‘Like a stray Bee Gee!’ Does Andrew Scott’s Ripley have the worst wig in TV history?

<span>‘Like the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz begrudgingly attending a wedding’ … Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley ‘in disguise’.</span><span>Photograph: PR</span>
‘Like the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz begrudgingly attending a wedding’ … Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley ‘in disguise’.Photograph: PR

Netflix’s Ripley has a tremendous amount to offer. It’s dark and stylish. It’s one of the most beautiful things on television. It has an exceptional cat in it. However, there is one moment in Ripley that is so preposterous it threatens to undermine the entire series. If you haven’t seen Ripley, stop reading now. If you have, you already know exactly what I’m about to say.

It’s the bloody wig, isn’t it? For most of the series, Andrew Scott’s Ripley is the charming and dapper conman he’s always been; an indisputable master of impersonation and misdirection. But in the final episode that all falls apart. As the net around him closes in, Ripley decides to confront the inspector on his case. But he does this in – and unfortunately there’s no way of using this word without inverted commas – “disguise”, because he already met him once before under an alias. So we see Ripley enter a wig shop, to choose the best possible way for him to camouflage himself entirely. We see the tools of his work at home, scissors and combs and spirit gum, to reassure us that Tom Ripley is a master of disguise with a level of unparalleled expertise. And then …

And then, well, it looks bloody awful, doesn’t it. It’s hard to fully do justice to the disguise Tom Ripley comes up with in words alone. On one hand, it makes him look like a stray Bee Gee, or the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz begrudgingly attending the wedding of one of his girlfriend’s friends, or a version of Noel Edmonds that hasn’t invested in proper lighting for his house. But on the other, and I really cannot state this strongly enough, it also makes him look exactly like Andrew Scott. If the point of a disguise is to conceal your true identity to other people, it is an outright failure. This episode of Ripley is essentially about Andrew Scott walking into a wig shop then walking out looking like Andrew Scott, but Andrew Scott in a woeful wig.

The worst thing about it, of course – the thing that makes the full series disintegrate on sight – is that it actually works. The inspector visits Andrew Scott, has a full conversation with Andrew Scott and instead of thinking “Wait a minute, that’s just the guy I met before, but in a wig that makes him look a bit how General Zod would if General Zod was inexplicably into disco music,” simply walks away. He doesn’t twig until the very end of the series, the massive idiot.

Two things to take from this, really. The first is that we really need to petition Netflix to make a new Inspector Ravini spin-off, entitled The Further Adventures of The World’s Biggest Numpty, in which he bumbles around Italy screwing up every single crime he encounters by letting suspects go and handcuffing himself to horses and generally skidding around on crime-scene viscera like Todd Carty in Dancing on Ice. The second is that it’s time for Ripley to enter the pantheon of terrible screen wigs.

Obviously Dexter is the runaway leader when it comes to bad screen wigs. Which is strange, because wigs were a practical necessity for that show. For the whole of season five, Michael C Hall wore a wig to cover up the hair loss he sustained having chemotherapy for his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But while this wig did the job perfectly, its success was undermined by another wig he was forced to wear. Intermittently throughout the series we saw Dexter in flashback, which basically amounted to a middle-aged man putting on a novelty Justin Bieber wig.

There have been other frighteningly distracting wigs, too. When the producers of How I Met Your Mother decided to age-up Cobie Smulders, they did so by putting her in a wig so visibly made of nylon that it makes your teeth itch. Nicole Kidman’s wig in Top of the Lake looked like it was coughed up by an especially large cat. Technically Al Pacino is here too, since his appearance in the 2013 TV movie Phil Spector required him to wear a near-limitless succession of preposterously bad wigs, although we have to give him a pass because they were all identical to wigs Phil Spector also wore in real life.

But there’s something about the deranged chutzpah of the Ripley wig – the blistering sense of “will this do?” – that puts it ahead of the competition. It is almost unbeatable in how ridiculous it is. TV wigmakers, consider this a challenge.