Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first two seasons of The Righteous Gemstones. The sky is shining on The Righteous Gemstones, HBO’s outrageous comedy about a tell evangelical southern family that put the Roys out of Succession Embarrass. You may have wondered how the heck this clever series from creator Danny McBride was going to top itself after the calamities of season two. There was that Zion’s Landing debacle, the spiritual wonderland that it was. How about that Cycle Ninjas twist becoming part of Kelvin (Adam DeVine) and Keefe’s (Tony Cavalero) youth fitness program? Is Megachurch Lyle (Eric Andre) being eaten by wolves? Holy hell. What’s Next?
Plenty. The goals for season three… well, if not higher, then high enough. It’s funny, often hilarious, offbeat, and engaging. And while the third outing may recycle some of its own familiar tropes, how many more can come after The Gemstones, after all? – somehow, this series is still a delight with its happy-go-lucky attitude. Fittingly, considering the night it airs, the show still knows how to look its Sunday best.
Writers: Danny McBride, Edi Patterson, Chad Handley, Grant Dekernion, John Carcieri, Jeff Fradley, Kevin Barnett
Program creators: Danny McBride, Jody Hill
First episode date: 18 August 2019 (USA)
Genre: Black comedy; Crime
Original network: HBO
Never put the children in charge
Season three kicks off with gusto as the pampered Gemstone brothers and their egos hope to gain more power. Eldest son Jesse (McBride), singer Judy (Edi Patterson), and hip Kelvin (DeVine) – is it just us or are we ready for him and his crush Keefe to hit the steam room and already have it? – have been given joint control of the ministry founded by their late mother, Aimee Leigh (Jennifer Nettles), and pops Eli (John Goodman). Eli is technically retired, but handing over the reins of an empire to his bratty sons proves to be a challenge. The trio can’t seem to make it together, failing along the way. Eli was the ground force that kept everything under control. The children do not realize the gigantic undertaking that lies before them.
They also don’t understand that enemies lurk in and out of the shadows, again. He is a Cycle Ninjas Redux, but this time with different enemies. Enter the Simkins brothers, an orphaned troika led by Vance (Stephen Dorff) who are envious of having to work so much harder than the Gemstone kids, who have been handed everything on a golden platter. It’s fun to watch all of that play out. In fact, the Gemstones face extreme life and death situations this season, all wonderfully executed by McBride’s creative posse and the actors themselves. It’s fun, sure. But it’s also downright exciting.
Elsewhere, we have Eli’s estranged sister, May May (Kristen Johnston in a breakout performance). This may seem familiar too, especially since the series gave us Baby Billy Freeman (the great Walton Goggins), the brother of Aimee Leigh, who chased after Eli a while back. Still, there’s plenty of excitement in what unfolds here as May May enters the fold. His family side is much more radical than Eli’s. He is May May’s ex-husband, Peter (Steve Zahn), who stirs the golden pot throughout several episodes, causing trouble for Eli and her children. Familiar but engaging nonetheless, and Johnston and Zahn dominate the screen.
The Gemstone Book of Comedy
In a refreshing twist, some of the supporting players have more to work with this season. It’s great to see Tony Cavalero’s Keefe dive deeper into himself. That repressed man, perhaps not so repressed, that he and Kelvin share, is also put to the test. Meanwhile, Tim Baltz’s BJ discovers that even he can be tired of his good boy image. His marriage to Judy becomes a major focus as the first six episodes unfold. Edi Patterson confidently steps into character as her: Judy has never been more daring or exhausting. The biggest question: Will BJ grow balls and take on Judy?
Other highlights include the arrival of Shea Whigham, who dives in as an aging race car driver eager for an endorsement. And look out for Peter and May May’s grown sons, Chuck (Lukas Haas) and Carl (Robert Oberst), who figure prominently throughout this season. As the poorer cousins of the Gemstones, it’s fun to watch how these guys run things. It’s also great to see Skyler Gisondo’s Gideon Gemstone have a more commanding presence in a few episodes this season. Maybe you remember the actor from the series. fairfax and Santa Clarita Dieta show that deserved at least one crazier season.
Not to be left out, of course, is dear Eli. Goodman’s is always a delight. He is Eli Gemstone from start to finish. And if the arrival of another potential foe in the form of his sister May May feels eerily familiar to another subplot featuring Eric Roberts’ preacher Junior, chances are he’ll forgive the premise. Creator Danny McBride keeps everything moving at breakneck speed. He also seems to know that we like to see the Gemstones fighting their own brand of “evil” and accepting, as best they can, living a more authentic life. How fair of the Gemstone children to at least try. But good Lord, let’s keep your blessed group as messy as possible. Hallelujah to that.
the third season of The Righteous Gemstones arrives on HBO and Max on June 18.