire for a catty reunion between Bridget and Siobhan was never going to be fulfilled in an interesting way. I'm sure Bridget will figure it out next week, but I'm also sure it'll happen just before the end credits roll. Surprisingly, though, that didn't bother me much here. Ringer has always been a series that wanted to delay and deny instead of excite within the moment, leaving the far majority of its episodes feeling stagnant and annoyingly vacant. But the trashy events depicted here showcased that it's not a problem when the twin hoodoo is kept on the back-burner, as long as we have truly exciting subplots to distract us with. Obviously the show could never have major finale-sized twists every week, but there was a real sense of urgency here that could have easily been spread out through each hour.

Tying into that urgency, Scott Nimerfro's script really sparkled. Siobhan was suddenly the sniping, underhand badass with the Joan Collins 'tude -- blackmailing Russian call girls and getting bitchy at dinner parties. It was Sarah Michelle Gellar embracing the Kathryn Merteuil within, instead of it being meekly suppressed by uninspiring dialogue. There was naturally the hackneyed stupidness, but there seemed to be a sense of knowing irony to it this week (or maybe I was just projecting), what with Siobhan protesting as she got shoved into that closet, or Andrew effectively screaming 'stop holding us hostage at our Manhattan penthouse apartment, ex-wife!' down the phone. This was Melrose Place levels of badness, where everything's so confidently nuts that it becomes wildly exhilarating and almost endearing as a series. God forbid, could I actually wind up missing this show? A

Guest stars Zoey Deutch (Juliet Martin); Jonathan Banks (Tobias); Matthew Del Negro (Agent Grady Torrence); Dylan Neal (Washburn Milter); Gonzalo Menendez (Agent Roy); James Madio (Sketch); Dasha Flynn (Oksana); Andrea Roth (Catherine Martin); Jaime Murray (Olivia Charles)
Writer Scott Nimerfro Director Janice Cooke


  1. This has to be the consistently insane thing I've seen on tv this season, it was just wall to wall insanity and I could not have been more engrossed.

    Gellar was bringing the bitchy at that dinner party, and I loved her reaction to the hooker dying. I mean, come on, going into labour in the closet of the person you're attempting to blackmail, before said person dies...and that isn't even the most ridic thing to happen all episode? That's entertainment.

    The 'secret lesbians!' twist bugged the hell out of me, even if Olivia is surprisingly one of the more sane characters on the show (not like she's murdered anyone). I'm not gonna lie though, it was a pretty decent shock.

    Andrea Roth was amazing, I particularly loved that she was noticeable re-reading/adjusting the suicide letter, and then her attempts at practising her 'omg!what?' reaction to the death she had just engineered.

    Why does Ringer have to die after become the train wreck it always should've been? If not, Gellar had better land on a great show. I'm not quite ready for her to leave my television screen again. Great review!

  2. Again, our reviews are quite similar!

    This was easily the craziest episode so far, but by far the greatest.

    I mention how crazy and downright ridiculous everything was here in my own review, but I just got swept in. It was the commitment to crazy that worked so well, but it was just too late.

    I liked what you said about Siobhan, I never mentioned it myself. Sarah really sold the heck out of this episode, and the twin definition is on point.

    Just like you, I'll honestly miss the heck out of Ringer now. =( Although, I'll miss your reviews more than the show itself I think...

  3. tvfan So many great moments, I know! I forgot to mention Catherine practising her reactions in the mirror, that was a great scene. Like you said, the show is pure batshit. Like the maid suddenly being a hooker, and OD'ing literally a couple of seconds after snorting, and Siobhan going into labor while watching all of this unfold. It was a whole hour of craziness, and I loved every damn minute of it.

    Panda I'm starting to feel that way, too. This was just too much fun. But, man, did every other episode blow. It could have been one hell of a ride if they reached some kind of consistency.

    Thanks for the comments and compliments, guys.

  4. Max read this interview with the show's producer.
    Utterly atrocious. Doesn't even admit the show's flaws and considers the first season an "intense twin story."

  5. Eh. You can't blame them for trying to keep things positive, I guess? At least they recognize that things would have to change if the show were to be inexplicably renewed...