The Righteous Gemstones: Now the Sons of Eli Were Worthless Men
September 22, 2019 10:01 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Jealous of Kelvin's rising star, Judy seeks her moment in the spotlight under Baby Billy's tutelage. Jesse procures a key piece of evidence he hopes will lead to the blackmailers.
posted by JimBennett (6 comments total)
 
absolutely loved the scene between gideon and jesse, and the fact that the best they could muster for each other was "i like you".

i could listen to walton goggins say "lee iacocca" on loop for ten hours.
posted by JimBennett at 10:28 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


The John Goodman reaction shots to seeing Judy and Baby Billy's rendition of Misbehaving were interesting, especially given the parallel with how he looked during the Aimee Lee/Baby Billy performance. In that one, he also tried to stop it, looked upon Baby Billy with loathing, attempted to compose his face but ultimately wound up tapping his foot and enjoying it. This time, he got lost in a reverie about Aimee Lee, but still ended up smiling at the song and at Judy. Maybe he'll give her a chance?

I'm not sure what Eli intended to accomplish by showing up, possibly missing his own weekly service to do it. Console Judy if she flopped? Collect his share of the collection plate? Ream Baby Billy out, again?

Baby Billy has a bigger following that I expected; he had a full house, albeit perhaps in part due to promoting Judy's appearance to gin up attendance among the folks who miss Aimee Lee. Curiosity seekers or genuine fans? The way the crowd encouraged Judy, especially when she got nervous before the clogging section, was nice.
posted by carmicha at 9:06 AM on September 23


I understand that Danny McBride's whole deal is like "really truly horrible people do insanely childish shit," but sometimes when I get through 20 minutes of this show without a single moment that reads as recognizably human, I find myself asking why I'm watching it at all.

And the answer is, for the entirety of the previous episode where we finally understand what the family lost when Aimee-Leigh died, and how it leads into the moment in _this_ episode where after (correctly) excoriating Judy for being an appalling fuckup, Eli watches her on stage and despite everything, ends up being moved. The tragedy of the moment is that it's useless. Eli will never have the opportunity to tell Judy that she reminded him of her mother, because the context of the moment poisons his ability to do that, to say nothing of the decades of dysfunction. And also Judy IS an appalling fuckup, and would probably find a way to ruin the moment anyway.

Of all the hateful characters, though, Jesse is the one whose downfall I dearly hope we see. It's hard not to read Amber's tear through the 3-gun course as foreshadowing her competence and power, but so far she's been completely undermined but Jesse's lies and her own credulity. I still can't decide, though, whether we're meant to read that credulity as a decision she's consciously making or a huge blind spot. In any case, she's one of the only characters I find myself actively rooting for. Well, her and Keefe.

Anyway this show is very much not my typical thing AND YET I find myself pretty invested.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:15 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


I understand that Danny McBride's whole deal is like "really truly horrible people do insanely childish shit," but sometimes when I get through 20 minutes of this show without a single moment that reads as recognizably human, I find myself asking why I'm watching it at all.

I recently read an interview that McBride gave on his characters' continuity between Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals, and the Righteous Gemstones. Recalling how well his Vice Principals character redeemed himself, and how much he developed over the course of that series, that perspective was VERY useful in my being able to enjoy him in this show. I think we might all be pleasantly surprised by McBride here. Or, I hope.
posted by witchen at 10:24 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


I don't think McBride and co. are endorsing any of their main characters, for what it's worth. There was a really great premium episode of Chapo Trap House last week that talked about McBride's work in the context of the recent scandals surrounding Jerry Falwell Jr and Liberty University where they made a really insightful connection between these characters and american protestantism. The episode is behind a paywall so I wrote up a lightly edited transcript of it here, it's pretty long but it sort of made some things click for me about the philosophy behind McBride's work and why it's always felt so timely and relevant to the America we currently live in. Keep in mind that this was off the cuff conversation so if it doesn't read well as text blame me, the transcriptionist.

"Will: This trilogy of shows is really all about American Protestantism.

Matt: Yes, and that's what makes it unique. I've loved all these shows, but I always thought there's something weird about them. They're not like other comedy shows. I remember loving Eastbound and Down but always thinking that this is unpredictable, the things that happen don't scan with what I expect out of comedy. The moment that always stuck out to me is when he goes to do the pitch-off at the dealership and knocks fucking Craig Robinson's eyeball out, and then his brother, who the whole show has been like, "you gotta straighten up and fly right, Kenny" just goes "Hell yeah" and they just destroy the fucking car dealership. And I was just thinking "That's not how comedy works, I don't get it. I like it, but it's weird." And then when they announced that Gemstones was the last show that he's doing, like the end of the trilogy, that I realized the reason it's weird is because it's protestant comedy, which America mostly doesn't have. Most of the people who are good at comedy in America are minorities or jews or canadians, people with some outsider status and sense of anxiety about their place. And so comedy is about people who might be oafish and might be selfish, but they're always going to either be roiled with the discomfort of knowing that they're fucking up, or will be punished by the world for fucking up.

Will: Think Larry David.

Matt: Exactly. But it's the opposite of that here because Larry David is like a McBride character in that he's never wrong, but he's always punished. In the McBride universe these guys are completely self centered, monstrous ego-ed pieces of shit, nothing but avarice and desire, and then they go out into the world and it bends to their will. They never feel bad about anything, they never repent for anything, and they are rewarded by the world, and that's not how most American comedy works. That's what makes it different but that's what makes it so perfect because it's made by American protestants and represents a protestant view of the world, because you're never wrong. You might sin but you will always be redeemed by god, and that's what matters, it doesn't matter what any of these assholes around you think about it.

Felix: And even if you are wrong, temporarily, you were meant to do so because it was a necessary detour on your way to being even more right.

Matt: Right. And so these shows, it's like these guys should be owned, why are they not being owned? It's because they live in the protestant world.

Will: All the Danny McBride characters, Kenny Powers, Neil Gamby, and now Jesse Gemstone, the thing that unites all of them is not just their bone deep knowledge that they are always right and that everything they do is correct, it is beyond that, it is that there's nothing they can do, no fuckup they could imagine or conceive of or pull off that they won't be forgiven for and won't get away with. And the thing is, the outside universe confirms that. It's not that they just believe they'll get away with it, over and over again no matter how awful they are - think of the unbelievably awful things Kenny Powers does in that show - he's forgiven and rewarded for all of it.

Matt: Yep. And look at Jerry Fucking Falwell Jr, you think this is gonna change anything? He got that university from his daddy, and he's gonna pass it to his shitty kid, and there's gonna be no punishment, so why wouldn't you think that god blessed you? There's one awesome bit in one of the Gemstones episodes where Jesse Gemstone is praying to god, he starts off by saying "Good afternoon Jesus" which is very funny, and then he says "Thank you forgiving me for my sins, which you know are not who I am." There's me and then there's what I do, and they actually don't have anything to do with each other because God knows that.

Felix: That is the perfect distillation of modern protestantism.

Matt: In a world ruled by Jerry Falwell and Donald Trump, you made the world work that way. You did The Secret. American Protestants came over here and had a big blank canvas of America - in their mind - and they just did it. The team work made the dream work. And now they have a world that's just made up by their minds every day, and that bends to their will thanks to capital."
posted by JimBennett at 1:00 PM on September 23 [8 favorites]


Interesting take, and that's another part of why these shows make me really uncomfortable -- the terrible people keep winning. It's not a distraction from the real world, it's a (slight) parody of the real world.

I'm four episodes into Vice Principals. I stopped the first episode, because it was just uncomfortable. Four episodes in, I'm seeing where character and story arcs might go, and that gives me some hope for redemption, or consequences for the terrible people, or both.

But The Righeous Gemstones has more that I'm considering to be humor, or at least more that I'm finding humorous. And more characters that are more nuanced, and not just terrible people.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:56 PM on September 23


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