screenshot from Righteous Gemstones

Season 2 of ‘The Righteous Gemstones’ Significantly Surpasses Season 1

This dark comedy series unleashed a new round of episodes that vastly outperformed earlier installments.
April 9, 2022
8 mins read

Following Season 1, which earned a “certified fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating of 75% among critics, Season 2 of “The Righteous Gemstones” premiered on HBO in January with lofty expectations from longtime fans of the show’s creator, Danny McBride.

After two and a half year hiatus, HBO’s golden directorial trio (McBride, David Gordon Green and Jody Hill) returned with another outstanding season of “The Righteous Gemstones.” This comedy series is full of nonstop hilarity and impressive character development that flips from gravely serious to childishly silly at a moment’s notice.

The nonsensical nature of the comedy in “The Righteous Gemstones” creates some mildly frequent plot inconsistencies, which leaves the audience scratching their heads at various points throughout Season 2. However, it’s clear the show elevated its writing this season to give its audience plenty of reason to regard the series as more than just a comedy while still remaining hysterically funny.

In addition to its solid cast, with well-known actors like John Goodman, Adam Devine and the previously mentioned McBride, Season 2 was also aided by impressive guest stars like Joe Jonas, Macaulay Culkin and, most notably, Eric Andre. Andre crushed the role of Lyle Lissons, the overly animated Texas televangelist and recurring series antagonist.

Jonas’ rendition of “God Bless Texas,” performed while the rest of the cast line dances (or at least tries to, as Hollywood doesn’t do the Southern tradition much justice), made me ponder my sanity as I nearly fell over from laughter. There are many ways to envision a Jonas cameo falling flat if not done correctly on a show like “The Righteous Gemstones,” but he slid seamlessly into the show’s dark style of humor without feeling forced.

The series also provided much-needed depth for the character of Dr. Eli Gemstone, played by Goodman. Although an episode was dedicated to further understanding his late wife in Season 1, it felt like Eli’s role in the first season was relegated to chasing around his foolhardy children while occasionally delivering a powerful sermon or funny one-liner.

A character that interesting, played by an actor of that quality, deserves a much more central role in the show, and it appears the writers agreed. This season opened by giving the viewers a flashback to his teenage wrestling days, introducing an interesting new twist to Eli’s character that remained relevant throughout the season.

The comedic genius behind former wrestler Eli Gemstone empowered him to perform his hilarious thumb-breaking signature move on multiple characters throughout the season, most amusingly on his son Kelvin to put a cherry on top of BJ’s already insane baptism. Beyond the show’s funny moments, this season’s improved handling of Eli allowed it to transition from a depiction of a repetitive power struggle between the Gemstone siblings into something that fans should invest their emotions into.

While I personally became more emotionally invested with each episode, the show reminds its viewers that they’re still watching one of the funniest shows on television, even during its most intensely serious moments. In the most heart-dropping event of the entire series, Eli was repeatedly shot and rushed to the hospital after his wrestling buddy Glendon “Junior” Marsh ordered a hit on him to avenge his wrestling-promoter father.

Somehow, the show’s writers made the situation hilarious by having Jesse, Amber, Judy and BJ throw up simultaneously in Griffin family-like fashion. In another episode, Eli’s car is comedically vandalized by a single tomato in an effort by Marsh to send a message. There’s seriously a very short list of television shows that can get away with something like this, and “The Righteous Gemstones” does so effortlessly.

Another character that saw improved writing in Season 2 was BJ, Judy’s emotionally fragile and mediocre husband, portrayed wonderfully by Tim Baltz. After watching Season 1, I was not too fond of BJ’s character due to the repetitive nature of his cuckold-like character, and I questioned whether he had any usefulness beyond foolishly chasing the annoyingly self-absorbed Judy.

But Baltz’s performance across Season 2 underlined how essential BJ is to “The Righteous Gemstones,” as he provides a refreshing and hilarious foil to the Gemstones’ often toxic and offensive style of humor. This insight allows us to better understand one of the show’s more confusing characters: his wife, Judy.

Numerous characters developed wonderfully throughout the season, and while the writing had improved, a few of the plot holes can’t be explained by the show’s silly nature. During a flashback, Eli rejects his former wrestling promoter’s offer to fund the expansion of the Gemstone church through a money-laundering scheme but promises his congregation that the ministry will be expanding into an enormous building despite not having the money.

As the promoter is killed in an attempt to threaten Eli later in the episode, the audience never learns where Eli ultimately got the money, which is an important question considering the lavish and over-the-top lifestyle of the Gemstones compared to Eli’s humble upbringing. They may be saving that story for another season, but I’m not sure if the series will ever have a better opportunity to explain that massive plot hole.

While the creators of “The Righteous Gemstones” did several things well in Season 2, I’m not sure if effectively turning Baby Billy into the most detestable human possible was the best idea for the series. The fan-favorite character skates on two separate women that he’s impregnated, one presently and one while in a flashback.

His decades-long absence from his intellectually disabled first son’s life is remedied by one punch to the face, which sort of feels like a cop-out on the writers’ part to derive some sense of meaning from Billy’s serious shortcomings.

Overall, the action-packed plot and improved writing from Season 1 make this Season 2 the best to date for “The Righteous Gemstones.” If fans should use Seasons 1 and 2 as any indication, there’s more excitement in store for the future of this rib-tickling series.

Brett Hintz, University of Texas at Austin

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Brett Hintz

University of Texas at Austin

Senior journalism major at the University of Texas. Originally from Dallas, TX. Love sports, love writing, love podcasting.

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