‘The Riches’: Dahlia’s Path


Judging from last week's coming attractions, I thought this week’s Riches was going to focus on Di Di and Erick’s relationship, and Di Di’s parents’ struggles to relate to her. I expected the typical coming of age tripe, maybe even a “Very Special Episode.”

I don’t know why I expected this. I've been watching Riches every week, and it has purposefully tackled each issue from a different perspective than that of the majority of shows on TV.

Instead of focusing on Di Di, the episode followed Dahlia as she traveled along an arc that began during the
first hours of her getting clean, to the end of her second day without drugs. Di Di was used mainly as a foil for the rest of the family.

At the start of the episode, we witness Dahlia’s manic excitement over getting clean, and resolving to be there for her family, and choosing to do so by jumping whole-heartedly into their new lifestyle. She even wants to kick it off with a ritual, but that ritual no longer fits into their lifestyle and is shot down by every member of her family.

Dahlia’s first roadblock on the way to her total buffer immersion comes in the form of phone calls she must make on Hugh’s behalf. She has to defend a person whom she dislikes, but whom she can relate to as an addict, and she makes it through.

Her second test comes when she interacts with Di Di and Erick, and Cael, who chooses to play devil’s advocate throughout the episode. This is when Di Di’s storyline really kicks off, although Dahlia doesn’t find out about the sex until later. Dahlia is attempting to handle things the way a buffer would, and seeks out Nina’s help. The audience should recognize pretty quickly that Nina’s advice is going be dubious at best, due to Nina’s less than fulfilling marital situation: Dahlia meets Nina’s husband’s “friend” while Nina sits in her garage, surrounded by the fruits of her hobby–fashioning massive phallus-shaped “lighthouses” out of clay.

If Dahlia had not already become skeptical about her own plan before this scene, those lighthouses really should have sealed the deal.

She, however, decides to take Nina’s advice (minus the drugs), and approaches Di Di using a technique she’d read about in one of Nina’s self-help books. This is the much-balleyhooed scene in which Di Di uses the idea of sex as a weapon with which to hurt her mother, and Dahlia is snapped out of her charade by her daughter’s affront to their religious beliefs.

Dahlia’s acceptance of the family’s new life lasted a total of twenty-three program minutes.

In her very next scene, she finds out that Wayne plans to defend the company against a lesbian couple with a discriminatory practices suit against Panco. Dahlia can’t believe that her husband would consider defending the company against the couple. The story eventually leads Dahlia to form an uneasy truce between her desire to provide her family with a very nice life and her need to ensure that they maintain their values.

What I find most interesting, and what is in fact a main point of the show, is that the buffer values she detects are clearly far more morally bereft than her Traveler values. Also, Dahlia’s statement that “I mess it [life] up, and I end up blaming everyone,” is one of those universal feelings, and is universally frustrating, and there is no way you can’t empathize with how hard the character is trying to keep everything together.

One last point: Cherien’s mom continues to say that she “made some calls,” yet no one seems concerned. Either her phone doesn’t work, or that’s some pretty blunt foreshadowing.