Vague Visages’ The Righteous Gemstones essay contains spoilers. Danny McBride’s HBO series features himself, John Goodman and Adam DeVine. Check out VV’s TV reviews, along with cast/character articles, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings, at the home page.
Whether it’s monster trucks, explosives or actors hanging dong, The Righteous Gemstones season 3 surpassed all expectations. The previous two installments of the HBO series showcase some of the best comedy I’ve seen on TV. And, with subject matter practically begging to be lampooned, Danny McBride and company had an easy slam dunk on their hands. The Righteous Gemstones season 3 finale cements the series as a pop culture gem, due to the thematic heart of the show — excess — being expanded to the execution of each episode and giving more characters a chance to shine.
The constants that make The Righteous Gemstones distinct from other shows about exorbitantly wealthy and assholish families are the juvenile humor and nostalgic music. Each episode of any season is just as likely to make one roll their eyes while laughing at the immaturity of the central Gemstone family members or feverishly open the Shazam app to keep one of the countless mid-20th century gospel bangers from fading from memory. The way the showrunners so effortlessly needle-drop old country music in perfect situations is enough for even a grizzled “no country music allowed” practitioner such as myself to give Don Williams’ discography a try. The state of the genre could also reflect the vision of modern Christianity that gives The Righteous Gemstones its biggest laughs. Where country music used to be by and for rural working-class people, it’s now about trucks, guns, beer and tractors that rich kids love to have to roleplay as cowboys. The same can be seen in the Gemstones’ celebration of Christianity as a means to accrue as much donation money as possible.
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Where most would see the phenomenon of megachurches and ultra-wealthy pastors as a tainted form of Jesus Christ’s teachings, McBride, David Gordon Green and Jody Hill see comedy gold (or gems) to be mined. The contradictions between the Christian teachings the titular Gemstones occasionally preach and their lifestyle is inherently funny but made even more humorous by the immature dialogue and actions of the characters, due to the state of arrested development that came from growing up wealthy. The first visual of The Righteous Gemstones season 3 is the first of many hilarious uses of the central family’s personal monster truck, Redeemer. If it’s easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to bring a monster truck to heaven, I’m sure the Gemstones won’t want to go.
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The Righteous Gemstones season 3 improves upon the previous two installments by introducing more characters. Seasons 1 and 2 prominently feature Jesse (McBride) and Eli (John Goodman), with the central father and son duo commanding most of the narrative space. Judy (Edi Patterson), Kelvin (Adam Devine), Baby Billy (Walton Goggins), B.J. (Tim Baltz), Gideon (Skylar Gisondo) and Keef (Tony Cavalero) remain key contributors, but The Righteous Gemstones season 3 gives the actors more room to have fun. It honestly looks like each performer was having the time of their lives, which makes the experience of having to see the new, ugly, MAX app all the more bearable. Not to mention that a handful of newcomers joined in the Gemstone family quarrels, like cousins Chuck (Lukas Haas) and Big Karl (Robert Oberst), along with Aunt May-May (Kristen Johnston) and the new antagonist, Uncle Peter (Steve Zahn). McBride, it seems, allowed himself to blend into the team more. And because of that, it gives viewers more time to focus on each character’s eccentricities to generate more laughs.
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Even though The Righteous Gemstones season 3 arguably sacrifices some of the series’ heart, the opposite seems to be true. The decision to introduce characters from the Montgomery side of the family is sneakily touching, as they bend from being staunchly opposed to the Gemstones’ wealth and lifestyle to embracing and reconciling with their more financially inclined family members. In addition, The Righteous Gemstones season 3 conveys the sense that family is more important than money, even while characters wear rhinestone outfits, bicker over who’s their “daddeh” and twirl their phalluses like helicopters. Between the jokes and overall comedy, there’s a real sense of connection and familial bonding — it’s in the one-on-ones Eli has with his long-estranged sister May-May, and it’s in the grain silo where Jesse, Judy and Kelvin bond after being kidnapped. It’s also evident in the selfless actions each character makes during the biblical locust swarm of the season finale. If the Gemstones have taught me anything, it’s that there is no fault family cannot forgive. Even the cult-leading, kidnapping and bomb-making Uncle Peter is redeemed and forgiven by realizing the error of his ways.
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The Righteous Gemstones season 3 stays true to the constants that made me appreciate the show in the first place while adding more characters to love. Could the Gemstone family be onto something with their brand of ridiculous, contradictory, vulgar Christianity? After all, it sure does seem like God is on their side.
Grant Klevgaard (@GrantKlevgaard) is a writer based in the Fargo-Moorhead area. He enjoys the films of Jackie Chan, John Carpenter and Akira Kurosawa as much as anyone. In addition to being open to any and all films, Grant is also an avid fan of baseball, chess and cooking. He graduated from North Dakota State University in May 2023 with a Master’s degree in Communication, and he isn’t afraid to use it.
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