"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Riches: Virgin Territory

Guns. Money. Blackmail. Threats. I knew that when the Malloys made their way back to the Traveler village for Earl's funeral that there'd be trouble. But little did I know that there'd be so much of it.What's amazing about this episode was that, with everything going on, I was easily able to keep track of the various plot lines. The cost was a decided lack of heart-palpitating tension. I really expected, with the Malloys re-entering the fold for the first time since Wayne stole the family money and buggered off with his family, that I'd be seeing more action.But The Riches isn't about action. It's about relationships. And, boy, did I find out a lot about those relationships tonight.

First off, let me pay tribute to Ken. He may be an idiot, but he's the only one in the Traveler clan who seems to have any semblance of honor. He truly wanted to marry DiDi for love and no other reason. Up until he tried to consummate the relationship, I really thought he was a dimwitted player in his sister Ginny's scheme. But I couldn't help but start to feel bad for him when he not only told DiDi that he was a virgin (not a surprise), but, even after she rejected him with malice -- "I barely know what love is. But I'm pretty sure I'll never love you." -- he loved her enough to defend her against his own sister. Maybe some of the other members of the Malloy family need to get a fever... it might put some sense in them.

A good example of that is the couple that originally tried to get to the Malloys when they escaped the village. Dale offers them $25,000 -- he took out insurance policies on his father's life... imagine that -- to kill Wayne. But Wayne has something up his sleeve, which is the fact that he can nail them for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. But that's not the end of it. Dahlia knows that Dale left Earl out in the woods to die, and any attempts he makes to turn the blame back on her backfires. So, at the height of the episode Dahlia has a gun on Dale, Wayne making threats even though a gun is pointed at his face, and DiDi about to be betrothed to a man who she'll never love.

You'd think there would be more tension there. But I wonder if such a climactic sequence happened too early in the show's run. It's not even halfway through the show's first (and, perhaps only, given the ratings) season; so, even as all of this is going on, I know that Wayne isn't going to get shot, Dale is going to live to menace another day, and DiDi and Ken will part ways pretty quickly. All of that knowledge inadvertently diffused the excitement in what was a well-written episode overall. But I guess having episodes where The Malloys/Riches pull off elaborate scams, while Dale bares down on them, is what the writers are aiming for, not cheap gunshot cliffhangers. Speaking of which, I didn't think for a second after Wayne saw gunshots go off in Dale's trailer that Dale was dead. That would be too easy.

Speaking of Dale, I really thought he was going to kill Ken at the end of the episode. But I guess that he'd rather beat the location of Eden Falls out of him. I wonder how long it's going to take for Ken to crack? And we finally know where most of Dale's hatred towards Wayne came from: he's been in love with Dahlia since he was a kid. Heck, even Cael's dopey friend Brent lunged for her when he came around the house and encountered a drunken, lingerie-clad "Sheree Cherien Rich." Dale doesn't understand what she sees in Wayne, but I know better: Wayne is fundamentally good, and Dale is fundamentally evil. Wayne might steal from his father, if he had one, but he'd never leave the bastard out to die. Heck, he even managed to get the guy who was pointing to gun at him to accidentally shoot his wife instead.

The character that seems to be headed for a breakdown is Dahlia. Being rejected by Earl's wife was about as cold as it gets. She's already the most unsure of the new life Wayne has stolen for them, and the most likely to want to escape back to the womb of the Traveler clan. And, she can't seem to convince people that it was Dale, not her betrayal, that killed Earl. It makes me wonder if she's going to be the first to break, especially after she drains another bottle of vodka or swallows yet another couple of painkillers. Minnie Driver does play the pain quite well, though, as we see Dahlia's self-conflict in Driver's face, scene in and scene out.

Still, The Riches continues to turn in quality episodes with fantastic writing and acting. I'm not sure why it hasn't garnered the buzz of some of its FX schedule-mates (like The Shield, Rescue Me, and Nip/Tuck).

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