Dead Ringers, a new Amazon Prime series loosely based on the 1988 psychological thriller starring Jeremy Irons, is unlike anything seen on TV before. Within the first ten minutes we see babies coming out of vaginas, blood on toilet paper, blood on the floor – honestly, more blood than one would expect at the start of any show. In a world where sadistic murder is fuel for voyeuristic enjoyment in slasher flicks, it’s surprising how wince-worthy watching childbirth is here. Recently House of the Dragon showed a brutal, medieval childbirth scene and people couldn’t stop talking about it – because it’s one of the few areas the media still tends not to go. Dead Ringers uses a matter-of-fact approach to these sequences: they are hyperrealistic, not melodramatic. This really happens, and it’s still more shocking on-screen than the most gruesome gore.
Producers Alice Birch (Conversations with Friends, Normal People) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite, The Mummy) wanted to ground the show in reality, showing the daily lives of these women, before adopting a more “operatic” tone as events get wilder and tensions heighten. Without even meaning to, they have started uncomfortable but crucial conversations about the realities of birth.
Weisz stars as Beverly and Elliot, twin gynaecologists who dream of opening up their own radical birthing centre. Elliot has an insatiable appetite for both food and sex; she is immoral, almost childlike in her irreverence, and she’s an innovator, seeking to push the boundaries of science and create babies from scratch. She does coke at work, has sex with married fathers and instigates threesomes. This is a unique, complicated heroine who subverts what we’re traditionally used to seeing women do on-screen. Beverly is quieter, more socially acceptable, and angered by injustice and rudeness. The two have a twisted, codependent relationship: they live together, sharing lovers that Elliot “gets” for Beverly, and they enjoy a psychosexual level of intimacy. But their shared world is threatened when Beverly falls for the beautiful, calm and emotionally healthy Genevieve (Britne Oldford).
Starring as characters who are facially identical but somewhat opposite in personality, Weisz does a wonderful job of embodying each sister and giving them unique, three-dimensional identities. It would be easy to make this a straightforward “good twin/bad twin” story, but Elliot is endearing and hilarious, whilst Beverly is sweet and altruistic, and one finds oneself liking both and really enjoying their on-screen interactions. The chemistry between them is impressive, given Weisz is playing both roles. In episode two, viewers are introduced to a collection of meat-eating, amoral philanthropists at a dinner party, who are delightfully awful, but, despite being ramped up to 100, manage to stay believable.
Watching Dead Ringers feels like a psychedelic trip that has gone to a dark place. It’s surreal, over-the-top, shocking, confusing and intriguing, with easter eggs and time-jump scenes that keep viewers guessing and keen to find out more. This is not easy viewing and may not be the best accompaniment to dinner, but it is a truly unique female-focused comedy-drama with endless potential.
Dead Ringers is released on Amazon Prime Video on 21st April 2023.
Watch the trailer for Dead Ringers here: