The Righteous Gemstones return for their second season this Sunday, January 9th, and it appears that the show has lost its way. A show whose focus was on the exploits of the Gemstone clan has now spread itself too thin. This is often the danger of a show like The Righteous Gemstones returning for a 2nd season. Danny McBride’s latest creation felt like the perfect one and done show. The first season was well-written, focused, and pointed out organized religion’s hypocrisy. It was brash, bold, and at times raunchy, but it was well done. Season one shined a light on the dynamics of this fictional evangelical family and rarely deviated. The second season attempts to expand this world and broaden the focus on the show but fails to do either. If writers Danny McBride, Chad Handley, and C. Cooley Walters wanted to take things in a clear direction, they shouldn’t have attempted to introduce so many different elements and stuck with what works.
Now the season did start with an initial premise that worked for a short while. The idea that a reporter was attempting to dig up dirt on evangelical families was a great start. Casting Jason Schwartzman as writer Thaniel Block was a genius move. If any family had been the target of a reporter, it certainly would be the Gemstones. However, things begin to look shaky when the reporter reveals that he’s only looking to confirm with Eli (John Goodman) the dirt he has on his late wife, Aimee Lee (Jennifer Nettles). In a family comprised of Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson), and Kelvin (Adam Devine), the writers choose to focus on the one likable Gemstone? There was a moment when it seemed this approach might work when we learned that Thaniel Block was killed, and the kids can’t account for Eli’s whereabouts or understand why their father has blood on his pants. A murder mystery? Sure, that works for me! It’s a twist but one that works. One of the Gemstones would have wanted to stop that reporter from spilling secrets about their family. However, the season derailed for me is the introduction of motorcycle riding assassins who are out to kill Eli Gemstone. What? Where did this even come from?
The show tries to connect it with Eli’s past as a part-time wrestler and enforcer for the Memphis mob. We are even introduced to Junior (Eric Roberts), the son of the man Dr. Gemstone once worked for during his wrestling career. Could he be running his dad’s old crime ring and have it out for Eli? Yeah, maybe, but they do such a terrible job of selling that it’s more a fleeting thought than an actual possibility. Jesse and Cassidy meet Lyle (Eric Andre) and Lindy (Jessica) Lissons and discuss a possible business venture together. Maybe they have something to do with it. The payoff to this portion of season 2 is so idiotic that it left me wondering why they even went in that direction. What’s crazy is these two storylines took some of the focus away from characters like Baby Billy Freeman (Walton Goggins) who was a fan favorite during season one. Shifting the focus to superfluous storylines instead of integrating aspects of the 2nd season that worked well caused The Righteous Gemstones to regress in its 2nd season.
My hope for a 3rd season is the writers get back to what works with this show. This ensemble is hilarious, even when the material was less than stellar during the 2nd season. They briefly touched on this idea of who might control the Gemstone church if Eli were to step down, and that would be a perfect place to start. Let’s see those Gemstone siblings fight it out! Perhaps find a way to bring Baby Billy into this family conflict. That level of dysfunction is what got us watching the show, to begin with. It certainly wasn’t what we saw in season two. Hopefully, HBO realizes that and gives McBride and company a shot at redemption.