Jun 12, 2023
The absurdist megachurch comedy is back with more shenanigans
The Righteous Gemstones could quite possibly be one of Danny McBride’s best series yet, aside from Eastbound and Down, which aired back in 2009. If you missed that series, it stars Danny McBride as Kenny Powers, a former professional baseball pitcher who, after a career downturn in the major leagues (due, in part, to his childishness and arrogance), is forced to return to his hometown of Shelby, North Carolina, to substitute teach at his old middle school. It’s well worth the comedic four-season binge, which is full of so many laughs and excellent one-liners, you’ll be repeating them for weeks.
The Righteous Gemstones is an HBO series, also created by McBride, that is a dark comedy crime show that follows a famously dysfunctional family of televangelists. It is the most quintessential absurdist megachurch satire ever to hit the airwaves, and McBride does not hold back on anything offensive—that’s his thing, right? Being offensive? Yes! So, if you’re one who is easily offended, maybe skip this show, but if you are not, I highly recommend binge-watching the first two seasons in preparation for the third, which airs this weekend.
The Gemstones are an over-the-top wealthy religious family living in Memphis, Tennessee, led by widowed patriarch and church pastor Eli Gemstone (John Goodman of The Connors).
Eli and his incessantly immature (adult) children, Jesse (Danny McBride of Your Highness), Judy (Edi Patterson of Violent Night), and Kelvin (Adam Devine of Workaholics) lead the kind of opulent lives that could only be provided by church donations given in the name of the Lord. The Gemstones all live near one another in their respective mansions spread across way too many acres of property—except for Judy, who winds up living in the “regular” house, presumably because she’s female and not as high up in the church.
In the first season, we learn about what the Gemstones are currently up to in their lives, which entail a lot of secrets. The opening scene of the first episode is one of the funniest baptism scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Eli (Goodman), Jesse (McBride), and Kelvin (Devine) are in China for a 24-hour mass baptism, which takes place in a wave pool at a water park because it was the only space large enough to accommodate so many people. By hour 17, the brothers are wearing down and, in true rich-kid fashion, and start criticizing each other, bickering about the right way to baptize people when, out of nowhere, obnoxious party lights kick on and giant waves begin rolling through the pool. What ensues is complete hilarity as everyone scrambles to get out of the rave … I mean waves.
As the Gemstones return home, though, we learn the shenanigans are just beginning. Jesse receives a salacious videotape of himself and some friends snorting cocaine and partying with a bunch of strippers—completely unacceptable behavior for the associate pastor of a megachurch. The tape is blackmail in exchange for a large sum of money, but from whom? Jesse enlists his brother and sister to help keep this quiet and track down the blackmailer, just as you’d suspect a bunch of eight-year-olds might go about handling such a task.
Moreover, Eli’s estranged brother-in-law, played by Walton Goggins (who is known for his big, white teeth in roles from Justified and Sons of Anarchy), is brought in to lead the Gemstones’ new shopping-mall-based satellite church, which impedes on a neighboring church.
Season one ends with stolen money, the siblings confessing their sins to Eli, and the fate of the church up in the air as Eli kicks all three kids out of the church.
Season two focuses on the Gemstones’ past—namely that of Eli. When an outsider from Eli’s younger days appears and tries to pick up old pastimes, we learn Eli used to be a criminal enforcer for a big-wig bad guy. Also, an investigative reporter by the name of Thaniel Block (Jason Schwartzman of Rushmore) turns up to investigate a tip he received about corruption running rampant in the Gemstone church. That catastrophe is one big hilarious fallout you have to see for yourself.
Presumably, season three will focus on what the Gemstones will do to secure their future. Rest assured, there will be plenty more moral hijinks as the Gemstones battle for power and face off against some new opposers and face some violent pushback. They’ll also get involved in the NASCAR circuit and have to deal with an increasingly popular vocal religious movement consisting of boisterous, far right-wing gun-owning enthusiasts.
For more details and a full recap of seasons one and two, read this article, which will tell you everything you need to know before the premiere of The Righteous Gemstones Season 3, which airs this Sunday, June 18, on HBO and Max. Catch the trailer below!
Keeley Brooks is a big ole movies and streaming nerd who watches way too much content, then faces an uncontrollable urge to write about it, even if it sucks. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.