As far as penultimate episodes go, episode 8 of The Righteous Gemstones has it all — exciting new developments, big shocking twists, and some of the funniest lines of dialogue in the entire season. The first half of this episode is about resolving the big blackmail plot while setting up a new beginning for a character who will likely make waves in season 2 after being cast out for much of season 1. The second half is all about disassembling relationships and sending each family member into disarray. It’ll be interesting to see where the finale takes this show since so many of these characters hit rock bottom here.
This episode gives every major character something to do and say while also giving them direction. It all starts with Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) who drops Judy Gemstone (Edi Patterson) off at home and ends up getting a surprise that’ll change his life thanks to a blowjob. As he drives and his wife goes down on him an accident occurs that very nearly should have killed him, but instead it sets him free. Goggins continues to play the old maniac very well and the development in this episode will likely make him even crazier in the finale, or in season 2 if we don’t see him in the next episode.
The acting is superb in this episode, starting with Amber Gemstone (Cassidy Freeman). She finds out her son Gideon (Skyler Gisondo) was the reason why Scotty (Scott MacArthur) robbed the family and takes a stand against him. While his father Jesse (Danny McBride) and grandfather Eli (John Goodman) look on already angry, you can tell the way she casts out the son that they are both taken by her anger and passion. Other standout performances by McBride and Anthony Cavalero who plays Keefe will make you feel the emotions as their lives come apart. Jesse is very much moved by his son’s ability to keep a secret which sets in motion the downfall of a lot of what he attempted to prevent during the season. Speaking of that scene both McBride and Skyler give stand out performances that show their range. On top of that, leave it to McBride to make Jesse’s actions natural even though it’s incredibly stupid and misguided. The man’s faith appears to be a factor in why he tells the truth, and while it may save him eventually, it certainly seems like the worst thing possible for him and his friends.
Some of the best one-liners and dialogue pop up in this episode and that goes for both comedic and dramatic moments. On the comedy side, Judy loses it after Baby Billy quits the church and calls her talentless and ugly. In an attempt to salvage her relationship with BJ (Tim Baltz), Judy tries to get him back. In an attempt to lure him into the back of his grocery store optometrist office she says, “Come back here, we’ll take shirts off and rub backs and d*cks” and then later when his lesbian friend brings him lunch she accuses the friend of being a person who is “out to meet a hot guy, make friends with him, and sample suck some clean d*ck.” The lines reinforce how weird Judy is but also how manic she has become as her life falls apart. Patterson nails these lines, making you feel for Judy as she falls apart but also laugh at how insane she is in the moment. Another standout line is at the end of the episode when Jesse screams after being shot, “She got me in my meat!” It’s nonsensically silly, and yet matched with the dramatic beats it seems plausible these weird characters would say these things.
If I were to seek out a negative it might be the continued underutilization of John Goodman. He has three key scenes, but in each he’s sullen and sad. Eli is certainly lost, but his inability to do anything makes him almost an afterthought. It’ll be interesting to see what his character does in the finale since so far he’s been sleepwalking through the show — it isn’t Goodman’s fault in the slightest, it’s just a matter of his character getting a wakeup call that’ll get him back in it.
By the end of the episode, you’ll be dying for the finale. There are so many questions to be answered and so much more for these characters to do and say as they each destroy their own lives by their actions. The show has always been about these man-children who are too rich and powerful to grow up and it’s quite clear their complete fall from grace is an important step in their growth. Here’s to seeing how the finale, and eventually season 2, change them all for better or worse.