4 out of 5
Created by: Adam Brooks, Paul Edelstein
covers season 1
That the structure also seems, initially, to take the format of a flashback – here’s something we’ll pretend is quirky, now let’s flash back so you see how we got into these hijinks! – irks in the same way my sarcastic tone probably does: it’s just a bit too self aware, like the wave of Pulp Fiction-esque movies or Lost-esque shows that followed in the respective wakes.
But something happens in Imposters’ first episode: It actually makes good on its flashback setup by adding to the present day scenario afterward, in an unexpected fashion. We ditch the flashback structure thence forth and continue the latter trend: The show weaves itself into surprising positions in that they’re tricky ones to maintain, but the writers absolutely prove up to the task.
We start on Ezra Bloom, locked in his apartment, signs of misery and depression visible from all the takeout containers and mess strewn about, Bloom getting ready to commit suicide via hanging while the police are pounding on the door. Flash back to happier times: A good job, a whirlwind romance and marriage to Ava. And then the downfall, when he comes home to discover that his ample finances have been swindled, and Ava – real name Maddie – was a con artist, also now out of the picture. When we get back to the present, police bursting through the door, said police – presenting himself as an FBI agent – isn’t all that convincing; it turns out he too was swindled by the same girl, but under the name Alice. After a fashion, the duo agree to team up to track her down.
Cue buddy comedy.
Or that would be the easy way out. This is where the show first pivots by having the leads point to another of Maddie’s marks: Jules. So now a trio… cue road comedy? There are elements of that, but Imposters chooses to ply deeper, as the leads dig into their shared ex’s past and struggle with humanizing her, villainizing her, and overcoming their individual associations with her at the same time. This complexity is played out wonderfully by the script and actors, coming to the topic/s organically, and sinking into bitterness or sadness only as it makes sense for their characters, and not just for padding the drama.
Still: There’s a logical path to follow of self-discovery, spread across these characters, leading to an inevitable confrontation. But no: There’s no dilly dallying in getting to that point, so that Imposters may surprise once more by taking everyone’s story and evolving it into a mix of Ocean’s 11 heist dynamics and the furthering characters studies for the season’s back half.
The show, admittedly, starts to push the whole ‘who’s fooling whom?’ dynamic a bit too heavily, and there’s sort of a big ol’ red herring runaround with Uma Thurman that’s fun, and adds some temporary tension, but is – as per the herring tag – ultimately pointless, and seems like it will be better served by a (hopefully) second season. But Imposters was one of my favorite TV experiences of the last year – constantly catching me out on my expectations and going far beyond the call of standard entertainment to build an appreciably complex puzzle of intriguing characters, moments, and emotions.