Sunday, August 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Righteous Gemstones' - A Scandal Has the Potential of Ruining the Gemstone Legacy in 'The Righteous Gemstones'

HBO's The Righteous Gemstones - Episode 1.01 "The Righteous Gemstones"

Upon returning from a baptism marathon in China with his father Eli and brother Kelvin, Jesse Gemstone receives a video from blackmailers seeking to sully his reputation. Eli moves forward with plans to expand the Gemstone empire as he continues to mourn his late wife Aimee-Leigh.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of HBO's The Righteous Gemstones.

"The Righteous Gemstones" was written by Danny McBride and directed by Danny McBride

The satire of this new comedy from Danny McBride mostly seems to embody the various conflicting issues when it comes to televangelism in this country. The show may not be making some broader point about the corruption that can happen within organized religion though. Instead, it's mostly interested in showing a very dysfunctional family that does wield a lot of power without any real consideration for the pain they are actually inflicting on others. The Gemstones just enjoy their lives in expensive mansions and private jets. They preach the gospel and believe that they are civil servants. They are God's messengers. But there is an inherent contradiction to the way that they operate. It's all about bringing in as much money as possible. It helps afford the luxurious lives available to the entire family. It makes it seem as almost scandalous when Judy and her boyfriend tentatively announce that they are moving out of the compound. Any attempt at individualism could be perceived as a slight against this family that should be shamed until the end of time. Everyone has to remain completely focused on professing the Lord's work all of the time. They have to be figuring out ways to expand their reach throughout the world. It doesn't matter that their public outreach in China ends in total disaster. In fact, it's remarkable that that doesn't blow up into some huge scandal. The fact that it doesn't become a PR nightmare for this church speaks to how isolated this world can actually be. It may also just highlight how this family is actually incompetent when it comes to any basic functions of how to stage an event and actual support each other in the family business. This is the path that Jesse and Kelvin must walk. They have to be pastors just like their famous father, Eli. They must protect the family and the church no matter what. Of course, they embrace a very limiting and oppressive view of christianity. It may be a message of love and acceptance but it's ultimately restrictive because Judy is forced out of significant conversations simply because of her gender. Jesse's wife, Amber, lives in complete denial because she sees her life as completely humble and not something given to her by being in this family. Meanwhile, Kelvin is shamed about whatever may or may not be going on between him and new congregate Keefe. That sure is an awkward relationship that isn't easy to define at this particular moment in time. This premiere is mostly just a broad introduction of this family while devoting most of its interest in whomever is blackmailing Jesse. The eldest Gemstone doesn't even understand the concept for the longest time. He doesn't even know how to pull together a million dollars for the ransom because his father is the one who controls his money. His siblings may flail around just as much as he does. But Judy at least knows how to get the money. She has been stealing from the church for years. That's the lesson their mother taught her. That's how they survive in a world where anything can happen. But the show also plays it for the outrageousness when the meeting with the blackmailers ends in a double homicide. Both Judy and Jesse run these two over with a van. It's brutal and gruesome. It plays for the traumatizing effect. It showcases how this family will never be the same again. The death of the matriarch isn't the seismic shift everyone feared. Now, it's this actual scandal that mostly proves just how inept everyone in this world is. Eli is too busy mourning the loss of his wife to notice what's going on with his family in a meaningful way. Jesse has no control over his children. Judy and Kelvin fail to get the respect they believe their deserve. Plus, no one checks to see who the blackmailers are after they are killed. It's frantic energy that can be overbearing. That means this show will probably be divisive amongst the audience - which is fairly typical when it comes to Danny McBride projects.