Danny McBride’s religious satire is back and funnier than ever, reigning as HBO’s worthy heir to Succession.
Plot: When the spoiled Gemstone children finally get their wish to take control of the Church, they discover leadership is harder than they imagined and that their extravagant lifestyle comes with a heavy price.
Review: If you are still grieving the end of HBO’s marquee series about a filthy rich family vying for power and acting like assholes, rest assured that the cable network still has another series that fits that description. Danny McBride’s The Righteous Gemstones is back for a third season of hilarious hijinks of sacrilegious genius. While the second season of The Righteous Gemstones took things in a darker direction with insight into the youth of Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) with a downbeat ending, this new run is decidedly lighter with just as many dick jokes and brilliant insults. Led by the great Goodman, McBride, Edit Patterson, and Adam DeVine, The Righteous Gemstones’ third season continues to throw wrinkles into the lives of the title family while expanding their story in new directions.
The third season of The Righteous Gemstones picks up after the retirement of Eli from running his ministry. Handing over the reins of the Gemstone Salvation Center to all three of his children, Eli’s absence has resulted in a decrease in attendance due to the squabbling and infighting between Jesse (Danny McBride), who oversees the Gemstone’s Christian resort Zion’s Landing, Kelvin (Adam DeVine) who is running the anti-porn Smut Busters, and Judy (Edi Patterson) who has just returned from a multi-state singing tour. With the Stimson family, a rival trio of sibling preachers played by Stephen Dorff and Iliza Shlesinger, vying for support from a former NASCAR driver (Shea Whigham), the Gemstones must find a way to band together to save their church. This poses a challenge as May-May Montgomery (Kristen Johnston), her husband Peter (Steve Zahn), and their kids (Robert Oberst and Lukas Haas) come back into the picture and unearth old family animosities.
Over the nine-episode season, the Gemstones must present a united front as their family legacy begins to fracture without their father running things. This includes a doomsday prepper militia, monster trucks, and a Christian game show overseen by Baby Billy Freeman (Walton Goggins). Those are only a few of the challenges the clan faces this year, as well as arcs specifically for Gideon (Skyler Gisondo), Keefe (Tony Cavalero), and BJ (Tim Baltz). Everyone gets a chance to shine, including Cassidy Freeman as Amber, whose role is larger than ever, and Jennifer Nettles in flashbacks as the Gemstone matriarch, Aimee Leigh. This season is noticeably more violent than previous seasons, but it always serves a purpose to the plot. Many of the subplots presented this season help drive the story forward, allowing the Gemstone children to verge on redemption before messing things up and getting in their own way.
Most of the returning cast get more consistent arcs, with ongoing storylines for Judy and Kelvin getting some well-deserved development this season. Aside from a brief supporting role from musician Sturgill Simpson, the best addition this season is easily Lukas Haas, who is virtually unrecognizable initially. As the season progresses, Steve Zahn and Kristen Johnston fit right into the story as if they had been a part of the series from the first episode. I was partially expecting the series to follow the Succession route and kill off a main character, as the fates of everyone involved feel far more tenuous this season than ever before. Everything culminates in a finale of biblical proportions (literally) and sets up the series with the tidiest ending it has had to date. The plot could go in many directions from where the third season finishes, any of which I would love to see explored.
As in previous seasons, Danny McBride co-wrote every episode of the season and directed an episode. Jody Hill and David Gordon Green return to split duties for the rest of the season, giving The Righteous Gemstones a consistency that goes back to Vice Principals and Eastbound & Down before it. Edi Patterson gets a writing credit this season in one of the third season’s standout entries. Across the board, The Righteous Gemstones has built a formula that works and does not stray from it, and yet it still feels creatively energized with no signs of slowing down. As much as you should hate these characters, they are fun to watch, and you cannot help but root for them, especially the great John Goodman, who continues to be the anti-Logan Roy in every way. Goodman got to explore some darker sides of his character last season, and having him step away from the pulpit has given him new directions to follow this year.
While The Righteous Gemstones may not have the dramatic gravitas of Succession, it absolutely earns a spot alongside the recently concluded series as a look at the pitfalls of unimaginable wealth in the hands of adult children who are immature and selfish. The Righteous Gemstones may be broader in its humor than Succession, but sometimes you need to laugh at people who deserve it. This season of The Righteous Gemstones is the funniest and most consistent the series has been since it premiered. Stick with this season until the finale, and you may be surprised at just how things go for these characters. I had a blast watching the Gemstones act like fools and praise Danny McBride for taking the risks this season takes.
The Righteous Gemstones premieres the first two episodes of its third season on June 18th on HBO.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-righteous-gemstones-season-3-tv-review/