This Righteous Gemstones review contains spoilers.
The Righteous Gemstones Episode 2
From the minute that a third blackmailer is revealed in the second episode ofThe Righteous Gemstones, “Is This the Man that Made the Earth Tremble,” it seems pretty obvious that the unnamed masked man is Jesse’s wayward son Gideon. Mainly, that’s because the other two masked and critically injured extortionists are named while the third conspicuously isn’t, but also, it’s because of Gideon’s youthful appearance. Still, even though the installment’s final reveal is highly telegraphed, it doesn’t take away from the episode, which surprisingly continues as a twisted true crime tale rather than the strictly religious satire that was advertised.
This week’s tight 30-minute (outside of the supersized season premiere, the remaining episodes will clock in around this time) episode begins from the perspective of our blackmailers just prior to last week’s botched cash exchange. While the scene from the premiere, with its random bursts of violence and overhead cameras, felt like an homage to the Coen Brothers, particularly Fargo, this shift in perspective feels more like Tarantino, with the blackmailers having a conversation about Thailand that feels ripped from one of his rejected, wordy scripts.
After Scotty is run over by Judy and Lucy by Jesse, Gideon springs out of the van to help his fallen comrades. Scotty is banged up, yet breathing, but Lucy appears to be dead at first glance. Gideon and Scotty take Lucy to a nearby landfill to dispose of the body, but once they push her body down a steep hill, they hear Lucy calling for help. The hapless trio head to the hospital under the guise of a hit and run, and once the sun rises, Scotty grabs a barely conscious Lucy and forces her and Gideon to escape.
They head to a nearby motel, where Scotty plans on just making another extortion attempt using a backup of the video of Jesse partying. But the moment that Lucy discovers what really transpired after she was run over, she destroys the hard drive containing the video and decides to leave the verbally abusive Scotty on the spot. Blaming Gideon for Lucy’s flight and the loss of their leverage, Scotty and Gideon brawl in their motel room before Scotty gets the upperhand and threatens to kill Gideon if they don’t recover the lost money. The fight is a funny bit of physical comedy, as is much of the business involving Scotty and his injuries. Anyway, that threat drives Gideon back to the Gemstone compound, where he’s created by a welcoming Amber and weary Jesse.
It’s clear that Jesse is still sensitive about losing his eldest son to “Los Angeles,” as he gets worked up over news that Amber has spoken to their son despite the fact that he should be preoccupied with the fact that he possibly murdered someone. The particulars of their falling out will likely be explored in the coming episodes, but based on the montage at the end of the episode that spells out each Gemstone’s particular issues, it will be a major source of drama for Jesse this season. Regardless, Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin are left to clean up what remains of their mess from last week, but when they return to the parking lot the morning after their violent encounter, they don’t find any remanence of the mayhem from the night before.
Instantly, Jesse begins angling for his share of the money that Judy pooled together, but while he and Judy squabble over percentages, Kelvin notices a security camera affixed to the side of the tire store. Knowing that they’ll have to get rid of that footage, Jesse gathers his posse of goons to head into the store and trick the manager into giving them access to the footage, but of course the band of dimwits can’t smoothly accomplish it, so they attack the manager in his store and steal the entire computer. Once they have the footage, Jesse assembles his little gang and his siblings to show them a third blackmailer helped the injured pair escape. Everyone in the room knows that they have to locate the red van and the people that were inside it, and Kelvin has the bright idea to utilize his odd relationship with Keefe, who works at the DMV, to reference traffic cameras to track where the van went after it left the drop parking lot.
They track the van to the hotel, but are told by a very funny employee that the van that they’re looking for is gone. The hotel employee is a great example of the kind of odd ball characters that will hopefully populate the margins of this show. Forced back to square one, they return to the compound, and that’s when Gideon walks back through is father’s door.
It’s clear that the father-son dynamic will also be worked alongside the true crime elements and the light jabs at the hypocrisy of the televangelist lifestyle. Edi Patterson’s line readings are an absolute highlight of the episode, and I’m also anxious to learn exactly what’s going on between Kelvin and Keefe. The Righteous Gemstones has a lot of potential right now and could seemingly go down a number of different avenues. Just knowing McBride’s past work, one thing is for certain – things are going to get much darker.
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Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.