DISCLAIMER: This review of The Righteous Gemstones Season 3 contains zero spoilers. Proceed freely.
It’s not easy being touched by God — just ask the Gemstones, our favorite mega-famous televangelist family. Danny McBride‘s HBO comedy has enthralled fans for two seasons with its absurdist humor, depth and surprising heart. I had the privilege of viewing the entire third season. Folks, it’s a divine delight.
Here’s the logline for Season 3 per WarnerMedia:
“The Righteous Gemstones tells the story of a world-famous televangelist family with a long tradition of deviance, greed and charitable work. When the spoiled Gemstone children finally get their wish to take control of the church, they discover leadership is harder than they imagined and that their extravagant lifestyle comes with a heavy price.”
Season 3 stars Danny McBride, Edi Patterson, Adam DeVine, Cassidy Freeman, Tony Cavalero, Tim Baltz, Gregory Alan Williams, Skyler Gisondo and John Goodman. Walton Goggins, Kristen Johnston, Jennifer Nettles, Lukas Haas and Steve Zahn are supporting guest stars.
All in the Family
Whereas Season 2 branches beyond the scope of the Gemstones, Season 3 feels more insular and intimate because the conflict is familial. It yields fun narrative fruit, particularly as the season explores the dynamic between the Gemstone siblings. That said, The Righteous Gemstones gets a touch repetitive by depicting a plot we’ve already seen: there’s an external threat that could upend the Gemstone empire. However, instead of Jesse, Judy and Kelvin relying on their dad to save the day, they must fend for themselves. Despite this recycled narrative, McBride and co. inject an intriguing twist to keep things fresh.
Hands down, some of my favorite scenes involve the titular Gemstone trio fighting. McBride, Patterson and DeVine’s dynamic will never cease to be hilarious. You’d think their bickering would get tiresome, but it’s quite the opposite. Each actor brings a different approach to the table, yet they gel together seamlessly for a laugh-out-loud comedic showcase. Sure, the Gemstones are filthy rich, but their family arguments are hysterically relatable.
Throughout the season, we see that dynamic between the trio shift and take on new colors as they navigate their roles in the church. It evolves beautifully. I’d argue this season is jam-packed with more heart than its predecessors, and by the season’s end, you’ll see just how much these three love each other.
Taking Center Stage
Everyone delivers the goods on the performance front, but notable standouts are Edi Patterson, Tim Baltz, Adam DeVine, Tony Cavalero, Kristen Johnston, Lukas Haas and Steve Zahn. John Goodman churns out consistently excellent work; however, Eli takes a backseat this season. That said, Goodman deftly navigates Eli’s internal struggles as he figures out his place since he’s semi-retired.
Patterson deserves all the accolades for her tremendously versatile performance this season. She’s equal parts piss-and-vinegar and heartbreaking vulnerability here. It might not be easy for some to love Judy Gemstone, especially if you take her at face value, but Patterson imbues her with nuance and humanity. Judy goes through the wringer this go-round, and nobody can champion her story better than Patterson. She’s a powerhouse in Season 3. Her chemistry with Baltz is as compelling as it is unexpectedly endearing.
BJ embarks on an exciting arc, with Baltz balancing his sweetness and sassiness like a pro. McBride cranks up the Kenny Powers-esque bravado in Jesse, whose ego is inevitably inflated after Eli steps down as the head of the church. While McBride tends to fall back on one comedic mode, it works. Jesse, in particular, is more ridiculously bombastic and boorish than ever, with hilarious results. Even his physicality is dialed up to an 11. Goggins is, as usual, a damn delight as Uncle Baby Billy. His physical prowess, especially comedically, is highly underrated. Some of his subtle, seemingly throwaway physical gags had me in stitches this season.
Playing With Dynamics and Themes
At its core, The Righteous Gemstones is driven by its larger-than-life characters. Season 3 experiments with different character dynamics while testing the strength of its trademark pairings. The writers handle Kelvin and Keefe’s story with tenderness and humor. Eli’s and Gideon’s bond is heartwarming, with the woefully underutilized Skyler Gisondo having some great moments with John Goodman. Gisondo isn’t the only one who’s not as present this season — the great Gregory Alan Williams also has less to do. However, Williams and Gisondo make the most of their screen time.
As usual, The Righteous Gemstones satirizes the obscenely wealthy, religious one percent — the televangelists like Joel Osteen and Jim Bakker — and it hits the mark. There’s no shortage of addressing crooked evangelism, toxic masculinity and hyper-masculinity in the Christian community. But Season 3 also digs deep into the heart of the Gemstones. We see they’re not as corrupt as they seem. That’s not to say we support their shady dealings. It’s merely a stark reminder that we as humans contain multitudes.
After the loss of matriarch and moral center Aimee-Leigh, the Gemstone family was rudderless for the first two seasons. Now it feels like they’re getting their sh*t together while dancing on the edge of perpetual chaos. You can expect character introspection, particularly from the core quartet, as everyone evaluates their choices and how they fit into the new hierarchy at the church. However, they never lose their flamboyance and penchant for drama. Redemption becomes a thematic crux for the season, and the writers cleverly embed that in its DNA.
A Gift From Above
The Righteous Gemstones‘ third season is packed with a heaping helping of gratifying moments and exhilarating narrative payoffs. The story maintains steady momentum throughout, with quite a few twists and turns to keep viewers sated. It artfully blends absurdist, over-the-top humor that occasionally veers into deadpan territory with high-stakes, often ultraviolent action to surprising effectiveness. The two polar opposite genres meld together nicely.
It’s as hilarious and heartfelt as ever, with a satisfying seasonal arc that ties loose ends while leaving the door open for a potential fourth season. Season 3 is pure, comedic escapism. Say a prayer, give praise and call your “deddy” before strapping in for this hysterical, bonkers thrill ride.
The Righteous Gemstones Season 3 premieres linearly on Sunday, June 18, 2023, at 10 pm on HBO and Max.