In what is possibly the funniest concept put to the TV screen for an American audience, The Righteous Gemstones is the latest Danny McBride drama/comedy that focuses on a mega-church led by a family made up of failures and degenerates. The first episode did a great job setting up each character and the conflict at hand: A video of Jesse Gemstone (Danny McBride) reveals he parties with hookers and snorts cocaine and some bad people want to blackmail him for a million dollars. McBride is so very good at playing the buffoon who thinks he is king, and this is an excellent version of that character he plays so well. The biggest boon of this series is the supporting cast, which plays off this character’s egomania and vile temper. In the second episode, titled “Is this the Man Who Made the Earth Tremble?” Jesse and his family must get the upper hand on the blackmailers.
The second episode kicks off where the first left off as Jesse, Judy Gemstone (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin Gemstone (Adam Devine) have to figure out how to fix their not-so-resolved blackmail problem after realizing the criminals got away. They, of course, ran them over and thought they were dead like any good Christian would, but it’s about survival under the name of the Lord at this point. A good reoccurring theme in this show is how these self-professed pious people are willing to commit crimes and hurt others at the drop of a hat. In this episode alone they assault an innocent stranger, break into a store, and steal. By the end of the episode, it’s made quite clear this family is capable of anything and while their motivations are driven by not getting caught, they also on some level act as if they can do anything they want. The curse of being born rich, I suppose.
While all that is happening, the episode does some heavy lifting with the folks who attempted to blackmail the Gemstone family. In the early minutes, we learn it wasn’t just two masked perpetrators but three, and this episode gives us a taste of these three and their relationships with one another. Skyler Gisondo plays one of the three and it’s interesting to see how these folks seem to think they’re good Christians. Problem is, the leader is just as bad as Jesse, just without any of the money. The subtle juxtaposition is an interesting element as it tells us something about the Gemstones and what they’d be like without any money or power.
David Gordon Green directs this episode and does a great job with pacing and packing in plot development, character moments, and the subtle humor we’ve come to expect from his work. I can’t help but think this show is stronger at 30 minutes long, since the pilot’s 60 minutes felt slow at times. McBride writes the episode and it has a well paced ending with a cliffhanger you may not see coming. The episode essentially redirects where we go from here after the pilot episode prepared us for the kind of comedy we’re in store for.