Its Sunday Services resumed as Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and David Gordon Green’s high-budget, low-brow, crime-caper comedy continues its rich vein of form. Oddly, now, it is perhaps the most Sopranos show since The Sopranos, with an air of Succession for good measure – all tailored to nonsense perfection by McBride and his team which, this season, features an even more impressive slew of supporting characters.
Now semi-retired, the season opens with a double-episode that sees Eli (John Goodman) attempting to fish and attend parties at the exclusive Cape and Pistol Society (lol), having formally handed over reins of the church to his three ambitious but equally inept offspring. And, while Jesse (McBride) does appear to have the most genuine chance of achieving any sort of genuine leadership, the wayward sexuality and demented egotism of sister Judy (the always stellar Edi Patterson), the innocent cluelessness of brother Kelvin (Adam Devine) and the necessity that they work together seem to forever find them at odd with the right path. The church’s loyalty is to Eli, and the Gemstone kids are all too quick to throw insults and shoes if disagreed with – especially in a public forum.
Meanwhile, new characters abound. In the first of two major season-defining plot threads and initially via a trademark flashback, 3rd Rock From The Sun‘s Kristen Johnson is seen inexplicably attacking Aimee-Leigh at a Gemstone monster truck rally, while in the present-day, is established as in fact a Gemstone of sorts, having sought Eli’s help to deter her breakaway sons (Steve Zahn, Lukas Hass, Sturgill Simpson) from stirring up trouble through their pseudo-apocalyptic, Christ-fearing cult of rednecks which, if you have a keen eye, seems to have taken up residence in a canteen that looks unavoidably similar to the one in which The Last of Us‘ David feeds people their own relatives.
Elsewhere, creating the all-important financial stakes on which future Gemstone prosperity relies, the Gemstone kids find themselves up against a rival megachurch family led by Stephen Dorff (!) in contention for the inheritance of bedraggled NASCAR champion Dusty Daniels (a gloriously prosthetic Shea Whigham) whose intention is to leave a $250 million fortune to the church – whichever church that may be.
There will forever be humor in South Carolina 700 Clubbers mirroring the underworld politics of the Big Apple, and while it is still rooted in and marketed very much as being a comedy, now over two seasons in, it regularly traverses so much more than that. Don’t get it wrong – when it wants to be dumb, it’s really dumb. Judy talks about her precious private parts, and Kelvin’s quest to rid the world of pornography – utter nonsense in the best way. But, the anchor stories involving the family’s generational struggles all while combating sources of both organised and disorganised crime make for a continually appealing serial that is as compelling as it is hilarious.
Between the introduction of fresh plot pursuits, a wealth of mysterious new characters in the form of familiar faces and *checks notes* big budget action set pieces, The Righteous Gemstones continues to sit alone as an HBO mainstay, and already, in its first hour, has announced it’s valiant return with a bang. Furthermore, it’s strength of story has already set the stakes. Bring on next week.
The Righteous Gemstones continues Sundays on MAX and on HBO.