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Dead Ringers Review: Rachel Weisz Delivers as Twin Gynecologists in Prime Video's Audacious Thriller

Weisz works double shifts in a sharp limited series update of David Cronenberg's 1988 film

Keith Phipps
Rachel Weisz, Dead Ringers

Rachel Weisz, Dead Ringers

Prime Video

As Dead Ringers opens, Beverly and Elliot Mantle (both played by Rachel Weisz) know exactly what they want. Twin gynecologists who work at a busy New York hospital, they share a vision of a dedicated birthing center, a state-of-the-art facility specializing in the needs of pregnant women. It's a place that will not regard their condition as a disease (that aspect particularly appeals to Beverly) that will also be equipped with a lab that could play host to cutting edge research without the hassle of bureaucratic red tape (an element that makes Elliot's eyes light up). They're a matched set in ways beyond their appearance, too. Elliot's assertive, even acidic, a trait that's served the Mantles well in a male-dominated medical world bound to tradition. Beverly's sensitive and sympathetic in ways that Elliot could never be (unless she was faking it), the sort of qualities that attract patients and help create the word-of-mouth that makes their practice grow. Together, they balance each other out.

Developed by Alice Birch (a playwright whose screen credits include the film Lady Macbeth and work on Normal People), this new series is about what happens when that balance starts to teeter. It's based on the 1988 David Cronenberg film of the same name (which was in turn inspired by a novel inspired by the death of twin New York gynecologists in 1975). Starring Jeremy Irons as Elliot and Beverly, Cronenberg's film is, at its heart, about men who can understand the workings of women's bodies while still, on some fundamental level, feeling alienated from women. In reversing the genders, the series has to deal with different themes, a problem it solves by introducing a host of ideas that don't always cohere but hum along in ways that keep the six-episode series compelling from start to finish.


Dead Ringers


  • Weisz is remarkable
  • The series cleverly updates Cronenberg's original film rather than just remaking it
  • It raises plenty of interesting and provocative ideas


  • Not all of those big ideas come together
  • The ending is slightly rushed

For all the ways it veers from its source, Dead Ringers keeps plenty of elements from the original. Like their predecessors, Elliot and Beverly share a chilly but luxurious apartment and have arrived at a kind of arrangement when it comes to romantic partners. As with much else in their lives, this involves some blurred lines. Elliot doesn't care for attachments and is happy to hook up with stray men at a club (while Beverly studies case work at a nearby table). Beverly's shy, and though Elliot seemingly only seeks out men for sex, she's more than happy to help her sister out by wooing the women Beverly's attracted to, then handing them off to her twin without their partners ever knowing there's been a swap.

That works well enough until Beverly falls hard for Genevieve (Britne Oldford), an actress on a popular TV series (available on Prime Video, of course) who comes to Beverly to determine whether or not she can have children. With Elliot's surreptitious help, Beverly and Genevieve start a relationship that, in time, will threaten the lives the Mantles have built for themselves and their overlapping professional ambitions.

Following those ambitions takes Dead Ringers to some fascinating places. These include, in the darkly funny second episode, the luxurious home of Rebecca (Jennifer Ehle), a member of a Sackler-like pharmaceutical family looking for projects to bankroll (and control), and her wife Susan (Emily Meade), a woman whose seeming weakness masks her complicity in the family's business. A tense dinner finds Elliot and Beverly reluctantly pitching the birthing center before a demanding crowd of billionaires who pelt the twins with insulting questions (Elliot pelts back) before the evening devolves into decadent games. It's a vision of people so far removed from the problems of the everyday world that of course they can refer to the opioid crisis as an instance of simply making "a great product" that "people want more of."

Rachel Weisz, Dead Ringers

Rachel Weisz, Dead Ringers

Niko Tavernise/Prime Video

As the birthing center project progresses, Dead Ringers mixes grim humor and psychological drama, with some flourishes of science fiction and magical realism. In one mid-season episode, Elliot finds herself talking to a woman named Agnes, played by veteran character actress Susan Blommaert, who effectively takes over the show for one mesmerizing scene to deliver an excoriating monologue cataloging Elliot's deepest insecurities, most of them tied to a fear of losing her sister. It's such a laser-precise evisceration that the scene raises the question of whether or not Agnes exists only in Elliot's head, a question that hangs over what remains of the season after her appearance. In another, Beverly finds herself in conversation with the spirit of an enslaved woman (Brittany Bradford) who recounts the horrific experiments that laid the foundation for modern gynecology. (He goes unnamed, but the scene refers to James Marion Sims.)

It sometimes feels like the season wants to pack in every possibility raised by its premise into its six episodes, be it a consideration of the medical ethics around fringe science or the way Genevieve's acting career reflects the Mantles' contrasting personalities, which could be sustained performances of another kind. Fortunately, they're all pretty interesting ideas, and they're effectively held together by Weisz's remarkable work as the Mantles. Like Irons before her, she invests each Mantle with a distinctive personality that would be instantly recognizable even without a few visual clues. (The Mantles' contrasting hairstyles — free-flowing for Elliot and tight and business-like for Beverly — are chief among them.) From the series' first scene, an uncomfortable conversation with a lecherous restaurant diner at a neighboring booth, Weisz is so good at playing opposite herself that it's easy to forget the trickery needed to pull off such scenes. 

If the final episode feels a bit rushed and reveals that some of the season's subplots don't really add up to much, Dead Ringers is an undeniably audacious, provocative, tough to shake series. Despite its many tips of the hat to its source (and, in the Sean Durkin-directed premiere, a shot echoing Ingmar Bergman's Persona), it's less a remake of Cronenberg's original film than an exploration of the turf opened up by bringing its story into the 21st century and anchoring it to female characters just as damaged and dangerous in their own way as Cronenberg's Mantles. The graphic early scenes should quickly weed out viewers who don't want to follow Dead Ringers to some of the dark places it wants to go. Those who stick around will have a lot to talk about.

Premieres: All episodes premiere on Prime Video on Friday, April 21
Who's in it: Rachel Weisz, Britne Oldford, Michael Chernus, Poppy Liu, Jennifer Ehle, Emily Meade
Who's behind it: Alice Birch
For fans of: Psychological thrillers, medical dramas, twins
How many episodes we watched: 6 of 6