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The Righteous Gemstones S1E4 “Wicked Lips” review

The result of too much partying is viewed through two different lenses in this great fourth episode.

I had years of partying, and I was kind of surprised and happy I survived it all.
-Jeff Bridges

I was recently pondering why Tony Cavalero gets top billing with the main cast since he seems like a supporting character, but episode 4 cleared that up completely. Cavalero plays Keefe who is Kelvin Gemstone’s (Adam DeVine) greatest success story after pulling him out of his wicked ways as a satanist and into the light of Jesus Christ. We learn in this episode what kind of crew he ran with as well as what kind of parties he attended, which involved wild public sex, drug use, and loud music. We get a taste of that later in the episode when Keefe and Kelvin attempt to save an important teenager whose father is a big-time donor for the Gemstones from a dangerous cultish rave situation. There is plenty of nudity in the episode thanks to this rave scene, but it’s done in an over-the-top way that’s still somehow funny. Part of that is how Keefe’s old friends are like some kind of band of vampires depicted in otherworldly ways and it’s clear Keefe was once just like them. You’ll have a newfound respect for him especially since he survived it all, but from one cult Keefe has entered a new one.

Tony Cavalero.
photo: Ryan Green/HBO

This episode opens with Keefe who is now an innocent butterfly of hope, eating some ice cream. Soon he ends up taking a wrong turn and he’s badgered by his old friends who are dressed way over-the-top in goth/metal clothing. They’re perfectly innocent and nice, but Keefe steers clear of them like they’re the plague. By the end of the episode, we see who he was prior to pledging allegiance to Kelvin and the Gemstones and you’ll have a newfound respect for him thanks to Cavalero’s great acting. It’s so deadpan and innocent. This episode does a good job establishing how Keefe went from one cult to another, and judging by the sinning Jesse Gemstone (Danny McBride) has been involved in, it’s not that much better for his soul. In fact, you could argue Keefe’s old goth friends were nicer and way more loving. It’s another example of how the Gemstone family appears idealistic, but deep down they’re worse than Keefe’s friends who are stereotypes of a bad crowd.

It establishes this point via two plots with one focusing on Keefe’s old goth/metal friends who still want to hang with Keefe and a second plot involving Jesse attempting to tamp down a leak of prostitutes and cocaine partying to one of his friend’s wives. Jesse continues to lie to his wife and attempts to sway his friend’s wife from believing the Yahoo emails she has uncovered. In these emails, we learn Jesse and his friends were messaging each other about who should pay for a prostitute, if folks should leave their wives, and other immature back and forth talk. It’s pretty damning, and yet Jesse’s wife Amber (Cassidy Freeman) believes her husband implicitly. It’s quite clear Keefe’s old lifestyle was pretty bad too when Kelvin and Keefe end up in a rave to save one of the Gemstone youth choir kids, but at least these old friends were loving. Jesse continues to bully and chastise his friends who all seem perfectly innocent, especially since Jesse is the one instigating the immoral behavior.

Cassidy Freeman, Danny McBride, Mary Hollis Inboden.
photo: Ryan Green/HBO

One of the beauties of this show, which is a carryover from the previous creators’ HBO show, Vice Principals, is how it manages to pack efficient plotting and exposition into the humor and character work. Jody Hill directs this episode — he also plays Jesse’s incredibly innocent friend Levi — and it juggles a lot, from car chases to intense club scenes. Amongst all that action is plot progression that you’ll be grateful for. By the end of the episode, Amber is clearly very concerned about what Jesse is up to and most likely will pursue finding answers by uncovering what he’s lying about while Keefe’s identity is established, and the sky’s the limit as far as what he’s capable of doing for the Gemstones. At the same time, Gideon Gemstone (Skyler Gisondo) has progressed his plan to rob from his family and the episode ends in a very tough place for him. The fact that I haven’t even mentioned that sub-plot shows how this 30-minute show is so efficient.

If I were to find fault in the episode, it’s the lack of Edi Patterson and John Goodman, who appear in only one short scene. Goodman has had moments to shine in the show, revealing Eli Gemstone’s deep rage and courage, but for the most part, he’s been very sad and off to the side, allowing Kelvin and Jesse to meddle with their side projects. Edi Patterson has done a great job playing the jealous and odd sister Judy Gemstone, but for the most part, she hasn’t had much to do beyond chiding her brothers (which is admittedly hilarious in small doses).

If you were to boil this episode down to one message it’s that too much partying can end your life, but it can also bring new meaning to it. While Keefe has moved on to a simpler and innocent lifestyle, Jesse’s partying ways continue to hang over him, ready to end everything he’s built in his life.

The Righteous Gemstones S1E4 “Wicked Lips”
Is it good?
If you were to boil this episode down to one message it's that too much partying can end your life, but it can also bring new meaning to it. While Keefe has moved on to a simpler and innocent lifestyle, Jesse's partying ways continue to hang over him, ready to end everything he's built in his life.
Juggles so much plot and character work you'll be surprised it's only 30 or so minutes long
Tony Cavalero continues to do excellent character work
An interesting juxtaposition of party lifestyles and where it gets you
This show needs more Edi Patterson and John Goodman scenes!

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