The Righteous Gemstones has had more than its fair share or great cold opens this season, but this week’s might be the best. An unhinged, hilarious bit of madness, with a pitch perfect Walton Goggins performance to boot. Having finished up with their performance, Baby Billy drops Judy off at home, excited about what the future holds. As he puts it, “your career will go much further without the needless encumbrance of a lover.” Goggins is perfectly suited to slither that line, and it’s the first of many memorable ones throughout the episode.
With Judy dropped off, Baby Billy has other things on his mind. “Now, who wants to suck and old man’s dick?” he says, and the shift in tone is so jarring and wonderful. As Tiffany does her thing, they’re sideswiped by Scotty’s van screaming through an intersection. Baby Billy gets out of the car and approaches the front seat. “Is it yucky stuff?” asks Tiffany, hilariously. Scotty is out, and Tiffany finds the Gemstone money in the back.
Finally, Baby Billy has what he wants. He loads up the money, Tiffany snags Scotty’s gun, and then Baby Billy checks to make sure Scotty is dead. He’s not. He jolts awake, gasps, and Tiffany is so scared that she accidentally pulls the trigger and shoots him in the head. Cue the title card as they scream, and once again The Righteous Gemstones is off and running.
“But The Righteous Will See Their Fall” absolutely nails the trademark Hill/McBride balance of crude and sweet. It’s exactly what a penultimate episode should be. It sets up a lot for the finale, while also wrapping up a few stories to clear some room for bigger moments. The chaos is all starting to take a more coherent shape, and the catharsis here is palpable and exciting.
The cold open is unhinged, and that sets the table for the rest of the episode, where there’s a reckoning around every turn. Baby Billy and Tiffany think they do everything they can to cover their tracks, but when they push the van into a marsh it doesn’t sink. He says there’s nothing to worry about because high tide will come and take care of that, but the next day it’s dry as a bone, and by the end of the episode the cops are pulling the van out of the muck.
Judy’s reckoning comes in the form of BJ and a woman named Denim. It’s a hilarious sequence of events, peppered with little jokes and asides. There’s BJ’s earring that’s meant to suggest he’s edgier. There’s Denim, who’s genuinely disappointed she doesn’t get to beat the hell out of Judy. There’s BJ saying that “Mr. Walker” is waiting for an appointment, only for the camera to cut to a young kid with an eyepatch. All of that is followed by a shopping cart attack that’s shot in the maximalist style that’s been deployed by this creative team before. It’s beautiful.
The smaller reckoning comes in the form of Kelvin believing that everything happening to his family is a punishment from God, and that makes him unfit to be any sort of leader. That anger comes out when he screams at Keefe and banishes him from the house. In all seriousness, I know we all believed Keefe and Kelvin to be the purest relationship on this show, and it’s genuinely heartbreaking (and very, very funny) to see Kelvin yelling at him.
Of course, the episode’s biggest moment comes from Jesse, who finally decides to fess up to what happened in Atlanta, all so that he can protect Gideon. The scene where he reveals everything is hilarious. Chad and the rest of his buddies all moaning, groaning, in complete disbelief about what Jesse is doing. Then everyone gathers in the screening room to watch the footage, including Chad’s children, who watch him snort coke and have sex with a prostitute while everyone else cheers him on.
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The whole thing is tonally perfect. It’s funny and weird, but it’s also got these moments of insight, like Jesse making this all about him and how this honesty is him being brave. He’s not really reckoning with what he’s done, because he doesn’t want to accept any consequences. But he is finally doing the right thing, and that’s something.
By the end of the episode, Jesse has been shot in the ass by his wife, Eli is bailing Judy out of jail, Keefe is on the road, and Tiffany and Baby Billy are rolling around in money. There’s certainly more reckonings to come.
Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.
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