The Righteous Gemstones S2E8: “The Prayer of a Righteous Man”

Eli looks around a corner in The Righteous Gemstones S2E8
Photograph by Ryan Green/ HBO

The following contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S2E8, “The Prayer of a Righteous Man” (directed by David Gordon Green and written by Grant Dekernion, Chad Handley and Danny McBride)

This penultimate episode of The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 doubles down on the character work and answers a few questions while asking a few more. Eli praises his family, delivering kind words to each of them (but not BJ) for their roles during and after his coma in last week’s episode. Gideon captured the bikers, Judy sang to him during his coma, making him hear her mother, and Kelvin has been using his skills from crafting the God Squad to help Eli with physical therapy while Jesse helps lead the church. 

Eli has another heart-to-heart with Jesse later in the episode, telling him that he knows he’s capable of leading the church, and understands his disappointment that he’s not actively doing so. Jesse deflects, claiming that being a leader in the interim and having everybody looking to him for answers was “annoying.” I actually believe Jesse to a certain extent, since during an earlier conversation with Amber, Jesse is suddenly reticent to be a head or even co-head pastor. Amber isn’t happy about this at all, and it seems that Jesse’s pouting stems from once again being emasculated by his wife. In any case, Eli changes his mind on the $10 million investment for Jesse, which should put him back in the good graces of the Lissons, depending on their level of involvement in this season’s events. 

Baby Billy has slipped even further, and is now shilling his patched-up trailer of elixirs at a retirement home to scant interest, save for the staff adding the stuff to their cocktails. Aimee-Leigh visits him and tells him what some had already guessed: he’s come this far to make amends with Harmon, but can’t bring himself to do it. Finally relenting, he does indeed meet Harmon (played to perfection by Macaulay Culkin), who now has a family of his own and a hearty disinterest in reconciliation. He is, however, content to punch his father in the face as hard as he can. You can see that Baby Billy is trying to bridge the gap, but he’s not going to get what he wants, because things can’t and won’t always work out for him. I’m glad this didn’t end in full reconciliation; Baby Billy doesn’t deserve that, and he’s going to need all of the good karma he can get if he wants to convince Tiffany to take him back. 

Baby Billy stands at a podium with his Elixir.
Photograph by Ryan Green/ HBO

Some of Judy Gemstone’s best moments come when she actually shows some humanity, and Edi Patterson is just fantastic at playing that character who is an awful human being who, in spite of herself, lets some compassion show through. Absolutely no other actress on the planet can deliver the line “makes my gooch pucker” while fighting back tears through an emotional monologue and make it work perfectly as a serious moment. Tiffany was moments away from departing on a bus back home, but Edi and BJ can’t bear to cast out a member of their family. 

The Righteous Gemstones S2E8 opens on another flashback, which oddly enough continues to sow sympathy for Junior. At this point, Junior has been shown to be something of an ugly human being, but it’s certainly a product of his upbringing. Even his threats towards Eli when shunned seemed more reactive, like an abused dog. Junior’s daddy, in this flashback, proved to be the abuser, verbally berating Junior before holding him at gunpoint and taking all of the money from their business. What’s more, he reveals to Eli when Eli comes to visit him that his father essentially thought Eli was more worthy of his pride than Junior himself. Junior still believes that Eli helped his father escape to Bolivia, despite Eli revealing to him that he was shot and killed by Eli’s father. Junior might not be a very good human being—sure, he’s a shady businessman and a crass individual—but he’s not the monster his father was in danger of shaping him into, and almost certainly not the one bankrolling the Cycle Ninjas.

The Gemstone Family walks alongside a roller coaster.
Photograph by Ryan Green/ HBO

Speaking of which, we finally get the identities of the Cycle Ninjas revealed…and it’s a group of teenagers with fake IDs and no presence in the police fingerprint database. This is definitely interesting, and I’m still not 100% convinced that the Lissons were responsible. Let’s spitball one last time before the finale: it could be the Lissons, and it would make sense, given that Eli denied the $10 million investment in the resort, and Jesse had mentioned that upon Eli’s death or retirement he would control the purse strings. So it would follow logically that the Lissons would put out the hit to accelerate the process. But that just seems a little too neat and clean for McBride to be satisfied with. 

We see at the beginning of the season that Gideon is very good with a motorbike, as are the Cycle Ninjas. And since the Ninjas are revealed to be around Gideon’s age, is it possible that Gideon’s shady past (and potential future) in Hollywood stunt work is once again coming to haunt him. Now, I don’t think Gideon himself is involved at all in this, but there might be some lingering bad stuff from his past. Possible, but I don’t think Gideon would be tied, albeit indirectly, to events for a second season in a row. His motorcycle montage was likely just a reinforcement of his stunt background and foreshadowing for last week’s climax. 

While Junior himself might not be involved—and he says so at the end of the episode with as much sincerity as he’s ever had—I think it’s highly likely that the Dixie Mafia, or at least this show’s version of it, is. Eli was an enforcer for the Mafia back in his wrestling days, and the bulk of this season has been Eli’s past coming back to haunt him. Eli shares with his children where he buried Junior’s father, and says no one else, not even Aimee-Leigh, knows this secret aside from Martin. But what’s the chance that he’s not correct?

Judy Gemstone fixes herself up before a service.
Photograph by Ryan Green/ HBO

The other factor is Thaniel. Thought to perhaps be a thorn in the Gemstone family’s side for the season but killed off almost immediately, Thaniel is clearly extremely good at his job exposing televangelists, and had Aimee-Leigh in his sights. I assume that Aimee-Leigh might have had some knowledge of Eli’s criminal background and thus set him on the righteous path, but what are the skeletons in her closet that Thaniel seemed to know about? 

The only other thing I can think of is Pastor Butterfield, Thaniel’s target at the beginning of season who was cast out of the GODD streaming network. He might have a reason for going after both parties, but it still leaves questions unanswered. In a half-hour program where time is a premium, a lot of it is spent in the first episode on these two things. It’s a setup for something to happen eventually, I just can’t imagine what it might be. 

The stakes are set for an explosive finale. Secrets are bound to be revealed, questions finally answered, and the Cycle Ninjas are on the loose again after being busted out of jail in epic fashion—and there are a lot more than just four of them now. The Righteous Gemstones are at their most righteous when they’re working together, and with some familial conflicts resolved (for now), I can’t wait to see how this showdown is going to go. 

Written by Hawk Ripjaw

Hawk Ripjaw has been sharing his opinion on film and TV since his early teens, when the local public library gave away prizes for submissions to their newsletter. Since then, he's been writing for local newspapers, international video game sites, booze-themed movie websites, and anywhere else he can throw around some media passion. He watched the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie over 50 times in two years, for science.

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