Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ringer: “The Poor Kids Do It Everyday”

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Ringer might have just tipped its hand at something I’m not sure it really wanted us to figure out quite yet: its storytelling style. More specifically, its pattern of building to a surprising moment at the end of each episode, only to immediately retreat at the start of the next one and render any suspense or anticipation built by that previous ending moot. If used sparingly on a show that’s built up a lot of goodwill in other ways, this would not be a terrible thing. For a young show that’s been struggling—to put it mildly—it’s a bit more concerning.

All of that was the long-winded way to say of course Henry didn’t kill Gemma. Despite all but throwing it in our faces last week and continuing the charade for a good chunk of this episode, Henry is as in the dark about her whereabouts as we are. In fact, he spends most of the hour convinced Bridget did it, based on some shady flashbacks from when he and Siobhan were together and she suggested killing their spouses and running away into the night. (Siobhan, I don’t understand you at all. Don’t worry; it’s not your fault. It’s the writers’.) The case of the missing Gemma got even more complicated when Bridget decided to tip off the police to her disappearance and plant one of her own fingerprints on the evidence so Agent Machado would become involved as well. This is where I got a little bit lost. What does Bridget have to gain by involving Machado in this? Someone help me out here, because my Schematic Possibilities Generator appears to be broken.

The only people who seem to know anything about Gemma’s actual fate are Siobhan and her phone friend, whose voice telling Siobhan he “took care of the problem” very distinctly sounded like Charlie the Narcotics Anonymous sponsor. So Charlie is working with Siobhan to keep Bridget’s life in check back in New York City, but what else? What is Siobhan’s ultimate goal here? We spend so little time with her it’s impossible to understand any of her motivations, let alone her big picture.

This is where we circle back to the problem of the show tipping its storytelling hand. Until we see visual proof or hear a character explicitly state something, we know the opposite of what the show is trying to make us believe is true. Since Charlie didn’t say “Gemma is dead,” we certainly know she’s still alive. This doesn’t automatically have to be bad, but when the show refuses to answer anything and simply starts stacking up new mysteries and dangling plot threads, the cumulative weight of them is going to get tiresome. Plus, Gemma was pretty darn entertaining in the past few episodes, and it would be nice to have her back sooner rather than later, you know?

Besides the Gemma drama, the Malcolm drama moved forward a tiny bit. Just as Malcolm seemed to give in to the heroin torture and agree to give up Bridget’s location, Agent Machado got a tip that he was missing and managed to pin the potential kidnapping on one of Bodaway’s goons. When they go to search the strip club, however, Malcolm is long gone, and all that’s left of his sad existence is a lonely heroin spoon. Poor lonely heroin spoon. Malcolm is obviously still under their control, the only question is has he given up Bridget’s location? Considering how much Ringer loves fake-outs, I’m going with no.

Filling out the hour was the story of Juliet and her foray into public school for the first time. This began as easily my least favorite story of the episode, right up until Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars) showed up as her new teacher. Dohring is interesting in everything he does, and although his character seems like a straightforward, sympathetic high school teacher, nothing here is ever what it seems, and he undoubtedly will be up to something more insidious in the coming weeks. Aside from Dohring and the memories he brings of better shows, Juliet’s story itself this week was more interesting (if not any more original). The story of a rich girl forced to go to public school has been done (hi, Marissa on The O.C.!) but it gave Zoey Deutch a chance to have some fun and show her proficiency for playing the sort of stuck up, snarky teen Juliet is at her most fierce. This felt like nothing more than world building for more complicated stories in the future, but the presence of Dohring and his nice rapport with Deutch made it a somewhat pleasant bit of world building.

After the truly fun cliffhanger ending of last week hinting Henry killed Gemma, it’s hard not to see the resolution as a bit of a disappointment, even if it was a disappointment we all could have expected. Still, despite the story not being as salacious as promised, the episode wasn’t entirely worthless. Ringer does need to be careful not to fall into this storytelling trap too often, too soon, though, as any good will it’s managed to build up can quickly be squandered by simply refusing to follow through on the endings it poses to its own stories. You can do cliffhangers without resolving them; you just can’t refuse to resolve every single cliffhanger you present. Let’s make a deal, Ringer: For every two dangling story threads you introduce, you resolve one old one. What do you say?

Stray observations:

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar and Kristoffer Polaha did a great job with the confrontation scene, considering what they were given. They have better angry chemistry than romantic chemistry. Still, Henry cleaned up the evidence of his wife’s potential murder because he thought Siobhan did it? Before talking to Siobhan about it? Henry might be dumber than I thought.
  • Where are Henry and Gemma’s kids? Ever?
  • “It’s a little… fabric challenged.”
  • “There. Now you and your family can eat for a whole month.”