The Righteous Gemstones S2E3: “For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies”

Kelvin gestures on stage, surrounded by muscular men
Photograph by Ryan Green/HBO

The following contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S2E3, “For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies” (written by Danny McBride & Kevin Barnett & Chris Pappas and directed by David Gordon Green)

The titles of episodes of The Righteous Gemstones have a way of being rather long and biblical, which I have always appreciated, but which can also lead one to sort of ignore them in terms of their content. I didn’t ask who was speaking in tongues in S2E1, or who the savage wolves were in S2E2, though perhaps I should have.

It doesn’t seem like there is a straightforward answer, though, so much as a thematic resonance, and this is most likely also the case with S2E3, “For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies”—yet with this one I can’t help but wonder who the liar is.

Obviously, it is a reference to Satan in the context of Christian dogma, but the invocation of the father makes one think of Eli Gemstone. Is he perhaps lying when he tells his children he had blood on his pants because he was unsuccessfully experimenting with manscaping?

Something about the plot of S2E3 feels almost too straightforward, moving from the kids suspecting Eli of murder to this resolution in too smooth a way, and of course, we’re prone to believe Eli as much as they are. Who would tell this particular lie?

That’s the same thing that would make it masterful, though.

Judy, Kelvin and Jesse look at a phone, with an amusement park in the background
Photograph by Ryan Green/HBO

Yet, as S2E3 comes to a close, with Eli spurning Junior and the latter declaring them to then be enemies if they aren’t friends, the notion that it was the two of them who went together to kill Thaniel also feels undermined. So I suppose we should probably take Eli at his word that he didn’t do it.

Who did then? The Righteous Gemstones S2E3 spends so much time with Kelvin’s God Squad that the mystery might almost slip our minds, but there is a further wrinkle presented in the opening portion of the episode. Thaniel isn’t just dead there is also a very large fire at the scene of the crime. The thought that suggests itself immediately is that someone set the fire in order to cover up what happened, but we aren’t really any closer to learning who or why.

Eli rides a rollercoaster called Exodus by himself
Photograph by Ryan Green/HBO

Baby Billy remains absent from “For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies,” but strikes me as a prime contender for being both the referent of the title and the murderer of the reporter. After all, Thaniel told Eli that he was digging up dirt on Aimee-Leigh. I have no idea what that dirt could be, but let’s presume it exists. There is a decent chance it would implicate Billy as well, just from what we know of who he is. But even if it didn’t, I don’t think he would take too kindly to someone besmirching the name of his sister.

It is a bit odd that Baby Billy hasn’t even been mentioned through the first third of The Righteous Gemstones Season 2. But then again, S2E3 has Jesse, Judy, and Eli acting like they are just learning about Kelvin’s God Squad for the first time when it’s clearly been going on for a while. I have to say that I liked this joke a little better in the background than I did when it came to the fore this week, but it is still pretty funny stuff.

Liam gets injured during the muscle pyramid performance and is suing the church. Titus tries to assert himself but then fails to carry a heavy cross before getting sentenced to solitary confinement…

Wait, all of this is far weirder than it comes across in S2E3. I don’t even know what to say about these things. But I’m sure the plotline is going somewhere and I look forward to seeing it play out.

Keefe carries the wooden bar of a plow on his shoulders as another man pushes it from behind
Photograph by Ryan Green/HBO

I’m more hung up on the situation with Eli, however. BJ, while out rollerblading to keep swole, saw Eli riding the Exodus rollercoaster over and over again. Despite his story about going bowling with hairdressers etc., Eli doesn’t really provide his children with an account of this. Judy notes that he always hated that rollercoaster and refused to go on it with her. I suspect she may be onto something about what was going on here, even if Jesse dismisses her thoughts and she herself is later too distracted by Eli’s story to remember them.

Again, this is what would make it such a great lie—Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin all leave the conversation with versions of how hooking up with this hairdresser is worse than if he’d committed a murder. Surely Eli could have predicted this, given the maturity level of his children.

So maybe he is lying? But what then of how he treats Junior all episode?

Something’s just not lining up right either way.

BJ, dressed in rollberblading gear, peeks around an amusement park corner
Photograph by Ryan Green/HBO

The Righteous Gemstones S2E3 ends with a twangy rendition of “Sinnerman” by The Travelers 3 as its closing credits roll. The song (the Nina Simone version) always makes me think of Inland Empire, but a closer point of reference (at least in terms of network) would be to Alice Smith’s version from Lovecraft Country. That show was full of dark magic done to disguise oneself and obfuscated intentions.

Are there clues that there is more than meets the eye going on in The Righteous Gemstones, or am I overthinking things?

I look forward to seeing where this all goes next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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