The relationship between Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and HBO continues to bear fruit as the second season of The Righteous Gemstones draws to a close. But for those who are fans, The Righteous Gemstones is a very different beast to Eastbound & Down or Vice Principals – and shows McBride may be maturing as an artist.
The story picks up with the titular family after the first season’s events. The antics of Jesse (McBride) and the men of his inner circle reveal themselves to their wives, Jesse and his wife Amber. This leads to a second-chance prayer group to fix their marriage (and help their paritioners). Judy and BJ are probably the least affected, while Kelvin starts his own “muscle men” prayer group/performance troupe.
The second season though is Eli (John Goodman)’s show. It takes us right back to his beginnings as a dirt-poor young man who discovers a way into the big time – using his size and strength as a wrestler. He becomes the number-one go-to for his boss, who he also helps collect debts and generally acts as a standover man – a stark contrast to the kindly preacher he is in the show. His past comes back to haunt him in the form of his former boss’s son, Junior, who knows Eli had something to do with his father’s disappearance.
Spoiled & Lacking Self-Awareness
After the family comes under attack, first from a crusading journalist and then a mysterious group of armed bikers, the Gemstones close ranks. This doesn’t stop them from the petty squabbling that defined their characters through most of the first season. Their moniker of “righteous” is a misnomer, as they are selfish, spoiled, and lacking any sort of insight.
For all those faults, when the cards are down, they do form a tight bond and rally as a family, especially after Eli is injured in one of the episodes. The “kids” are able to put aside their differences and work together to get to the bottom of who’s attacking their family – only for a late-stage rug pull to take all of them by surprise.
Funny & A Little More Mature
The first season of the Righteous Gemstones was a bit of a shock tonally for fans of McBride and Hill’s previous collaborations for HBO. Both Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals are raucously funny – but also full of the crass humour that McBride is associated with his appearances in films with Seth Rogen, James Franco, and co.
Gemstones stand out because the comedy is a lot more subtle than its predecessors. Yes, there’s still some crass humour – Judy says some genuinely horrific things and apparently has zero filter – but the bulk of the comedy is relatively nuanced by McBride and Hill’s usual standards.
Another strong aspect of the show is the continuation of a stellar cast. John Goodman looks like he’s having the most fun he’s had in years. The three Gemstones are just as funny the second time around. Eric Roberts joins the cast with Macaulay Caulkin, and Eric Andre, among others.
Ultimately, this sophomore effort is impressive and showcases McBride and Hill’s capabilities beyond crass, obvious humour. The Righteous Gemstones perhaps isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as some of their other efforts, but the humour creeps up on you and rewards patient viewers.
The Righteous Gemstones is now streaming on Foxtel and Binge.
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