The following contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S2E4, “As to How They Might Destroy Him” (written by Danny McBride & John Carcieri & Edi Patterson and directed by Danny McBride)
The Righteous Gemstones S2E2 presented us with a pretty big mystery, as Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson), and Kelvin (Adam Devine) discovered not just that Thaniel (Jason Schwartzman) had been killed, but a scene that was scattered with several dead bodies. We learned in S2E3 that the whole place was then set on fire (I presume intentionally, to cover up the evidence), and the Gemstone siblings got to suspecting their father, before being apparently satisfied by his story that he wasn’t involved but did have a manscaping accident.
Thus the mystery disappears for most of S2E4 (or all of it, depending on how you want to parse things), which I think parallels the narcissism of the Gemstones themselves. They only care if they were involved, or if Eli (John Goodman) had been involved, and if that’s not the case then they don’t spare a second thought as to what actually happened.
Something analogous occurred in Season 1, as the Gemstones figured out Baby Billy (or, actually, Aunt Tiffany) was involved in Scotty’s (Scott MacArthur) death, but the whole question of the police investigation just faded into the background. I guess the cops never sorted things out, and I wonder if they’re still out there working the case. I’m convinced that anything not on the minds of our main characters is simply outside the frame of the show.
This is related to how S2E4 ends with a shock, as a gang of masked motorcyclists light up a Gemstone party bus with automatic weapons. Who are they and why are they doing this? It’s not something that seemed to be in the domain of the possible because it wasn’t in the range of what the Gemstones conceived to be possible. And yet it happened.
Earlier in the hour, Eli is confronted by a wrestler (James Preston Rogers) sent by Junior (Eric Roberts) to demand an apology. The scene is quite comic and rather adorable. I don’t know anyone who likes hurt feelings, either, but it would be quite an escalation for Junior to have gone from this move to shooting the party bus to smithereens.
Yet, there is the fact that only Eli was supposed to be on that bus, according to the driver. Jesse and Amber (Cassidy Freeman) took it anyway, but if we infer that the plan was for it to break down and be in that parking lot to be attacked, it would seem clear that Eli was the target.
So Junior is a suspect (and should be), but I can’t help but wonder if it’s something outside of the frame of The Righteous Gemstones that is asserting itself in this closing scene. We still don’t know what dirt Thaniel had found or how it might relate to all of this.
We should recall that Thaniel claimed it was Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles) he was looking into. Kelvin wrecks her portrait, throwing a champagne bottle in the direction of Eli’s head, and I have to wonder to what extent that set the elder Gemstone off, beyond the fact that the bottle really could have killed him.
Kelvin’s God Squad is preposterous, and it makes total sense that Eli would move to put an end to it. Certainly it makes sense for him to deny the funds for Kelvin to take them all on a jet to Israel, but beyond that it’s as though Eli hadn’t quite been paying attention to the ridiculous nonsense his youngest son had been engaging in until it became too in his face for him to ignore.
Honestly, I cheered when Eli broke his son’s thumbs, and I’m not sure if I should feel bad about that.
It’s not just Kelvin, though. Jesse and Amber are on about the idea of investing with the Lissons, and Eli just doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if they are unhappy. He’s just disappointed in how immature all of his children are, and he’s sick of it.
Unfortunately for BJ (Tim Baltz), that comes to a head as he tries to assert himself as a Gemstone in the face of his sister, but the cake he throws hits Eli. And then it doesn’t matter why—he’s just a child throwing cake.
BJ’s baptism is quite an affair, and I loved every last second of it, from the color palette to the décor, to his romper with cummerbund, but at the end of the day, it’s clear that it is just a pageant. Worse, he’s just doing it for Judy, and Judy’s just doing it for the pageantry.
So beneath all of his disappointment with his children, there’s a sense in Eli that somewhere along the way he’s strayed from a genuine ministry. And of course he has, if he ever had one—if he wasn’t just taking the showmanship he learned as the Maniac Kid and applying it to preaching the gospel, like Junior suggested.
All of this is on Eli’s mind.
The Righteous Gemstones S2E4 finally gives us Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) and it is glorious. He’s on the Christian Pop charts and has a new son on the way. He also has an older son, who he abandoned in a mall pet store back in 1993, and who we last saw in Season 1’s “Interlude,” making a ninja star with a booger on it. Harmon (Jeremy T. Thomas) is sweet, and I wonder what happened to him. I tend to think that we are going to find out, as we see Billy headed in the direction of North Carolina towards the end of the episode.
Of course, he could be instead abandoning his new unborn son just like he did his old one, along with Tiffany (Valyn Hall). The only thing I’m fairly certain of is that he’s not just running to get her some Funyuns.