This Righteous Gemstones review contains spoilers.
The Righteous Gemstones Episode 4
I’ve enjoyed the way that The Righteous Gemstones has taken its time slowly introducing us to the colorful cast of characters that make up the Gemstone family. The premiere episode went wide and set the stage, but now we’re really drilling into who these characters are and what makes them tick. In “Wicked Lips,” we finally spend some time fleshing out Kelvin, who was prominently featured in the premiere, but also we spend quality time with family members that are further out on the fringe, like Jesse’s faithful wife Amber and Keefe (if you can count him as family). If anything, Kelvin, Amber, and Keefe appear like the least cynical characters and the ones that are the most in-touch with their faith and it makes them interesting windows into the Gemstone empire.
Amber, played by Cassidy Freeman, could have been a one-note character. At first, she appears like a materialistic Stepford wife, but the more time we spend with her, it’s clear that she really believes she’s able to help people and spread the word of God as a part of the Gemstone family. It’s also apparent that she’s faced hardship in her life and has grown from it, as seen in this episode with her mention of her rural upbringing and her serious skills on the gun range. She’s completely loyal to Jesse and doesn’t question his commitment, even when faced with pretty obvious proof of his infidelity from Carl’s wife Amber. Perhaps it’s her love for Jesse that blinds her or her comfort with the status quo, but Amber allows herself to do mental gymnastics to believe Jesse’s lies and eventually convince Amber to fall back in line as well.
However, it appears Amber’s level of devotion will be tested. Once Jesse spots the van of the blackmailers on the road late at night, he pursues the vehicle with Amber in the car. Gideon is riding shotgun in the van, after reporting back to Scotty on the Gemstone operation and spending the evening drunkenly lamenting his father’s hypocrisy. Jesse’s pursuit eventually causes the van to flip, but Scotty and Gideon escape into the woods, faces obscured by distance. When Amber sees the intensity in her husband’s eyes as he tries to go after them with a gun, you can see her delusions about her husband fade in real time. Amber knows something is up, and something tells me that woman who’s like a skilled assassin with handgun can be pretty frightening if she believes she’s been crossed.
Elsewhere, Kelvin is giving a direct task by Eli to help a wealthy donor with their “troubled” teenage daughter Dot. It’s funny to watch every other needy member of the Gemstone clan, like Baby Billy and Judy, try to steal the job away from Kelvin, but in the end, Eli relies on his youth ministry-focused youngest. At first Kelvin, with Keefe by his side, goes a little too extreme and heavy handed, performing a demonic sweep on the girl’s bedroom and directly antagonizing her bad boy boyfriend, but once he invites Dot to a youth group meeting, Kelvin actually proves that he may not be terrible at his job, if he would just cut it out with trying to use “hip” language.
Now, Dot only attended the youth group meeting so she can sneak out early and attend the raucous Club Sinister. Kelvin and Keefe, who used to attend the club regularly, end up going after Dot and save her from being arrested by police when the authorities shut down the party and her boyfriend flees. She appreciates Kelvin’s effort and seems to indicate that she’ll be attending the next youth group meeting. It’s a win for Kelvin and a huge confidence builder. It’ll be interesting to see Eli’s reaction and how it’ll create jealousy and friction between the other Gemstone’s after his affection.
Finally, Keefe’s material in the episode was certainly silly (I loved how they recreated the popular internet video of goths dancing), but oddly poignant. Keefe is a man caught between two worlds, his past with outcasts that polite society would deem unrespectable, and the regular average Joes that make up his small town with which he just can’t relate. At Club Sinister, Keefe feels his old life calling to him, but he instead chooses to leave with Kelvin, saying that he wants to follow “the incredible path” that Kelvin is on. Keefe clearly views Kelvin as some sort of personal savior, but there’s no telling where that odd hero worship could lead the vulnerable and impressionable Keefe.
Now that we’ve got up close and personal with most of the other supporting characters, I assume that we’ll be getting deep dives on Judy, and most importantly, Eli in the coming episodes. Though the true crime narrative has slowed a bit, the Gemstones world is engrossing enough and the performances are real enough that when shit starts to hit the fan, we’ll care about how the fallout impacts each individual member of the family.
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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.