This Righteous Gemstones review contains spoilers.
The Righteous Gemstones Episode 6
After a brief “Interlude,” The Righteous Gemstones picks back up in the present-day with Jesse feeling victorious, looking to stash the wrecked red van in Kelvin’s garage. As much as I loved the humor, heart, and ‘80s stylings of the last episode, I was anxious to return to the main blackmailer plot that finds Gideon stuck between his scumbag friend Scotty and his blowhard father. “Now the Sons of Eli Were Worthless Men” fulfills that request, but perhaps there’s more fertile ground in the family drama then there is in the true crime-leaning elements of the Gemstone plot.
The blackmailer storyline isn’t quite working and I think it’s because of Gideon. Skyler Gisondo is a fine comedic actor, but his Gideon is just a bit too happy-go-lucky. “Wicked Lips” briefly went into Gideon’s issues with his father, but being angry about Jesse’s hypocrisy doesn’t quite warrant wanting to lead an Ocean’s Eleven like heist against your family. Since returning to the Gemstone compound, Gideon looks comfortable, even happy to be back in the lap of luxury. The show just hasn’t done enough to establish that Gideon feels trapped by his family’s business and fortune, that he’s longing to be on his own working as a stuntman. We see Gideon training occasionally, but we see no drive or desire for him to get out and live his dream life. Also, Scotty is a bigger selfish, repugnant asshole than even Jesse. At this point, nothing has been laid that says why Gideon would continue to work with Scotty or why he feels like he owes him anything.
In the episode, Gideon and Jesse have an awkward reconciliation, which is fun because of Jesse’s typical boorish behavior, but it certainly would have felt like a bigger moment if we really felt like Gideon was still harboring animosity. The reconciliation comes after Jesse finally feels freed from the blackmail problem; Scotty calls to threaten Jesse over the van, but Jesse rightfully tells Scotty that if he had a tape, he would have released it by now. Jesse is not worried about some loser that’s living in his van and who has been punked now twice. The lack of pressure on Jesse allows him to embrace his family. Now, it’s completely unbelievable that Amber would still be taking Jesse at his word over his “car pranks,” but their family comes together for photos and a family game night, until a visitor is stopped at the compound gates. It turns out the visitor is a well-dressed Scotty, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see how his unplanned pop-in turns out. Maybe something serious will go down between Scotty, Gideon, and Jesse that brings fire back to this plot, but right now, the whole thing is floundering a bit.
However, the family material is still proving to be compelling, hilarious, and surprisingly affecting. This week’s stronger material centers on Judy and her desperation to be taken seriously and given more to do at the church. Edi Patterson was a standout on Vice Principals because of her wickedly funny line readings and go-for-broke weirdness, and that spirit continues here in her portrayal of Judy. Whether she’s being to sexually aggressive with her fiancé, violently attacking her brother’s cool soda machine, talking about her dream of throwing away the Gemstone life to surf, or repeatedly slamming doors for emphasis, Judy has consistently been scoring the biggest laughs.
Looking to stir things up with Eli as well as cash-in on his history with Aimee-Leigh, Baby Billy invites Judy to perform with him at the Locust Grove church. We’re not sure if he’s actually seeing talent in Judy, but his invitation sets Eli off, who thinks it’s just another calculated move by Baby Billy to get under his skin. Still, when Eli shows up to the church ready to sneer at the proceedings, he finds himself getting emotional watching his daughter dance and sing juxtaposed with old footage of his wife. It’s another example of The Righteous Gemstones sneakily showing that there’s a lot of heart to this show, they’re capable of going into a gear that McBride’s past comedies never reached.
Past the halfway point, The Righteous Gemstones has been an entertaining family comedy so far, but it’ll need to kick its true crime material into high gear if it’s going to execute the landing. We know that the series will be back for Season 2, so there’s plenty of time to get the balance right, but as of right now, the family material is being executed with much more thought and grace than the other stuff. Hopefully Scotty’s surprise visit to the Gemstone compound leads to fireworks next week.6.2.5
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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.