IMPOSTERS really wants you to like it.
Like its leading lady Maddie (Inbar Lavi) in the opening scene of the second episode, the show is changing outfits, trying different personas and gazing seductively in the mirror until it thinks it knows what you like. It even has a punchy episode title — “My Balls, Dickhead” — that shows just how cool it is. Unfortunately, its efforts fall a bit flat, but not for lack of trying.
As in the first episode, Lavi shines as Maddie takes on the persona of Saffron Keyes, the assistant to her new mark: banker Gary Heller (Aaron Douglas). But as her quirks as Saffron — a sweet airhead who has a weakness with words — are once again as embarrassing as her bad French accent last episode, I’m starting to think that it’s intentional. Her charming ingenue persona so closely verges on lolita that it’s nearly impossible to watch her scenes with Heller, but I’m guessing (or hoping) that the show is making some sort of sweeping commentary about whatever awful things men find attractive. However, it’s difficult to tell if the show is going for satire when Maddie and her two co-conspirators’ story line is as sleek and sharp as it is.
Maddie makes quick work of Mr. Heller, who is momentarily stunned by her good looks when she walks into her interview. After an intentional misstep that allows her to break the ice with her rough-around-the-edges boss, she’s hired on the spot, and the game begins. In the first of the episode’s energetic montages, Saffron née Maddie quickly ingratiates herself with her new coworkers while working her beat. She hacks into Heller’s computer, allowing her associate Max (Brian Benben) to enter as the “new IT man.” And Saffron can apparently control the weather too, conveniently forgetting her umbrella on a rainy day and getting rescued and escorted home by her noble boss.
But Maddie has her own temptations. Her coffeeshop beau Patrick (Stephen Bishop) is still there, apparently having never moved from his stool. After a few stolen glances and the departure of his attractive “coworker,” he invites Maddie to chat, and they talk his Princeton education, his job in tech and targeted advertising. It’s as thrilling as it sounds. For whatever reason, Maddie finds herself taken by this model of a man, and is about to accept his invite to his Saturday barbecue when she sees her associate Max walk by, clamming her up — but not before Patrick obliviously gives her his number.
Maddie and her partners are celebrating their ongoing success, but the atmosphere is soon zapped when Max berates Maddie for her flirtation with Patrick. This job is of great import to their benefactor, the mysterious Doctor, he tells Maddie; then ordering Sally to tell her about their Tulsa game as a cautionary tale — how she fell for a man while on a job and the Doctor “sent her a message.” Maddie tries to persuade them that there is nothing to worry about, but sadly, she can’t con herself.
Cut to Maddie at the dartroom bar, buying herself a drink before she gets interrupted by a enthusiastic bar-goer with a cute pick-up line. A jealous Heller cuts in, and the bar-goer, Freddy, leaves them be while Saffron chats Heller up about darts history. The second lightning-quick montage takes place, as Heller, Freddy and the rest of the faceless gang have a swell time drinking and betting at darts. After Maddie wins Heller the pot, a drunk Freddy teases him about how “Patty left him for the pool boy” and Heller blows up at him in a surprising show of violence.
Saffron gets Heller to bring back to her apartment, where she collapses and lays invitingly on her couch. She drunkenly rambles about how people don’t know “the real him,” causing his face to soften before he leaves. And lo and behold, her drunken state was a facade! A clear-eyed Maddie sits up, calling Patrick about his barbecue and looking as femme fatale as possible as she smokes by her window — Patrick completing the picture by playing her some jazz through the phone.
Meanwhile, there may be some red flags on Max and Sally’s sides of the job. Max continues to comb through the contents of Heller’s laptop, but suddenly gets locked out. Sally, who is posing as Heller’s vaguely-Eastern European sounding housemaid, successfully snoops around his house, finding wads of cash under his loose floorboards and a gun under his mattress. But, when Heller returns to ask her advice about Saffron, his quick temper resurfaces again when Sally tries to encourage him and compliment his looks. It’s all a bit ominous, and neither of these things could bode well for Maddie.
For better or for worse, Maddie’s story line is a clear contrast to Ezra (Rob Heaps) and Richard’s (Parker Young) subplot, which has all the makings of a buddy-comedy and features the few laugh-out-loud moments of the episode. Ezra is the classic straight man while Richard is the arrogant strong man — a reliable dynamic for a classic road trip.
After they receive the redacted facial recognition results, the shop owner wrangles Ezra and Richard for an extra $5,000 for the rest of the intel before kicking them out at gunpoint. The two of them resort to selling all of Ezra’s belongings in a fun yard sale scene, in which they’re visited by Ezra’s increasingly flat and badly acted family members. His brother unconvincingly tries stop his fool’s errand, but his mom offers to give him the $5,000, which he refuses. Richard, however, is not so reticent, and accepts the money — which Ezra later learns after a conciliatory meeting with Gaby. Ezra confronts Richard after he’s received the intel from the store owner and said the title of the episode (which still makes no sense in the context of this story). They reconcile, and embark on a 700-mile road trip to the address listed in the intel.
Three hundred miles in, and Ezra and Richard find themselves short on cash and short on options. Inspired by their quest, they buy a self-help book and watch a John Cusack movie to learn how to con. They fail spectacularly at their first mark, only barely getting away after Richard desperately points and shouts, “Oh my god an American Eagle!” in one of the few laugh-out-loud moments of the episode. They fail once more in a slightly-less hilarious iteration at a diner the next morning, but do succeed in becoming the most enjoyable part of the episode. The pair are absurd and a little atonal with the rest of the episode, but they’re the only part of the show that have lived up the their “black comedy” label that the Bravo keeps trying to push. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the two stories finally do meet.
High off the adrenaline from their two failed cons, Ezra and Richard trick their way into a hotel room to wash and groom themselves before they confront their former lover. Maddie lays listlessly on her couch as her ex-husbands walk up to an apartment door and knock. Maddie gets up to answer, but the woman who answers Ezra and Richard is not her. In a twist of events, she was Maddie’s wife.
I would say “holy red herring Batman!” if they hadn’t already been hinting at the third musketeer in this group of spurned lovers. Despite some entertaining moments between Ezra and Richard, and the beginnings of the relationship between Maddie and her men, this episode felt like too much set-up and not enough satisfaction. It’s going to be a long con.
Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
Imposters airs Day at 10PM on Bravo
Hoai-Tran is a freelance pop culture journalist based in D.C., with an affinity for superheroes, TV, movies, and Jeff Goldbum memes. She currently works as a web producer for the Washington Examiner and has written for USA Today.
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Hoai-Tran Bui | Contributor