Viewer discretion is advised for those who are pregnant, squeamish about blood or like to eat and drink while watching their TV shows, as they decide to check out Dead Ringers, a new psychological thriller miniseries. Adapting both David Cronenberg's 1988 film of the same name and Bari Wood and Jack Geasland's novel 'Twins', the show revolves around Beverly and Elliot Mantle (Rachel Weisz in a dual role), identical twins and world-class obstetricians who are extremely close, sharing a home, job, romances, vices and more with each other. Their relationship and health are challenged as they get a chance to open their own birthing centre with funding from ultra-rich and as Beverly, who is trying to have a baby of her own, falls in love with actor Genevieve (Britne Oldford), rattling the jealous Elliot.
Some may find the series' slow burn in the first two episodes to be laborious, which it certainly is at times, but it's also an endurance test for one's taste when it comes to thrillers. Dead Ringers is uneven in its execution so it's probably important to know that it is very much exploring mood first and foremost. Showrunner Alice Birch's writing in the first episode and direction (Sean Durkin, Lauren Wolkstein) don't hold back from using intensity in the storytelling which is why its mood is able to reflect Beverly and Elliot's often warped perspectives very efficiently. Aforementioned slow burn will leave some viewers behind but for those who are able to live in this bleakness, the ending does pay off a lot of your anticipation while also remixing the source material enough to justify this show's existence.
As far as the execution from episode to episode goes, it's quite a mixed bag, starting with performances. Weisz has the actor's dream job and she does well with separating the twins in her approach, yet finding similarities when lines need to be blurred. She can't unfortunately find that same skill when sharing scenes with other cast members, for different reasons. Problems arise especially with Oldford who is both miscast and a chemistry vacuum which makes you want to skip all the scenes between Beverly and Genevieve. Poppy Liu as the twins' housekeeper Greta doesn't have much to do as her character is more like a painting on the apartment's wall than someone worth returning to, and even Jennifer Ehle (as the centre's financier Rebecca) doesn't seem to understand a word she's saying, sadly misinterpreting the show's crucial tone.
Even visuals and sound struggle to find consistency during the six-episode run. Camera work (masterminded by Jody Lee Lipes and Laura M. Gonçalves) finds striking shots, using the colour red as an unpredictable factor—signifying love, danger or rebirth in the twins' lives—in otherwise stable compositions, like in scenes that require practical makeup effects which are also finely crafted. On the flip side, sound mix isn't as finely crafted since poorly recorded dialogue, awkward ADR and annoyingly repetitive motifs often distract you from what's happening on screen, therefore erasing tension when they're supposed to intensify it. Enough tension lingers for the mood to stay somewhat intact but you do get dangerously close to separating from it for good.
Smileys: Atmosphere, makeup, ending
Frowneys: Sound mixing, Britne Oldford