Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Five Cents: 'Ringer's' Henry Just Got A Whole Lot More Interesting...

So now that Henry's secret is out on Ringer, what does it say about me that I'm more interested in him/the show?

According to Kristoffer Polaha: "You look at Breaking Bad, and what that guy is up to, but there's something still very likeable about the character, and you want to root for [him]. And I think that...the best characters are the ones that are the most interesting, and the most interesting are the ones that are doing stuff that's awesome and doing stuff that's not so awesome...I think Henry starts from a place of 'he's not a bad guy,' but I just think he's morally sort of corrupt, or he's selfish, or he's striving to kind of do right, but ultimately the way he's starting to get right is the love he has for Siobhan. It will always be the glue that binds Henry to the show is this deep desire for Siobhan."

(You can read the rest of my post-psychopath Polaha interview here.)

Now, whether or not Polaha was just placating me so I don't rack up a therapy bill the size of this great state of California may be something to consider. Henry certainly isn't an underdog at this stage in the game the same way he may have been at the start of the show, when his dark secrets were just that-- secret. But that doesn't mean he has turned a corner to evil. The complex nature of such a character is exactly what makes him so interesting and what is keeping this show afloat. Last week I asked Ringer to step it up in order to keep me invested, and it delivered more than I could ever imagine!

All along, I've been waiting for Henry to do something. Almost anything in Ringer. In fact, I've been waiting for a lot of characters to do something because in the first four episodes, more time was devoted to exposition and to watching Sarah Michelle Gellar's face contort and fall when she was felt trapped in a lie (Bridget must have been the most unconvincing addict ever, by the way). I'm not someone who needs flashy gimmicks or explosions or even explosive fights in order to stay interested in plot points, but for four episodes I felt like I was being talked at without really being let into the reasons behind the emotions. Henry was at the center of that complaint.

Polaha had a hold deal with CBS, so I couldn't imagine he would take this project simply to be working. I knew the part had to be juicy enough to attract him. But for four episodes, he was underused and danced around. We were getting a picture of who this guy was, but unfortunately he didn't too deep. He was great at pleading (especially with his eyes) for Siobhan not to turn her back on him; he was great at worrying over his failed work; he was great at arguing with his wife. But he was so passive, and in Screenwriting 101, I wanted him to show me something, rather than tell me something. And then "A Whole New Kind of Bitch" came along and my own pleas were answered loud, clearly, and explosively.

I wanted Henry to do something big and bold-- I wanted Ringer to do something big and bold-- but I didn't think they'd "go there" with spousal abuse. And considering we not only never saw the actions, nor what became of Gemma immediately after-- coupled with the fact that neither Henry nor Polaha are going anywhere-- I am inclined to believe there is a lot more brooding under the surface of Henry's one rash action than what currently meets the eye.

I'm no stranger to loving guys with "dark passengers," but this time around Henry doesn't seem to be a fascinating case study sociopath like Dexter Morgan-- a guy who had to be taught proper affect and human interaction because he legitimately couldn't deduce it for himself, going through life in a kind of numb state that made him unable to feel anything at all except for the slight rush of ease when he killed (though, he did wear a kill outfit that looked quite familiar...). Yes, Henry could have just been another high society sociopath-- a Chuck Bass type-- caring only about himself and his riches and fame, cheating with every woman just to prove he's more than desirable. Even if he never became violent or volatile, his type would be cold and calculating-- a guy who would make you feel dumb even for wanting to get close to him.

But he's not. Or at least, I choose to see him as deeper than that. With Polaha playing him, I believe the layers are thicker than that.

To me, Henry is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and acts out of sheer emotion and passion. Clearly he doesn't always make the smartest move, but it's honest and instinctual, and it's a bit hard to fault him for that. He's an artist, an obviously tortured one in many ways, and Polaha plays him with soul, which makes him that much more intriguing. When Henry says he loves Siobhan (Sarah Michelle Gellar), you see it on his face, in his eyes, by the way he carries himself. And so can you when he argues with Gemma (Tara Summers), his face falling as hers curls in a snarl. And again when he feels trapped by his situation, you can see his panic, his fear, and his sadness. You want to fix him, or at least give him a hug.

Sociopaths don't know empathy, but Henry does. Henry is in touch with a full range of emotions, seemingly now also including regret. He is a living, breathing, feeling fleshed out man. And because of this, I fully expect to watch him spiral now that he has given into a darkness he may have never even imagined existed within him. It may be a long way to bottom for Henry, but I'm going to love every minute of watching him get there.

... maybe I'm a little bit sociopathic ...

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