The Righteous Gemstones S3E9 Recap: “Wonders That Cannot Be Fathomed, Miracles That Cannot Be Counted” — Whoo-Whee, Sucker!

Eli Gemstone stands outside the church, with people standing behind him.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The following recap contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones S3E9 season finale “Wonders That Cannot Be Fathomed, Miracles That Cannot Be Counted” (written by John Carcieri, Jeff Fradley & Danny McBride and directed by Jody Hill).

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

What a finale! The opening shot of The Righteous Gemstones S3E9, “Wonders That Cannot Be Fathomed, Miracles That Cannot Be Counted,” is Uncle Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) hopping into frame yelling “Ta-da! Look who it is!” in the Gemstone office. Baby Billy reveals that he’s friends with Dusty Daniels (Shea Whigham), and if they want to get Dusty back in with the Gemstones, they’re going to have to greenlight Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers, face off against the Simkins, and win. 

The setup of Peter (Steve Zahn) being excited for potentially getting $30 from CoinStar out of half a Gatorade bottle of coins is paid off when he gets a meager $12 and change, which is both funny and accurate if you’ve ever used a CoinStar. Before heading inside, Peter expresses pride and love for Chuck (Luke Haas). As Peter laments his earnings, the U-Haul in the parking lot detonates, and Peter is devastated as he believes Chuck perished in the blast. Likewise, May-May (Kristen Johnston) and Karl (Robert Oberst) mourn Chuck when the incident shows up on the news. However, it later turns out that Chuck intentionally set off the bomb to escape Peter, and is alive and well—although Peter doesn’t know this. 

Chuck, finally getting Jesse to have a heart-to-heart, gets his cousin to admit that despite all of the wealth and material goods Eli (John Goodman) has lavished on him, he’s never felt that his father was proud of him. I hope that Jesse gets to have that conversation with his Daddy in the near future. For now, he accepts Chuck’s apology and becomes “cool cousins” with him once more, with the caveat that if Chuck ever betrays or kidnaps him again, Jesse will kill him. 

I’m not even sure why I was surprised at the pure bombast that was the fully-realized Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers. Lights, a full band, break dancers, and of course, Baby Billy singing—it’s a spectacle. Of course, the show does not go well for the Gemstones, as the Simkins soundly trounce them. Because this is Baby Billy’s brainchild, it’s unsurprising that there’s an additional wrinkle: a “hurricane booth” for the losing team’s captain. 

Chuck leans on a handrail in the Gemstone amusement park.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

Now fully blinded by his grief and rage, Peter has stolen a Smut Busters van and converted it into a Regular Busters van with a gigantic bomb in the rear storage. He’s also wired a dead man’s switch to his FitBit that’s connected to the bomb. He’s immediately confronted by Eli, May-May and Gideon (Skyler Gisondo) behind the church, and as he holds them at gunpoint, lamenting the “death” of Chuck, Gideon sees something forming in the distance. 

I have to say, “cataclysmic swarm of gigantic locusts” was not on my bingo card for this finale, although it was foreshadowed a couple of times this episode. Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers descends into chaos as the locusts flood the venue, and the whole sequence is surprisingly nail-biting. This certainly isn’t the first time that The Righteous Gemstones effectively delivers a climax that genuinely puts the main cast at risk. Knowing that these folks will almost certainly pull through, the way it’s executed is still thrilling.

As the locusts decimate the studio, each of our main characters call out in panic to find their loved ones. Peter immediately runs to protect May-May; Kelvin (Adam DeVine) shields Keefe (Tony Cavalero) with his large jacket; BJ (Tim Baltz) and Judy (Edi Patterson) hold onto each other in the maelstrom; Jesse finds Amber (Cassidy Freeman) and Dusty and has Gideon escort them to the hurricane booth. Simkins (Stephen Dorff) leaves behind both Dusty and his own siblings, and is rightfully shunned by them later. Jesse (Danny McBride) goes outside to find Eli, despite how many times this season he’s claimed he hates him, risking his life for his father. Eli comes out of nowhere, tackling his son into a dumpster where they hold onto each other as the swarm continues. 

And just like that, the swarm dissipates. May-May claims it was God speaking to them, and Peter agrees. He expresses regret that he ever got released from prison and brought so much conflict to his wife and sons. May-May counters with her own extremely rare apology to Peter, taking ownership of how she had treated him in the past even though he wanted what was best for them. They finally embrace as a family. 

But a stray locust lands on Peter’s FitBit, and when he slaps at it, the tracker falls off and triggers the dead man’s switch. The rest of the scene is beautifully executed, as Peter decides to take the van and drive it away from the church to save everyone, presumably sacrificing himself. As the families watch in sorrow, Peter sighs in peace, and the van disappears around the corner before a massive explosion shakes the tree line. The score set to this sequence really punctuated the emotion. 

The following funeral scene is, surprisingly, for Dusty, who died peacefully in his sleep. Eli notes that Dusty entrusted his estate to the Gemstones, who turn around and flip the bird to the Simkins sitting several rows back. In a macabre twist, Dusty’s “casket” is his racecar adorned with flowers with his corpse sitting in the driver’s seat in his racing gear and sunglasses. 

Judy and Kelvin stand together in a dressing room.
Photograph by Jake Giles Netter/HBO

The closing moments of this season finale are some of the most moving and heartwarming in a series that notably concludes its seasons with wholesomeness. Kelvin and Keefe decide that maybe they can “live and let live” and stop shaming the smut shops; BJ and Judy become advocates for The System; and Gideon tells Eli that he’s interested in preaching. We end with the entire extended family gathering together, and they take turns oblitering things in the Redeemer as everyone else cheers, and the spirit of Aimee-Leigh watches happily from the distance.

The biggest and most pleasant surprise was Peter! He got his redemption arc! He lived and has reconciled with his family, with a new prosthetic foot. I’m not going to attempt to figure out how Peter escaped that gigantic explosion and only lose a foot; I’m just happy that: a) the Montgomery family have made peace; and b) Steve Zahn gets to continue to exist in the show. Junior from last season was disappointingly absent from this one, but I hope that Peter, May-May, and the kids return for the next season. 

I absolutely loved this season. The Righteous Gemstones is an outstanding comedy and Danny McBride’s best series to date, and not just for its searingly funny and vulgar humor. McBride’s vision for a wide-spanning familial tapestry works extremely well, adding new characters and giving more substance to the ones we already know, and making us care for all of them. It deftly balances the comedy, surrealism, tension, action and emotion, and does so with a surprising respect for religion. It’s already been renewed for a fourth season, and I have little doubt that it will continue to get better from here. 

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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