The Righteous Gemstones S3E4 Recap: “I Have Not Come To Bring Peace, But a Sword” — When Did You Guys Get Guns?

Jesse, wearing his cape, sits in a room flanked by lines of other members of the Cape and Pistol Society.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The following recap contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S3E4 “I Have Not Come To Bring Peace, But a Sword” (written by John Carcieri & Danny McBride and directed by Jody Hill).

After last week’s relatively benign and surprisingly sweet conclusion, this week The Righteous Gemstones makes up for it with an eventful episode that sharply increases the stakes across the board and promises one hell of a second half of the season. 

Keefe has been entrusted to run the “Ice Cream and Wiener Party” for the youth group and their parents, a task that he takes extremely seriously and is very nervous about. Things go surprisingly well, until an operator of one of the sex shops Keefe cleaned out of their toys for the church loudly greets Keefe and informs him of an incoming shipment. Keefe’s attempt to explain the situation as “Something we did with your kids” is mercifully cut off with the title card. Unfortunately, the parents of the youth group are not okay with Keefe continuing as Kelvin’s assistant, forcing Kelvin to remove Keefe from the position. 

The post-church brunch has everyone in good spirits; even Judy has warmed up to her cousins being in the fold. Things quickly turn tense when Peter shows up, and despite his insistence of peace, there’s an undeniable menace to how he drags a chair to take a seat at the table opposite Eli. Apologizing for accusing his sons of betraying him, Peter invites them back to his new compound. 

Chuck and Karl refuse Peter’s invitation, causing him to drop the niceties, and resulting in a frankly awesome moment where Eli actually drops an f-bomb and draws a handgun to threaten Peter. He’s followed by Jesse, Amber, Judy, Martin and even BJ pulling their own guns on Peter. In an extremely amusing touch, Kelvin and Keefe, caught off-guard, brandish a fork and finger gun, respectively. The fact that BJ carries and Kelvin doesn’t is just hilarious. Peter admits temporary defeat and leaves, but not before threatening the apocalypse once again and honking BJ’s nose. “Happened so fast, I didn’t have time to shoot him,” a bewildered BJ says. 

Things seem to be going well for Judy and BJ as they sip wine and paint pictures, including a great bit where Judy misinterprets BJ’s painting of his childhood dog, Rags. “Is Rags an explosive diarrhea that you named?” Judy asks. A notification sounds off on her phone: Stephen, with a very graphic photograph of his penis and a threat to text him back “or else.” That “or else” ends up being the same photo sent to BJ. BJ, thinking that the photo was sent by mistake and some “lucky gal” is missing out, wants to call the sender but Judy grabs his phone and blocks Stephen. 

BJ and Judy, sit in a wine and painting event and BJ shows Judy something on his phone.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

But Stephen is determined. After BJ’s Pickleball partner is unable to attend because all of his tires were “mysteriously” slashed, Stephen conveniently shows up to fill in. He immediately puts BJ off with graphic sexual conversation, but drops the actual bomb by separately inviting both Judy and BJ to a rendezvouz at a Dave & Buster’s-esque arcade to force Judy to confess to her infidelity. We’re not even halfway into the season and Stephen is making some serious moves. 

Jesse’s induction into the Cape and Pistol Society is not without incident. Jesse is nakedly obvious about his involvement in Simkins’ beatdown, which Eli immediately picks up on. When Jesse repeatedly violates the Society’s moratorium on cursing in the main chamber, he is subjected to a hilarious, surreal ritual in which the other members of the Society stand solemnly, forming a corridor for a masked member to slap Jesse while wearing a glove. The dynamics and politics of this group are so convoluted, and it’s fantastic. 

Outside, Baby Billy confronts Jesse with the truth, that his new role in the church is falling short because he’s lacking Aimee-Leigh and her star power. He claims he can “resurrect” her, which ends up being a machine that generates a hologram of Aimee-Leigh singing. How Baby Billy even came in possession of such a machine is anyone’s guess, but it leads to a rare emotional moment for Jesse. He wistfully gazes at his late mother, emotion welling up in his eyes. I love it when the cast, particularly McBride, get a chance to flex some dramatic acting muscles. 

Speaking of dramatic, Eli and May-May get an excellent scene out on Eli’s patio. They exchange playful sibling jabs, before May-May laments that her sons don’t love her, even to the point of refusing to play music for her. Eli reassures her that this is not the case. I’m really liking the direction this relationship is going—I was anticipating May-May to be a multi-episode antagonist, but the speed at which she’s repairing things with Eli is nice.

Eli and May-May sit happily at a small table with candles in the garden.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The final moments of the episode are spectacular. Catching his rebellious son Pontius having sex with his girlfriend in the living room, Jesse summons him to his office and delivers a scorching, extremely well-written monologue about the importance of trust. This, alongside the Montgomery boys playing “Sinner You Better Get Ready” for May-May and Eli, is set to a momentous montage including Keefe packing up and leaving as a sorrowful Kelvin looks on; the tear-stained face of Judy in her living room as a distraught BJ paces behind her; and Chuck and Karl entering the garage to retrieve bags of explosive ammonium nitrate. 

This leads to the biggest “oh, sh*t” (and I literally said that out loud) moment of the season so far, as the boys drive out to a remote location to meet…Peter. Opening up the truck to reveal thousands of pounds of the stuff, Peter congratulates his boys on a job well done. Which begs the question: how much of Chuck and Karl’s redemption was genuine? I’m fairly certain that the brunch scene was a facade, but were the boys secretly operating on Peter’s behalf before then? Peter also indicates his intention to act against “Uncle Sam,” so we appear to be dealing with a terrorist now. A redemption arc for Chuck and Karl is almost certainly still on the table, but Peter might be too far gone at this point. 

Man, what an episode. Some of the biggest laughs of the season so far, great character moments, and one hell of a cliffhanger solidify Danny McBride’s magnum opus as one of the best comedies on television. 

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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