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Series / Imposters

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Imposters is a 2017 Black Comedy television series aired by the Bravo cable network. Maddie (Inbar Lavi) is a con artist who, with the help of her two teammates, Max (Brian Benben) and Sally (Katherine LaNasa), gets men and women to fall in love with her and takes advantage of them.

Even as Maddie and her team begin working on their latest mark, three of her former victims team up to track her down: Ezra (Rob Heaps), Richard (Parker Young) and Jules (Marianne Rendon). Soon nicknamed "the Bumblers," the trio start to work cons on their own to finance their quest. But circumstances soon put all of them in the crosshairs of the notorious "Doctor."

Imposters provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Jules and her sister Poppy call each other "Jujube" and "Poops".
    • Richard is called Richie by his family, friends or girlfriends.
    • Maddie calls Ezra Ez affectionately.
  • And This Is for...: In the finale, Maddie ditches Max when she learns that he got rid of Sally. When Max opens the briefcase he thinks has the FBI's money in it, Maddie has left a note invoking this trope.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Maddie insists she felt nothing for Ezra more than any of her other marks. Ezra replies by asking "Then why'd you keep the anklet?"
  • Asshole Victim: The bulk of Maddie and her crew’s mark are people who had done something wrong, so that they can blackmail them into keeping quiet after they’ve been robbed of everything. Becomes a Discussed Trope when Ezra and Richard resort to cons to survive and set as a rule that they will only steal from assholes.
  • Bad Boss: If any of his employees so much as thinks about leaving “the life” The Doctor will send goons to beat the crap out of their loved ones.
  • Batman Gambit: Part of Maddie's play in the eighth and ninth episode has Ezra withstanding an interrogation from Patrick, an FBI agent, and subtly manipulating him.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Maddie with everybody post-divorce, but Ezra in particular. It's not even resolved when they have sex in season 2; they're back at each other's throats almost immediately.
  • Big Bad: The Doctor, a mysterious figure who plans the cons Maddie and her team carry out and keeps 70% of the take.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The protagonists are people hiding terrible secrets who got conned and eventually become grifters themselves, while the antagonists have no problems destroying people's lives or outright killing them without blinking.
  • Blatant Lies: Ezra, Richard and Jules all claim to be over Maddie, but it's transparently clear that all three are still very much in love with her.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Jules gets the Doctor's fingerprints off a glass and with Max she makes casts of them he uses when impersonating the Doctor to empty his safety deposit box by getting past the handprint required this way.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Ezra feels this to his father as Maddie's "goodbye file" reveals that not only has Ezra's dad been cheating on his mother for 20 years but he also stole the company's groundbreaking patent from his own brother.
    • Maddie when she realizes Max didn't hesitate to sell Sally out to her death just to save his own skin.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Richard may be self-obsessed and dimwitted, but he is a born salesman.
  • Calling Card: When Maddie has gotten what she came for, she leaves her mark with a website containing a video explaining herself, telling her mark not to find her, and threatening them if they try.
  • Character Catchphrase: "Always forward, never back." A phrase Maddie likes to say a lot, that Ezra, Richie and Jules each remember her saying to them. The three of them later appropriate it for themselves.
  • Cleanup Crew: In addition to being a deadly enforcer, Lenny is also very handy when it comes to disposing a body and making it look like the corpse disappeared on his own initiative.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Averted, Patrick is told by his FBI boss that spending wildly on everything from a huge house to gifts to private plane rides for his romance with Maddie is a major strain on the FBI budget. Naturally, the fact all that money was for nothing when Maddie and the Bumblers get away at the end of the season lands Patrick in hot water.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In season 2, Richard and his female partner decide to check into a hotel... which just happens to be where Max and Sally are holding Ezra's dad hostage.
  • Dark Action Girl: Lenny Cohen (Uma Thurman), the Doctor’s main enforcer, is a brutal hand to hand fighter who will break your arm if you annoy her at a bar.
  • Dark Secret: Ezra, Richard and Jules all have one that made them targets for Maddie, Max and Sally. Ezra's and Richard's are eventually explained, but Jules's has yet to be fully revealed by the end of the first season (it is in season 2).
  • Divide and Conquer: The Bumblers quickly figure out that when they do confront Maddie, it's quite likely she'll try to play them off each other by going to each in person and claiming she truly loved them and it wasn't an act. Sure enough, Maddie tries it but despite temptation, the Bumblers hold to a "code" they wrote to resist.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ezra becomes so depressed after Maddie leaves him that he tries to kill himself, but botches it.
  • Enemy Mine: In the eighth episode, Maddie decides to recruit Ezra, Jules and Richard in order for her and Max to have a chance at conning Patrick despite learning that he's in the FBI.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: How Ezra fell for Maddie.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Doctor actually is a medical doctor. He is seen performing surgery and looking at X-rays while talking to Max.
  • Fake Aristocrat: Jules' grandfather was a Scottish immigrant who made up being a Baron to impress people.
  • Fake Nationality: In-Universe, Maddie pretended to be Belgian when she seduced Ezra.
  • Flash Back: Done a lot, either to show the past of the Bumblers with Maddie or occasionally explaining things like how Sally and Max started to work for the Doctor.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Jules has long been the screwup in her family, needing to get bailed out multiple times as a rebellious, artsy type. Her older sister Poppy is rule-abiding, conventional and far more successful in her life.
  • Foreshadowing: Ezra doing the quarter-in-the-ear trick on Jules. In the finale, he does the same thing in revealing that he successfully stole the ring from under the noses of the FBI, Maddie and Max.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: This seems to be Maddie's MO, as she married all her past spouses within six months.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Richie tells Hull's father, who tries to speculate on why he became a crime boss and seems like he blames himself, that this wasn't his fault, because Hull chose his path.
  • Freudian Trio: Ezra is the cool-headed Superego — the others even call him the "mastermind" of the group. Jules is the passionate, intense, artistic Id. Richie is the Ego, balancing ambition and pleasure-seeking with the strongest moral compass and sense of decency of the group.
  • Gambit Pileup: From the seventh episode onward, the amount of deceptions between characters begin to grow exponentially, even as they have to work more closely together. They all come to a head in the season finale where the last few scenes show who got away with what.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Lenny and Shelly Cohen. The former is actually a woman (it's not said if that's a nickname for something, such as Lenora), the latter a man (full name Sheldon).
  • Gentleman Thief: Ezra grows into this as he continues grifting in the process of trying to track Maddie down.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet:
    • In Mexico, Ezra meets a lovely Colombian lady and they chat over the city as she expertly picks his wallet. She heads to an alley to get out the cash and slips the wallet into a purse packed with several. She frowns and starts rummaging just as Ezra calls from behind her, revealing he has her cell phone. Instead of being upset, Ezra gives her tips on "don't flirt so quickly" the next time she pulls this. He also points out that he'd appreciate having the money in the wallet returned as well.
    • Meeting Max's old con artist mentor, Maddie lets him pick her wallet to prove he's faking being mentally ill.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Maddie is a con artist who bilked all of her past spouses. When three team up to track her down however they use cons for money, with the question about how different the trio are from her being repeatedly raised. Maddie is not entirely bad either and feels obvious guilt at her crimes, while her past spouses start to enjoy their cons. Her associates Max and Sally aren't entirely bad either. The Doctor is the worst. Even he takes cares of his father though.
  • Has a Type: All the Bumblers get with women who are like Maddie after one fashion or another.
    • Jules has sex with Gina.
      Jules: Oh God. I slept with the woman who I know isn't who she really says she is. Is this, like, a pattern? Is there something wrong with me?
    • Ezra gets with Sofia.
      Richie: …of the con artist you're screwing that looks just like Ava.
      Ezra: What? No! [stammering] No, she has much lighter eyes.
    • Richard gets with Poppy, the prototype for Alice.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Ezra, Richard and Jules undergo a mild version of this trope, as they are left to resort to becoming con artists themselves to fund their search for Maddie. Beyond the utilitarian function, they all realize there's a bit of a thrill to it. It varies—Ezra enjoys it a lot, while Richard only a little—but they all enjoy it to some extent. Brought up majorly when the Bumblers are hiding out in Mexico in season 2. Jules and Richard are rocked to find Ezra has gotten $25,000 in three days by going from selling fake boat tours to actually selling people boats he doesn't really own.
    Richard: I think he's getting off on this.
    Ezra: Nobody who gets conned is innocent.
    Jules: Now you sound like our ex-wife.
  • Hollywood Genetics: Patrick, a light-skinned black man, turns out to have three kids with his ex-wife (who seems white, but with tan skin), who are darker-skinned than them both. While not impossible, it's unlikely, particularly that they both would have this skin tone (the kids are twins, a boy and a girl).
  • Hollywood Law: An FBI agent repeatedly having sex with the suspect he is trying to catch would completely and utterly tank the case in the real world. Here it isn't even brought up.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen:
    • A flashback in the season 2 premiere shows how Richard, thanks to Maddie, went from the slickest car dealership boss in town and hometown hero into bankrupt loser.
    • Also, Patrick has gone from a slick FBI agent running up huge expenses to being banished to an extremely small office and now a literal joke among his co-workers.
  • How We Got Here: The pilot opens with Ezra in the middle of his trashed living room, looking a complete mess and yelling to someone at the door to go away as he's trying to kill himself. It then flashes back five weeks to him marrying Maddie and then discovering how she conned him.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: In season two, held captive by Max and Sally, Ezra's dad talks about con artists and asks how they can live with ripping people off. In response, Sally asks how someone "can steal a patent from his own brother then have him institutionalized."
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Maddie goes by a different name with every mark, being also known as Ava, Alice, CeCe and Saffron.
    • When they meet Max, each of the Bumblers calls him by the name they knew him when they met.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal:
    • One of the things that attracts Maddie towards Patrick is the fact that he is not a mark and she could lead a perfectly normal life with him. It turns out Patrick is an FBI agent going after The Doctor and using her to track him down, and she has her moment of heartbreak when she learns this.
    • Maddie attempts this in season 2, moving into a small town and deciding to live a quiet life free of her past. It doesn't last long.
  • Imagine Spot: Maddie fantasizes about one of her marks choking on his sushi and dropping dead at the table.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Richard and the women who he's having sex with both get very loud.
  • Impersonating an Officer:
    • Richie first meets Ezra while he's faking being an FBI agent to track down the woman who'd conned both of them. Ezra quickly sees through it however.
    • In Season 2, Max and Sally impersonate two police detectives, bluffing a photographer into turning over photos he took which can reveal the Doctor's identity this way. Ezra and Richie later pretend to be FBI agents while they're investigating the Doctor too.
  • In Love with the Mark: Maddie seems to subvert this as she insists each "marriage" is nothing but a job. However, she admits she did need to feel some love for her marks to make the con work and a therapist states Maddie just can't turn that off.
    Maddie: You want to know how I got you to fall in love with me? It's not a con. You have to show that person a part of your true self. Then you need to find something in that person that you can really, truly fall in love with. That's how you do what I do.
    • In season 2, Patrick's former FBI supervisor realizes he really did love Maddie and is worried those feelings are complicating the search for her.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It takes Richard's blunt talk to finally get Ezra to face up to how "Ava" never existed and her life/love with Ezra was all a lie. He also has to realize that rather than be a pawn of others, she was willing to do this.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Max, Lenny, and the Doctor. If Max has to intervene, there's probably something beyond Maddie's control at play in the con. If Lenny shows up, it means one of the con artists screwed up. The Doctor, however, only gets involved if any of them even thinks of leaving the life.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: A season 2 flashback shows how Maddie was working a dead-end waitress job in her town when Max and Sally first met her. They saw how she was easily bantering with the customers, putting on fake smiles and even voices to win them over with the occasional story (convincing a patron their steak was just as good as the $50 one across the street). Max openly notes "she's a natural" as they recruited her to help with a local con, leading to their partnership.
  • Male Gaze: The camera never misses a chance to focus on Maddie's spectacular body. The fact that she only dresses in outfits that shown it off undoubtedly helps.
  • Master of Disguise: Maddie is quite expert at this, as are Max and Sally. The Bumblers are... not so much.
  • The Missus and the Ex: A fun variation. When he meets Jules' sister, Poppy, Richard is struck by how oddly familiar she is. He talks on her history, her habits, what perfume she likes... and it finally hits him that Maddie based her entire act of "Alice" on Poppy. Naturally, it doesn't take long for them to hit it off just as well.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: Obviously, Maddie, Max and Sally have plenty of these.
    • The opening of season 2 has Maddie checking out a storage locker packed with various cards, cell phones, disguises and what appears to be a few hundred thousand dollars in cash in various currencies.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Maddie decides to kill the Doctor rather than just turn him over to the FBI, as even from prison she thinks he can get to them. She's foiled by the others in trying to kill him. Later though Sally does kill him in concert with her.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Maddie tracks down the Doctor's former partner, who seems to be a mentally addled man in a retirement home. Naturally, the act doesn't fool Maddie for a second and he drops it fast.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Maddie looks like she is about to completely lose her shit when Ezra, Richard and Jules confront her in a diner in episode 5.
    • When they convince her that Patrick works for the FBI and Maddie realizes she's been the one played this time.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Maddie and Jules rarely get called Madeleine or Julia.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Ezra uses a Hugh Grant impression he tries on a new friend early in season 2 as the model for an accent he later puts on for a mark. He does sound a lot like Hugh Grant, but Rob Heaps tends to slip on some of his R's and a few vowels.
  • Paid-for Family: A variation as Maddie's partners, Max and Sally help her with the cons. They switch turns with one playing her parent or other guardian while the other infiltrates the mark's company.
  • Persona Non Grata: What Patrick turns into in the second season. Having cost the FBI a small fortune in his "wooing" of Maddie, the fake wedding and losing both a half million dollars and an expensive ring, Patrick is removed from the investigation, banished to an office barely the size of a cubicle and it's clear he's become the joke of his colleagues.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The reason Maddie and her crew generally go after AssholeVictims has nothing to do with morality. It's just that they usually have a Dark Secret that can be used to blackmail them into not reporting the con.
  • Properly Paranoid: Ezra shows Gabby the wedding video of Elias and Katherine rather chummy for total strangers and how odd it is that Elias had a "fatal" heart attack the day Ava and Katherine left. Gabby tells him he's just being crushed by the pressure of Ava leaving and his imagination is running wild. As it happens, Ezra is dead on as Elias and Katherine are really Max and Sally, Maddie's partners.
  • Queer Establishing Moment: Ezra and Richard find the last known address Maddie had. On arriving, they're greeted by Jules... who'd been her wife. Both are surprised, as Maddie was previously married to them, while neither knew she'd also been with a woman.
  • Revenge: Sally, in the series finale, kills the Doctor by injecting him with poison. This is clearly something that she relished, since he had brutally tortured her offscreen.
  • Right Through the Wall: Twice Jules is stuck in a room close to Richard as he's loudly having sex with a woman (in the second case, this is her sister, making her doubly unhappy) so she hears everything.
  • Romantic False Lead: Gaby for Ezra. It's almost sad how she's clearly in love with him, while he can't get over his former "wife".
  • Running Gag:
    • Richard is terrible at pronouncing "bureau". Before he screws it up a third time, he just avoids the word altogether.
    • When someone refers to Maddie as "a bitch," one (or all three) of the Bumblers will automatically snap "don't call her that."
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Maddie's father is suffering from dementia, and can't remember that she's left home, even her name once, nor a conversation which they just had. He also has an unprotected phone as he'd never be able to remember a password for it.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Max finally introduces himself to the Bumblers, they're all thrown to recognize him as a different guy from each of Maddie's cons. He had been posing as an art critic with Jules and she's more concerned that he actually didn't like her paintings.
  • Spot the Imposter: Obviously done as Ezra, Richard and Jules' lack of experience causes them to make a lot mistakes early on with their cons. However, it's shown that even a pro like Maddie can still make mistakes of her own.
    • A fun variation. At an airport, Ezra's brother Josh meets Maddie, who's just dyed her hair blonde and preparing to leave for her next mark. She plays off him seeing a resemblance for some flirting, then leaves him hanging as she walks off. As she does, he sees she's wearing the anklet Ezra got her and she is Ava. He chases but is unable to catch her before she reaches his flight.
    • Ezra is able to see through Richard's FBI act due to Richard's inability to pronounce "Bureau" correctly.
    • Watching their wedding video, Ezra is struck by how Elias, a former worker at the company who just had a "fatal" heart attack and Ava's "Aunt Katherine" are rather chummy for two people who don't know each other. This leads him to figure out they're Maddie's partners.
    • In season 2, questioned by the FBI, Maddie's mother reveals she's known for a long time that her daughter didn't really work for UNICEF. As she relates, Maddie made the mistake of sending a postcard from a "conference in Barcelona" but, having been checking on the organization, her mom knew Barcelona doesn't have a UNICEF branch. She decided not to press it, afraid of learning the truth.
    • Maddie poses as a lawyer as she meets three other con artists. However, they're able to see through her with one noting how her briefcase is both brand new and cheap and her wig isn't quite put on right.
  • Stealing the Credit: Jules' dark secret. When her college roommate killed herself, Jules was a mess afterward and fell behind in her studies, sotook her roommate's project to use for her senior thesis and was caught. Her family hushed it up but any chance Jules has of getting into the art world will be ruined if it was exposed.
  • Stress Vomit: When she's finally met by her exes, Maddie asks to go to the bathroom. Once inside, she immediately vomits into the toilet and then comes back acting as if nothing is wrong.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine:
    • After discovering Patrick is an FBI agent, Maddie is basically kicking herself that she fell for exactly the same sort of tricks (from a fake family to playing hard to get) that she's used countless times on her own marks. Naturally, the Bumblers take some pleasure out of Maddie getting a dose of what she did to them.
    • Earlier in the series, when Maddie is with Patrick for her "birthday," she's stunned when Ezra drops by, pretending to be her big brother and Jules his girlfriend. They're obviously getting a kick using the same "fake family" gimmick Maddie used on them as Maddie is fighting not to lose it in front of Patrick. And then Richard is one of the bartenders for the party.
  • Team Power Walk: Played for laughs in the first scene of the second season as the Bumblers stride in slo-motion at a bus depot. They start to seperate with Ezra calling out as it turns out each had a different idea what bus to take.
  • Throwing the Fight: This is Richard's dark secret: He threw a key interception in his high school championship game to beat the point spread. He says he used the money to help his mother but knows that won't make much difference and ruin his name in his home town.
  • Title Drop: The name of every episode comes from a line of dialogue used during said episode. The show title itself is dropped at the end of the first season when The Doctor calls Lenny and tells her to go after "the three imposters" (referring to Ezra, Richard and Jules).
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Ezra grows more assertive and confident, as a grifter and just as a person in general, the further along he goes in trying to find Maddie. By the season finale, he manages to fool not only the FBI, but both Maddie and Max, and is the only one among them who gets away with anything valuable in the end.
    • In season 2, it's revealed that rather than be killed by the Doctor, Sally has now become one of his enforcers and a cold and brutal woman.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Used heavily from the eighth episode onward.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Maddie's video to Ezra (and, it's hinted, to Richard and Jules as well) lampshades how they will all be wondering how much of their relationship was fake or not.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Richard following Patrick into the Seattle headquarters of the FBI where Patrick and his "family" are all wearing suits and agent badges.
    • In season 2, Max finds himself held at gunpoint by A very much alive Sally.