Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend. And with Bravo's third scripted series Imposters, the network has officially proven itself to be far more than just a home for juicy housewives drama.
Starring The Last Ship's Inbar Lavi, Imposters is a delightful dramedy about a con artist, Maddie, who charms people into marrying her before making off with their money (and just enough dirt to blackmail them into staying quiet). But what Maddie doesn't know is that while she's already working on her next victim, her two most recent marks, Ezra (Rob Heaps) and Richard (Parker Young), have teamed up to track her down and get revenge.
But in an unexpected twist, Ezra and Richard soon realize that they must follow in Maddie's footsteps and start conning people themselves if they ever hope to fund their little vengeance mission. Much like Dexter Morgan, they draw up their own code of who they can and can't con (babies, no; a--holes, yes). Of course, learning how to con isn't as easy as watching The Grifters and reading a few books — a truth they're forced to face when even their simplest schemes quickly go awry. That's where Jules (Marianne Rendón) comes in. Another one of Maddie's victims, Jules proves to be a natural when it comes to scamming jerks out of money and soon joins the squad.
It's a silly premise, sure, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. And with USA moving towards grittier shows like Mr. Robot and Shooter, Bravo is quickly positioning itself as the new go-to place for fun, glossy one-hours. Enlisted's Young steals every scene he's in as the impeccably handsome, yet excruciatingly thick Richard (when attempting to impersonate an FBI agent, he refers to it as the "Federal Burrow of Investigation"). And Lavi more than rises to the challenge of playing a con woman who can transform herself so seamlessly into another person that even her former brother-in-law fails to recognize her while propositioning her for sex.
And though one would think the ins and outs of a con woman's life would be far more interesting than that of her heartbroken victims, it's actually the latter that prove to be the most fascinating part of the show — particularly Ezra, whose wounds from Maddie's betrayal have yet to start scarring over.
Having given up all of his dreams to help out the family business years ago, Ezra projected all of his happiness onto Maddie — or as he knew her, Eva. He was sweet to the point of smothering, giving her daily wedding anniversary gifts that ranged from simple (an ankle bracelet) to over-the-top (a purebred dog). That's because for Ezra, Eva represented everything good in his life. And so when she eventually abandons him in the premiere, taking all of his money right down do his bar mitzvah bonds, Ezra realizes just how little he has without her, leading to a bleakly comedic montage of Ezra attempting to kill himself in various ways and failing, proving he literally can't do anything right.
This dark humor runs throughout Imposters, popping up in the most unexpected places. When contrasted with the show's more lighthearted elements (particularly the wacky, buddy comedy feel of Ezra and Richard's interactions), it creates a discordant tonal collage that — defying all odds — somehow works. But this is far from where the show's bizarre tone ends. Imposters also includes elements of suspenseful cat-and-mouse games, as Maddie and her partners work to scam a bank manager with an anger problem (Battlestar Galactica's Aaron Douglas), as well as the over-the-top soapy drama of Maddie's mysterious and deadly boss, the Doctor — a plotline so dull it can only be forgiven for resulting in the introduction of the Doctor's main fixer, Lenny, played with Kill Bill-level badassery by Uma Thurman herself.
Imposter's shifting tone seems appropriate for a show that's all about reinvention and adaptation. Having the veil ripped from his eyes, Ezra develops a much more cynical outlook on the world, fully dedicating himself to getting revenge and making sure he's never put in a position to get taken advantage of again. But as it stands in the early part of the season, it's unclear whether Ezra's hardened personality is an unfortunate side effect of the betrayal he suffered or if he's finally getting in touch with his truest self.
This seems to be the question at the core of Imposters: Who are you, really? Not who you want the world to see you as, or who you would like to be, but the real you. As Ezra, Richard and Jules learn about the type of woman Maddie became to seduce each of them, what they're really learning about is what makes themselves tick — their vulnerabilities, their addictions, their fears. Maddie, however, remains a mystery, both to the audience and to herself.
Having spent so long escaping into different personas, Maddie is left without any clue of who she is outside the job, which is exactly how she likes it. But all that changes once she happens to meet a man who makes her want a taste of real life. (This is where the show introduces its star-crossed lovers storyline. Like we said, there's a lot going on in this show.)
Despite all of its competing elements, Imposters just works. It probably isn't going to win any major awards or break any ratings records, but if you're looking for an addicting story with a great sense of humor (the second episode is called "My Balls, Dickhead" if that gives you any indication of the jokes ahead), Imposters is the perfect escape at a time when we could all use one.
Imposters premieres Tuesday at 10/9c on Bravo.