TV: Dead Ringers

It’s a testament to the draw of Rachel Weisz that Dead Ringers pinged my radar, despite my having long forgotten the David Cronenberg film it reboots, and having a potent aversion to stories about childbirth and pregnancy. It’s a worthy reinvention of its source material, though, full of provocative commentary and superb acting.

The limited series introduces us to identical twin gynecologists Beverly and Elliot Mantle (Weisz), two brilliant doctors quickly growing frustrated with the barbaric failings of the healthcare system when it comes to prenatal care and bringing new life into the world. The twins have a complex, co-dependant relationship; Beverly is conscientious, idealistic, and restrained, while Elliot is flamboyant and outrageous. But they’re devoted to one another, and equally driven to reform their corner of medicine. This leads them to pursue funding from reprehensible billionaire elites, with the goal of opening a new birthing center and laboratory. The venture appears to be the culmination of their perfect vision, but when Beverly falls in love with a patient, actress Genevieve Cotard (Britne Oldford), it drives a psychological wedge between the sisters, leading to a dramatic falling out—as well as daring new scientific experiments.

There’s something campy about identical twin plots, and despite its classy trappings, Dead Ringers doesn’t quite escape that vibe. I’m also not sure the resolution pays off all the impressive build-up. But overall, it’s a gripping watch, both for Weisz’s agile dual performance and its biting societal critique. Weisz’s career is riddled with smart role decisions, and one can see how she was drawn to this juicy part, which not only affords her a challenging opportunity to assay two complicated parts, but gives both of them memorable, powerful material to deliver. First commenting on the wretched state of the healthcare system, the scripts go on to skewer profit-driven capitalism and sociopathic wealth, as Beverly and Elliot compromise their ideals to realize their ambitions. Modern TV is rife with eat-the-rich themes lately, but the Mantle sisters dinner party pitch—hosted by a gleefully evil Jennifer Ehle, who puts the entire cast of White Lotus to shame—is one for the ages. Gender and racial politics are also welcome targets of the series’ incisive, dramatic agenda, which never over-reaches into dogmatism. The supporting cast is rife with great turns, led by an increasingly impressive Michael Chernus as Elliot’s disreputable lab collaborator, as well as Ehle, Oldford, Poppy Liu, Michael McKean, Emily Meade, and Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine. Again, that finale doesn’t entirely stick the landing, but the journey includes enough thought-provoking commentary and enigmatic mystery to make the series well worth watching.

Rachel Weisz and Rachel Weisz in Dead Ringers
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