Sunday, September 15, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Righteous Gemstones' - Eli and Baby Billy Reflect on the Profound Impact Aimee-Leigh Had on Their Lives in 'Interlude'

HBO's The Righteous Gemstones - Episode 1.05 "Interlude"

In 1989, young Jesse, Judy and Baby Billy each deal with the news that Aimee-Leigh is pregnant in their own unique way, while Eli looks to grow his family's prospects.

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 next episode of HBO's The Righteous Gemstones.

"Interlude" was written by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley & John Carcieri and directed by David Gordon Green

This episode spends almost its entire running time in a flashback to 1989. It's a different time for the Gemstone ministry. It's a story dominated by Eli, Aimee-Leigh and Baby Billy. All of this could be seen as a significant break in momentum. The previous episode ended on a really engaging and intriguing note that basically inferred that things may be imploding for Jesse. This episode doesn't follow up on that at all. In the fleeting moments actually seen in the present-day, it's just Eli and Baby Billy reflecting on the past and the love they each shared for Aimee-Leigh. The family matriarch died before the events of the series. As such, she has been a figure who has loomed large over the proceedings. The audience doesn't have an honest and genuine relationship with her. All we understand is what the characters say about her. And now, the narrative peels back the curtain to reveal who this woman actually was. Her standing in the family had to be significant so that everyone would be in mourning over her loss for a long time. Jennifer Nettles being seen briefly in the role previously also made it likely that the role would be expanded at some point. This episode delves into that perfectly. The series itself has talked about the clashes between the generations stemming from how Jesse, Judy and Kelvin were raised differently than their parents. They had a life of luxury. They have been allowed to be juvenile for well into their adult lives. In fact, it's hard to see a huge age discrepancy between them. They all act like spoiled children accustomed to getting what they want. In fact, this episode features a birthday party for a young Judy that shows just how true that actually is. Eli loved giving his children whatever they wanted in the world. He may coddle them too much. But his emphasis has always been on loving and supporting family. He dreamed of a world where his children would always stay close. It didn't matter how frustrating Jesse and Judy were as children. Eli wants them forever in his life and in the family business. That is very much true in the present day. It's Eli achieving his dreams. He's just doing so without his wife by his side. He points out how they always stood next to each other. It was never a religion built around the idea that men are superior to their partners. Sure, that's still a mentality that permeates throughout this world. Jesse is always putting Amber in her place rightfully behind him. She can never question his motives at any moment in time. Aimee-Leigh has more agency. That comes from the fact that she was a singing sensation as a child alongside her brother. That too has been touched on previously. But now, it becomes even more tragic to see how Baby Billy operates. Eli has long seen his brother-in-law as a con man. He hates having to partner with him in order to expand his ministry. It's the cost of doing business with family though. Eli stands firm in that decision. And yet, Baby Billy is a man always yearning for the glory of his youth. He was a star alongside his sister. That bonded them for life. He has so much love for her. Nothing else can replace that emotion no matter how hard he tries. He has other things in his life in which he could focus his love and attention. Instead, he is solely focused on going on tour with Aimee-Leigh once more. It doesn't matter that she is pregnant with Kelvin. He just sees that as a disruption to the money he could bring in to support his life. He will say anything in order to get Aimee-Leigh onboard with this project. At the end of the day though, he is very deceptive and only looking out for himself. He has no great reverence for his family history. He doesn't think twice about selling land that has belonged in their family for generations. It's a big deal to Aimee-Leigh though. It's enough to sever this relationship entirely. They never go out on tour together. That's still what Baby Billy wants though. He can't have it and needs to blame Eli. His brother-in-law isn't to blame. He pushed Aimee-Leigh away. She had a happy and healthy home life. She had fulfilling relationships elsewhere. Meanwhile, Baby Billy is still stuck in the past. But it's an impossible dream to achieve now. Aimee-Leigh is gone. He may be back in the Gemstone ministry. But he doesn't have a truly meaningful place. It's unclear what he wants. That ambiguity is much more clear here because of the actions taken in the past. It paints a fuller picture of the world as it currently exists. It's difficult to try to build on past success. Eli doesn't know if his children can honor the legacy he and Aimee-Leigh created. They may not have the same passion and beliefs. He doesn't even know the true extent of the scandalous behavior they have gotten into. This has been a lifelong achievement for Eli. And now, it may all implode because of the actions of his children. That's devastating because he too just wants to reflect on the life he had with Aimee-Leigh and do right by her in everything that he does next.