The character acting in this show is outrageously good. At times it can border on overly dramatic, but the fact is there really are egomaniac preachers who walk and talk like Walton Goggins does in this show. He plays Baby Billy Freeman, who is the brother of Eli Gemstone’s (John Goodman) late wife and ends up rustling some feathers as he joins the family at a new church location. Through Goggins, we can see the falsehood of these so-called priests in his overly quaffed hair, jewelry, and fake tan. His inclusion in the show adds an extra level of over-the-top hilarity whenever he speaks and it’s a delight to watch him play this weird old man who thinks so highly of himself.
This new church is at a location in a mall which used to be a Sears, but it’s also infringing in a rival church area. Much of the episode revolves around this religious act of war. This show continues to feel deep while also being hilarious. Take for instance Kelvin Gemstone (Adam DeVine) saying on the way to the new church, “All across America capitalism is crumbling. That’s where we step up.” It not only shows how the Gemstones are willing to take advantage of others but also how the church itself is an entity that can prey on the weak. As the episode progresses the new church is the focal point of the Gemstones’ prosperity, but also the target of their enemies who want them gone. Problem is this episode is very good at revealing how it’s not through good intentions the family is opening a church or really why they do anything. Instead, it’s about deep emotional problems.
We see that in Eli as Baby Billy Freeman draws out some truths he’s not happy to confront. It’s Baby Billy Freeman’s relationship to Eli and the family rustles some feathers, jostling out some hurt feelings and emotions from Eli. In a great scene between Eli, Kelvin, Jesse (Danny McBride) and Judy Gemstone (Edi Patterson) we get an idea of how this family is tight-knit in their own way. Sure, they’re mean — Eli drops some mean insults about Baby Billy Freeman’s wife, and Kelvin just wants his dad’s approval, but they’re still family. Later, when Baby Billy Freeman and Eli confront the rival church pastor (Dermot Mulroney), there’s some great acting from Goodman to show how he’s incapable of speaking the truth to himself and others. In a fit of rage he says nothing, but gabs a churchgoer’s potato and chucks it through the pastor’s stained glass window. Even Baby Billy Freeman is shocked by this, which goes to show how far the Gemstone family has fallen even in the eyes of Baby Billy Freeman who hasn’t been around the family in a long time.
That potato in all its ridiculousness sets off a war which is punctuated by the pastor making a cut-throat gesture to a few of his church-going goons. This show continues to revel in the American way of capitalism, wealth and taking the law into your own hands when the final sequence has Eli confront the pastor’s men at his new church.
There is also a key scene with Jesse, Kelvin, and Judy which calls into question one of Jesse’s friends. The show continues to play up the fact that these pastors and so-called good men are really gangsters at heart. Jesse literally whips out a knife to interrogate his friend and it’s even more painful since we know who the real third blackmailer is after the last episode. Ultimately this show is getting at the fact that when a family is split and fighting one another, real trouble can get the best of them. You see it in Jesse’s anger over the Fast and the Furious franchise in an early scene, as well as how when outbursts occur at family dinner nobody says a thing. Any real parenting or togetherness are long gone.
Probably the weakest element of the series is Gideon Gemstone (Skyler Gisondo), who has entered the family at an unexpected time. Being the third blackmailer would make sense, but so far Gideon seems like a nice guy who is doing the bidding of the blackmailers just because. In the last episode, we saw him fight back with ease and in this episode, he continues to do bad things for what seems like nonselfish reasons. The show has yet to explain what his motivation is to help the other blackmailer steal from his family and I’m sure we’ll find out, but it’s hard to gauge how we’re supposed to feel since this character seems so innocent and good.
Without a doubt, the tensions are rising from Jesse, Kelvin, and Judy’s continued efforts to stop the blackmailers to Eli willing to go to war with a rival church. Can this family pull itself together in time before real harm happens to any of them? I sure hope we find out, but in the meantime, the balancing act of immoral behavior is a hilarious thing to watch.
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