The Righteous Gemstones continues to be one of the best written comedies on TV. The renewal for a season 2 is proof enough of that, but you can also see it in how strong the character development and drama is in each and every episode. In episode 6, Edi Patterson shined bright as Judy Gemstone (for more on that episode, read my interview with Edi) and it was possibly one of the happiest moments in the show yet. In my review of that episode, I suspected things were going to start heading downhill as we approach the finale, and based on the events of episode 7 I was very right. At the end of episode 6 we witnessed Scotty (Scott MacArthur) entering the Gemstone home, pretending to be an innocent friend of Gideon Gemstone (Skyler Gisondo) which could only mean bad things. And it sure does.
The episode opens with a flashback to the night Gideon recorded his father Jesse (Danny McBride) and his buddies doing drugs and partying with hookers. It’s not immediately apparent why this scene is important, but it serves as a reminder as to why Gideon attempted to blackmail his father in the first place. Jesse is not a good man and his ability to insult and demean his children is a major failing. You’ll root for Gideon even though you know it’ll spell great danger to the family by the end of the episode.
Outside of Scotty and his plotting to steal from the family, other dysfunctions are rearing their head. It’s a case where everything bad that could happen to this family is coming to a head all at once. That includes Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) and his anger towards Eli (John Goodman) stealing his sister away to Judy following the lead of any parental figure she can lock down for a minute and potentially ruining her relationship to BJ (Tim Baltz) over it. It’s a stressful episode to say the least and it moves at such a fast clip it feels like a penultimate episode. There are two more episodes to go however, which is exciting since with the sh*t hitting the fan so early there is a lot of potential for this family to come together and get their act together.
That said, Danny McBride does a great job acting the buffoon as Jesse Gemstone throughout the episode, serving up some of the funniest moments in the show yet. We find out early on Eli is giving Jesse the chance to give the main sermon on Easter Sunday. This is apparently the highest honor in the church — he tells stunt man Scotty it’d be like “if you were cast as the lead in a major motion picture action franchise” — and he’s riding high. While his ego is blown way out of proportion McBride plays up the ego quite well and it’s fun to see him think he’s so right. In one of the funniest scenes in the episode, Gideon attempts to tell his dad what is going on and Jesse makes an assumption that’s super wrong but he’s way overconfident that he’s right. That blows up in his face later in the episode.
The episode changes gears two thirds of the way into the episode (the episode is extra-sized at 36 minutes), ramping up the danger and the confrontations very well. While the first six episodes have kept the blackmailing and plotting to steal from the church pretty low key, everything comes to a head here. Scotty is a major threat and no longer a buffoon (something energized by Gideon finally sticking up for himself) and it’s scary to see how even Eli is affected by the threat at hand. There’s a lot of danger and one can make a guess that it might bring the entire family together — and maybe even bring Eli and Baby Billy back together too — but we’ll have to wait and see come next Sunday.
Props must go to Patterson — her Judy Gemstone is one of the most tragic characters, as she is used by not one but two father figures in the episode. It’s a shame Eli and Baby Billy seem to blame her and while it’s true she’s 40 (as her father points out), she’s a victim of their whims. Patterson does an excellent job maintaining the weirdness of Judy while also humanizing her both in a scene with Baby Billy and in a scene with Eli. You can see the inner struggle she’s in, yet she doesn’t have the capacity to do or say the right thing in the moment. There is a lot of growing for the character to do and I’m excited to see how Patterson develops the character in the rest of this season and on into season 2.
There is however a slightly half-baked element that threw the episode off. In a brief interchange we see Baby Billy reject the idea of dancing and singing on Easter Sunday with Judy. This is a huge opportunity for Judy, but also Baby Billy since it means being broadcasted across the world and possibly reemerging on the stage as a star. That said, he rejects the offer which on some level makes sense since he’s still angry at Eli and wants to do his own thing, but you’d think he’d be smart enough to grab this opportunity and shape it as his own much like he did in previous episodes. There isn’t much given to the scene beyond Baby Billy being angry and the episode doesn’t probe his character enough to understand exactly what he’s feeling. You have to guess at it, which is the weakest element of the episode.
This is without a doubt a great episode, ramping up the danger and bringing us much closer to the finale than you might think. The episode is quite good at increasing your anticipation and could have easily served as the finale in its own right. That said, I’m more excited than ever to see how this calamity brings the family together — or if their infighting will continue regardless of a common cause.
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