The following contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S2E7, “And Infants Shall Rule Over Them” (written by John Carcieri & Jeff Fradley & Danny McBride and directed by Jody Hill)
Based on the comments in the Reddit discussion thread for last week’s episode, the shocking final moments of the attack on Eli left all of us fearing for Eli’s life. Thankfully, Eli is alive but comatose, and The Righteous Gemstones S2E7 “And Infants Shall Rule Over Them” find the Gemstone children finally faced with the very real prospect of what happens when Daddy is gone.
Despite Eli being incapacitated, this might well be one of the funnier episodes of the season, probably in no small part because of the relief that Eli didn’t perish from the attack. There’s certainly a lingering concern for Eli, but it’s likely that he’ll pull through so there’s a lot of comedy to be mined from the Gemstone kids essentially running amok with Daddy temporarily out of the picture. The tonal balance is exemplified well in the scene in which BJ, Judy and Tiffany locate and confront Baby Billy, who has taken to grifting wellness products. When he berates the trio for trying to shame him for “providing for his family,” a distraught Tiffany almost apologizes before BJ and Judy comfort her and prevent her from succumbing to Billy’s emotional abuse. It’s an emotional moment, but when Billy attempts to peel out of the parking lot, tipping over his trailer of goods and escaping on foot, it’s hilarious on its own without deflating the emotional punch of Tiffany’s anguish.
By far one of the funniest moments, however, has to be the conversation between Jesse and Martin involving Martin’s family, in which Jesse incorrectly assumes that Martin doesn’t have a family stateside. Martin reminds him that not only does he have a wife that attends every Sunday lunch, he has three children, that Jesse has met “several times.” Once again, McBride shows that he is one of the most gifted comedic performers working today, as his combination of misguided attempts at a heart-to-heart with Martin and frustration over his ability to lead make for a scene so funny, I had to hit the pause button just to catch my breath.
To boot, I haven’t given enough credit to Edi Patterson as Judy, who has arguably the best lines in the entire series and delivers them with a an earnestness that makes her, despite being one of the most awful members of the family, one of the absolute funniest with the filthy and withering put-downs she delivers to anyone in her verbal firing range.
It’s a fantastic payoff that Kelvin, in one of the most emotional moments of the show so far, breaks down in tears, begging God to bring Eli back and promising to subdue his hubris, and Eli miraculously wakes up to groggily recognize Kelvin and tell him he loves him. It’s even better that it’s preceded by Kelvin admitting to his comatose father that his reticence to visit him was not out of anger from his broken thumbs, but out of his lack of strength to see Eli in this state.
Jesse’s ability to rally favor for a ridiculous plan and then profoundly screw the pooch is taken to new heights this week, as he hatches a plan to announce Eli’s recovery to the world, secretly transplant him to the compound, and fill the hospital with mercenaries in the hope that the Cycle Ninjas will return to finish the job, thus walking into a trap. But this is Jesse Gemstone we’re talking about, which means his announcement that Eli is recovering is nakedly ridiculous, and it takes mere hours before he’s bickering with his hired guns, recklessly flaunting his authority, and STILL messing up when acknowledging Martin’s family. Jesse is just an incredible character, and McBride sells it perfectly.
The climax of the episode finds the Cycle Ninjas indeed returning to finish the hit on Eli. This culminates in an action-packed and satisfying climax in which two of the Ninjas are taken down by Jesse and Martin, and Gideon goes after the other two. This is a great moment for Gideon, who just earlier was being hamstrung by his worried parents on getting involved in the situation. Finally trusting in his son, Jesse gives Gideon his cattle prod so that Gideon can run down the two remaining Ninjas. I had actually been wondering whether Gideon was at least tangentially connected to the Ninjas, given their skills on motorcycles and the fact that at the beginning of the season Gideon was shown to be an extremely skilled cyclist and stuntman. Whether that early scene was just foreshadowing for Gideon’s absolutely awesome defeat of the Ninjas or something more remains to be seen.
I was really hoping that the Cycle Ninjas would be unmasked this episode, but no dice. There are two episodes left in the season, and it feels like there is a lot to be resolved in what amounts to about an hour of television, but I’m confident that McBride and team will pull it off—it just means that the next two weeks are going to be extremely eventful for the Gemstone family.