It's hard to imagine how the second season of "The Riches" could be a bigger high-wire act than the first, but raising the stakes on these inventive but outlandish characters is what this FX series is all about.
When we last saw con artists Wayne and Dahlia Malloy (Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver), their audacious attempt to steal the American Dream by assuming the identities of Doug and Cherien Rich had collapsed when Doug's old friend, Pete Mincey (Arye Gross), arrived in Eden Falls to reconnect with the now dead couple.
After failed attempts to throw him off the trail, Pete is able to piece together a partial version of the truth. When he threatens to go to the police with what he knows, Wayne, Dahlia and their three children -- Cael (Noel Fisher), Di Di (Shannon Marie Woodward) and Sam (Aidan Mitchell) -- decide to drop their elaborate ruse in the suburbs of Baton Rouge, La., and head for Mexico.
- When: 10 p.m. tonight, FX
But before Pete can make good on his threat, Dale (Todd Stashwick), Dahlia's murderous cousin, intervenes. Fearing Wayne and Dahlia's swindle would come to an end before he figures out a way to get his cut, Dale takes matters into his own hands.
Season two picks up with Wayne's return to the mansion he and his family have lived in as the Riches for three months. He believes he can talk Pete into backing off -- instead, he finds the aftermath of Dale's brutal problem-solving.
Meanwhile, Wayne's self-medicating boss Hugh Panetta (Gregg Henry) stumbles on the scene with a tale of marital woe and news of a lucrative land deal he needs "Doug Rich" to negotiate. More than $100 million is at stake.
Despite the complications created by a homicidal relative who wants to split everything "50/50," Wayne can't walk away from the possibility of a $13 million commission for negotiating the deal.
While Wayne effortlessly slips back into his role as a lawyer for Pantco, a real estate development firm, Dahlia and the kids hit the road, fearing that Pete already has called the cops. Because of car trouble, they land in nearby Blunt, La. The family quickly runs into trouble and is forced to rely on their skills as nomadic Irish travelers to pay off a debt. To their shock, they discover that their talents atrophied while they pretended to be the Riches.
"The Riches" is never going to be mistaken for a realistic drama of upward mobility, but it is a surprisingly perceptive critique of bourgeois aspirations. Every opportunity the family of grifters has to make money is presented as a Faustian deal that has to be paid off with somebody's blood.
In episodes three and four of the second season, new characters are introduced who will bring a whole new level of complication to the lives of the reunited Malloys. While Wayne and Dahlia desperately try to hang on to the good life they have carved out of the biggest lie they have ever concocted, their family is being pinched from several directions.
Viewers can look forward to meeting a man from the Malloys' past even more brutal than their murderous cousin. Even the Russian businessman who initiates the land deal with Pantco could give lessons on cruelty to Dale.
In other words, fans of "The Riches" can expect even more double-crossing, shady business deals, intimidation and moral compromise in the gated community of Eden Falls.
It's the same game, only more of it.
Tony Norman can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1631.