Sunday, October 13, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Righteous Gemstones' - The Family Finally Confronts Baby Billy in 'Better Is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning'

HBO's The Righteous Gemstones - Episode 1.09 "Better Is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning"

Eli questions his children's future in the Gemstone ministry. Jesse struggles to keep his marriage together. Judy opens up to BJ about her past. A disillusioned Kelvin embraces his dark side.

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.

"Better Is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning" was written by Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley & John Carcieri and directed by Jody Hill

This season was ultimately a test of the faith and convictions of each member of the Gemstone family. All of their secrets are out amongst themselves. They all know exactly how awful each of them is individually. However, they still have success as a family. The outside world still looks to them for guidance on their spiritual journeys. Eli doubts his children upon learning what they have done that invited chaos and disruption into their lives. He sees the error of his ways. He destroyed an innocent preacher's life based on the lies told by Jesse. He reaches out to Johnny Seasons hoping to make amends. All of this does feel like it makes each member of the family stronger in their faith. They were confronted by the hypocrisy of their lives. They still represent a twisted and corrupt version of religion though. They are very possessive about the money that was taken from them. Eli may be disappointed in his daughter for skimming money from the collection every week. However, they are bringing in millions of dollars and enjoying the spoils of their efforts as well. They are still a family with private jets and a compound that features an amusement park. They were personally devastated by the death of their matriarch. That was the action that seemed to throw them all into chaos. Each Gemstone has a tendency of lashing out in a blind rage with the inability to control their emotions when something doesn't go according to their plan. They always need to project a sense of strength and control. They are all so petty and condescending. They are always trying to one-up each other. Eli is disappointed in his children equally. But the finale ultimately pivots around the idea that the family has to rally together to take back the money from Baby Billy. That confrontation operates with the sense of life-or-death stakes that ensure a fitting conclusion for this family drama. It climaxes with Baby Billy getting struck by lightning. The viewer can sense that twist coming as the rain starts pouring while the emotions are really heating up. However, it also comes across as a unifier amongst this family. After Baby Billy is injured, they carry him into the house and pray for his recovery. That's when their faith is pure and genuine. They want Baby Billy to live. He does. He returns as a changed man because he got to see his sister again for a moment. Afterwards, he has newfound clarity. That may be a cheap way to resolve this conflict. A moment prior Baby Billy was blaming Eli for everything that has gone wrong in his life. He sees him as a man who used Aimee-Leigh's name to build his own empire. Of course, Baby Billy has been projecting his own corruption onto the situation. He has been the one using Aimee-Leigh to hold onto glory. And now, he may have a new claim to fame as the preacher struck by lightning. That sets him on a new path. One where he feels the glory of the Lord. It means that everything largely works out for the Gemstone family. They recover the money. The threat from the blackmail has been taken care of. Kelvin and Judy have some stress in their personal relationships with Keefe and BJ, respectively. However, they work things out in the end. The same isn't true for Jesse and Amber. That decision feels earned. Gideon understands that his father wants an easy fix for everything in his life. It's how he has long been accustomed to things. He hasn't had to work hard. Everything was just given to him. He is still so jaded and cynical about the world though. Gideon is trying to find faith again. He thought blackmailing his father was important but it only destroyed the lives of so many. He hurt his family. He is now in Haiti trying to do something that brings him closer to God. Jesse doesn't understand that at first. He eventually does and joins his son though. That ensures that every member of the Gemstone family may be on the path towards redemption. It just also means this season has had to point out continually just how awful all of them have always been. Judy does admit to assaulting a man and kidnapping his son here after all. There is only so much empathy the viewer can have knowing all of these details about the family. But the three siblings being there to tell each other that everything will be okay is a strong moment that showcases that love can be a powerful emotion in this world as well. Sure, it only has fleeting moments in this season. However, that too may be purposefully by design in order to make some larger point. The show may not evolve too much from the family that preaches together. They just may not be as cynical and corrupt as before. They just have to continue applying those lessons to their lives because they have gotten away with plenty of crimes this season with no real consequences whatsoever.