Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 3 Episode 7 of The Righteous Gemstones.
The Big Picture
- The Righteous Gemstones offers a satirical take on televangelism, religious culture, and Southern wealth.
- Gideon, one of the show’s best characters, is underutilized in Season 3, despite his significant role in Jesse’s character development and a memorable action sequence.
- The Righteous Gemstones Season 3 places Gideon in the role of a driver for his grandfather, Eli, but the show has not explored more of that relationship nor has it explored his relationship with his dad.
In the wake of Barry’s final season, The Righteous Gemstones has stepped in to become HBO’s best current comedy show. The satire of televangelism, religious culture, and southern wealth is far more dynamic than most sitcoms; it tells a story of three siblings vying for control of a media empire while wrestling with their father’s legacy that should sound familiar to fans of Succession.
Season 3 has done a great job at fleshing out the relationship between the siblings Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson), and Kelvin (Adam DeVine), and showing how each of their partners reacts to their advancement in the Gemstones’ church hierarchy. While it’s fascinating to get a new layer to Jesse’s marriage to Amber (Cassidy Freeman), the new season has only rarely dropped in on their son, Gideon (Skyler Gisondo). It’s unfortunate that one of the show’s best characters is being severely underutilized.
Gideon and Jesse Have a Great Arc
The first season of the show focused heavily on a crime storyline where Gideon and two cohorts from Los Angeles were blackmailing Jesse and his inner circle for their activities behind closed doors; outside of Eli Gemstone’s (John Goodman) watchful gaze, Jesse and his friends had been engaging in illegal and crude behavior that would certainly destroy the family’s reputation if it ever got out. Gideon’s decision to take action against his father isn’t one that was done out of hatred; he felt genuinely hurt by Jesse’s decision to reject him when he moved to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a stuntman in movies. His father couldn’t look past his negative thoughts about Hollywood to appreciate the unique abilities and interests that his son had.
What elevates The Righteous Gemstones above other comedy shows is the genuine emotion and character development that builds over the course of each season. By the end of Season 1, both Jesse and Gideon have grown and learned that the paths they were on wouldn’t end up making them happy; Gideon never wanted to be a criminal, and Jesse understood that his behavior was making it difficult for him to spend time and care for his family. They reach a mutual understanding through their trip together bonding in Haiti doing missionary work, and it’s evident by the second season that the service created a closer connection between them.
Gideon’s presence makes Jesse a more likable character. Jesse still has a hot-headed temper and takes so much pride in his masculinity that he only frequently opens up to other people, even his family. He’s constantly having to put on the same persona he uses while performing the Sunday service spectacle, but around Gideon, he can’t pretend. Jesse finds that there are things that he can’t tell Amber, and he can’t admit to his siblings either out of fear that they’ll use it as leverage; as a result, Gideon is the one person he can be (almost) completely sincere around. Gideon’s presence is particularly needed in the third season, as Jesse has acted like a selfish jerk who once again ignores those closest to him.
Gideon Is Barely in Season 3
In the season 3 premiere episode “For I Know the Plans I Have for You”, it was teased that Gideon would be spending more time with his grandfather and learning more about his family history. Eli has also had an interesting arc in the season as he attempts to bring the entire family together (even the rowdy cousins), but there have rarely been any opportunities to see what their relationship looks like. It would seem like Gideon and Eli had a lot in common; Gideon has been shamed by his community over his aspirations to take part in the commercial film industry, and Eli is stung by criticisms that he took the church in a more capitalistic direction. Having Gideon discuss his passion for acting and seeing Eli explain his decision-making process would be a great way to advance both of their arcs.
Gideon also added one of the most satisfying moments to the third season thus far when he came to save his father from kidnapping in the episode “Burn for Burn, Wound for Wound, Stripe for Stripe.” After spying on Eli’s sister May-May (Kirsten Johnson), Gideon follows her to the compound where her ex-husband Peter (Steve Zahn) and his gang of radical fundamentalists have held Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin as hostages. In the fulfillment of his arc as a stunt artist, Gideon drives his father’s prized monster truck redeemer in order to distract Peter’s forces and reveal Peter and his cohorts to be the cowards that they are. It’s one of the most well-constructed action sequences that the show ever put together; like his father, Gideon slightly overestimates his abilities and struggles to escape from heavy gunfire after destroying a majority of Peter’s property.
What makes this sequence so rewarding isn’t the action, but Jesse’s expression of excitement at seeing his son’s abilities; Jesse has been nothing but boastful about himself the entire season, but for once, he gets to boast about his son’s abilities! It’s clear that Jesse has evolved past his bias against the film industry and learned to take pride in his son, and perhaps parenting is the one thing that he knows differentiates him from his siblings. Judy and her husband BJ (Tim Baltz) are in the middle of a relationship crisis due to Judy’s infidelities, and are in no position to raise children; Kelvin remains unmarried and is unable to admit his affinity (and likely affection) for his best friend, Keefe Chambers (Tony Cavalero).
Gisondo is an incredibly talented comedic star, and in between seasons of The Righteous Gemstones, he has made scene-stealing appearances in films such as Booksmart and Licorice Pizza. Unlike the other, more over-the-top characters in the series, Gideon speaks to a more relatable sense of adolescent anxieties that the audience may relate to. Even if Season 3 of The Righteous Gemstones is near completing its conclusion, hopefully, Gideon will have a more active role in the series as it continues into the future.