The following contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S2E6, “Never Avenge Yourselves, But Leave It to the Wrath of God” (written by John Carcieri & Jeff Fradley & Danny McBride and directed by Jody Hill)
Things are escalating quickly for the Gemstones in more ways than one, and show no sign of slowing down. The Righteous Gemstones S2E6, “Never Avenge Yourselves, But Leave It to the Wrath of God,” finds multiple members of the family in various states of literal and metaphorical peril, as empires and relationships erode.
True to form, Jesse is less enthusiastic about his near-death experience at the hands of the Cycle Ninjas and more concerned that his wife handily emasculated him with her skill with a gun. Not only has he been “targeted for assassination,” his wife gets to take all of the limelight as their savior and he looks like an idiot who can’t land a shot.
Jesse does seemingly get some of his sense of self back by the end of the episode, however, staging a ridiculous David and Goliath-themed threat against Junior. This is a great sequence not only in how it emphasizes Jesse’s clumsiness when it comes being a leader and making threats, but also how much of a gang of morons his friends are.
Kelvin’s broken thumbs are his clipped wings; Eli trouncing him at the party has thrown Kelvin’s empire of beefcakes into disarray, and his bodybuilders no longer look up to him. The aura of homoeroticism surrounding Kelvin shows no signs of shrinking regardless: Keefe, helping Kelvin get dressed for the day, gets down on his knees in front of Kelvin for him to step into his underwear. The extremely suggestive framing of this action is one of the funniest of a series of visual gags in Kelvin’s storyline that also includes the Christ-evoking imagery of Keefe attempting to lift the cross with the 666 tattoo still visible on his chest. With Torsten winning the cross-lifting challenge and becoming the de facto leader of the God Squad, Kelvin’s future here is unclear—it even makes one wonder how he got this far as leader in the first place, and how this whole thing has has mutated into some sort of Jonestown American Gladiator cult.
Tiffany is beside herself with worry over Baby Billy’s abandonment, and Judy couldn’t be more irritated that she has to be the one to take Tiffany in. The two have a conversation in which Judy angrily berates Tiffany over what appears to be misplaced hope, before Tiffany bursts into tears and Judy appears to show actual, genuine empathy for her.
It’ll be interesting to see how the two bond in the coming episodes. Judy reveals to Tiffany that this isn’t the first time Baby Billy has walked out on a child, so how will this change the dynamic between the three going forward? I’m also wondering if Baby Billy wasn’t (just) abandoning Tiffany and unborn Lionel; could his “abandonment” instead be Billy attempting to contact Harmon, possibly to even bring Harmon back with him so all four of them could be a complete family? Billy is nothing if not a catastrophically bad decision-maker, but in the present day seems to be somewhat well-intentioned.
The gang of Cycle Ninjas suddenly bear down on Eli’s SUV, opening fire and striking him multiple times. Eli collapses against the steering wheel and slowly rolls into a construction site, closing the episode. There isn’t any indication that Eli is dead or alive, leaving us to wonder and worry until we hopefully get some answers next week.
I personally don’t think Eli is dead, although he’s certainly incapacitated at best. I would hope that Eli’s death would be a bit grander, perhaps involving a vision of Aimee-Leigh. On the other hand, Eli would be far from the first character to suffer a surprising and abrupt death—and it would be very much on-brand for McBride and team to pull something so startling. It would also sharply escalate the power struggle brewing between the Gemstone children, as all three of them have been showing even more self-centered behavior this episode, with a renewed sense of self to gain by taking control of the family.
Still, in a show that continues to allow our main characters to escape consequence, I think Eli’s not done just yet. Season 2 has shown us an entirely different side of Eli; and given the ease with which he absolutely destroys the thirsty trucker earlier, there’s probably even more we don’t know about him, and more demons yet to come to the surface. Eli’s attempt to reconcile with Kelvin, only to be cast out, is an interesting precursor to a hypothetical death, but I don’t think it holds enough weight to be one of the last things Eli does.
I also don’t think that this group of biker assassins are allied with Junior. Junior certainly talks big, but he’s also rarely shown to be anything more than a thug. He might be a good manipulator, but I’m hard-pressed to believe that Junior has the resources or respect to amass that group, especially since the apparent best he could do in the way of a threat was a Dollar Tree Hulk Hogan who was rendered effectively toothless by Eli telling him to f*ck himself.
You know who does have Cycle Ninja money? The Lissons. In Episode 4, Jesse and Amber defiantly board the bus intended for Eli, and the assassins show up and do the ol’ Sonny Corleone on the bus, more than likely thinking Eli was on there. Could the Lissons be forcing Eli out of the picture for Jesse and Amber to take over, thus securing that $10 million investment for Jesus Disney World and Resort and endless conversations about pool shapes with Jesse?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lissons are the culprits behind the hit. If I really want to aim for the fences, however, I’d say I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t behind it either. We’re barely over halfway through the season, and there’s still plenty of time for a late reveal of another big bad. Where I’m not quite sure how the dots connect is the death of Thaniel. I can’t see the Lissons having any reason to go after Thaniel as they weren’t the target of his write-up. It’s not clearly defined that the Cycle Ninjas killed Thaniel, either; that could have been an entirely different hit. The additional bodies at the scene of Thaniel’s death, along with the fire burning down the cabin, still make it seem like something at least somewhat professional.
Given how skilled The Righteous Gemstones is at throwing curveballs and incorporating engrossing Coen-flavored mystery into its storylines, there are a lot of places this could go. I suspect there is still a lot in Eli’s past that we don’t know about that could still be catching up with him, particularly how he practically switches into mob boss mode once he starts doing damage control for the attack on the bus. One thing’s for sure: things are definitely going to get worse, and more insane, for the Gemstones.