Dead Ringers

By Aaron Isenstein

Rachel Weisz Stars in This Horror Series that Has Its Share Of Confusion and Greatness

Dead Ringers follows Beverly and Elliot Mantle, twin gynecologists who are trying to reinvent the world of birthing. While the first episode shocked me with a long sequence of various births and c-sections, the majority of the show follows the psychological torture between the sisters. They love each other but they hate each other. Their bond is abnormally strong but they’re at constant war. For example, Beverly finds herself in a committed relationship with an actress named Geneviève (Britne Oldford). A normal reaction for a sibling would be to be happy for them, but Elliot has never hated anyone more. 

Honestly, after watching the first two episodes of this limited series remake of David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, I was worried for the rest of the show. I was beyond confused with the plot and not remotely sold on Rachel Weisz’s double performance as twins Beverly and Elliot. Thankfully, episode 3 completely changed my mind and hooked me for the rest of the show.

My main issue with the show is that it always felt as though it bit off more than it could chew. Often, the episodes either felt bloated for the sole purpose of explaining a key concept or baffling by refusing to explain something important. For instance, in episode 5, there is a puzzling scene that attempts to bring up the racial politics of birth (an admittedly important topic) but does so in a nonsensical way that is both barely elaborated upon and not remotely relevant to the plot. There are quite a few subplots in the show that don’t stick the landing, and I honestly just wish they had been taken out from the show. 

An aspect of the show I was initially mixed on was Weisz’s portrayal of both Elliot and Beverly. In true Liv and Maddie sense, Beverly keeps her hair in a ponytail and Elliot keeps her hair down in order to be distinguishable. The first couple of episodes are nonetheless quite rocky for Weisz, though, as I struggled to believe the chemistry between the two twins. As I got more accustomed to the characters and the world (and as the show’s writing improved), this became less of an issue. In fact, by the end I found the chemistry both authentic and incredibly disturbing. 

The entire show sets out to explore the complex ideas of motherhood from childbirth to death. When focused on these themes, Dead Ringers creates amazing conversations on gender politics. The idea to switch the gender of the Mantle twins was simply inspired. In the original, Beverly’s madness is driven by a woman. However, here the relationship between Geneviève and Beverly is secondary as it's the maternal and sisterly relations that drives chaos. There’s this idea of the “monstrous mother” throughout the media which Dead Ringers tries to explain from the very core. Given the chance to rewatch the series, I would love to look even more into the politics as they are absolutely fascinating.

Is this show superior to David Cronenberg’s 1988 film? Personally, I would say yes. The politics this series discusses is more engaging, and I think the horror is also executed better. They’re both well-done stories that I enjoyed watching, but the horror stemming from motherhood was infinitely more interesting than horror stemming from relationship problems.