Review: 'The Righteous Gemstones' Stays Brilliant in Season 2

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 10, 2022

Jason Schwartzman in 'The Righteous Gemstones'
Jason Schwartzman in 'The Righteous Gemstones'  (Source:Photograph by Ryan Green/HBO)

One of the best current shows on television deals with an absurdly rich family of societal grifters, spearheaded by an often-volatile patriarch and his sycophantic, teat-suckling children who are all waiting for their piece of the pie. Sure, this aptly describes HBO's "Succession," which is indeed one of the finest series of the present moment, but I'm talking about "The Righteous Gemstones," which has kicked off its second season and continues to cement itself as "Succession's" twisted younger sibling.

From the mind of Danny McBride, in collaboration with his frequent artistic confidants Jody Hill and David Gordon Green, "The Righteous Gemstones" is indubitably the finest work this creative team has produced to date, following an already strong run of HBO comedy series that includes "Eastbound & Down" and "Vice Principals."

Where those two shows found genius in sharp social commentary and humor that deftly balanced the vulgar and absurd, "The Righteous Gemstones" doubles down on these attributes while creating something far deeper. Its inaugural season focused on the eponymous celebrity televangelist family, who quickly prove themselves anything but righteous as they all struggle in the aftermath of their matriarch's death, revealing that she was the glue holding all of their shattered virtues together. With themes of fathers and sons, capitalist con jobs, and morality all at play, the show juxtaposed its daring comedic elements with a thrilling true crime storyline and rich character studies, masterfully steering the wheel between various tones that fit together in marvelous ways.

In its second season, airing Sundays on HBO, all these elements are once again in motion, with an added layer that digs into the past of Eli Gemstone (John Goodman), the man who would go on to monetize the Gemstone name through carefully-constructed religious sensationalism. And while the ghosts of Eli's history come back to haunt him, all other characters are given diverse storylines that keep the momentum going throughout all nine episodes. These storylines pave the way for equally energetic performances, as the three Gemstone children -- Jesse (McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson), and Kelvin (Adam Devine) -- all have moments of mastery, as do many of their supporting counterparts.

From a cult of God-fearing muscle men and motorcycle-riding assassins to somber parental reconnection and one of the craziest baptisms you'll ever see, the second season of "The Righteous Gemstones" truly covers the gamut, and you'll never know what you're in for next. There's a moment where I literally yelled "Holy shit!" out loud to myself in an empty room in the middle of the night, and it's just one of the season's many surprises. If you're not watching this show, you're missing out.

"The Righteous Gemstones" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO