Review by Sean Boelman
Created by Danny McBride, the religious satire The Righteous Gemstones has amassed a sizable cult following thanks to its unique brand of humor. With its third season, The Righteous Gemstones remains one of HBO’s funniest comedies, even if it takes a very different direction from previous seasons, trying to be much more emotional to mixed results.
This season picks up with the Gemstone siblings — Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin — running the family’s megachurch empire on their own after their father has stepped down, and to no one’s surprise, things are *not* running smoothly. The result is some antics that go extraordinarily over-the-top in the best way.
If this season does nail one thing, it’s creating a consistently funny, buoyant atmosphere. The humor here feels a lot less dark and mean-spirited than previous seasons, and has some more sophomoric gags at times, but these jokes — no matter how immature they may be — almost always get the laugh.
Interestingly, this season takes a much more grounded approach, compared to the outlandish, larger-than-life antagonists of the first two seasons. Sure, there is Steve Zahn’s doomsday cult leader, but even he takes a backseat to the rivalry that is still brewing within the Gemstone family. This approach is what gives the show its Succession-like feel this time around.
However, there are some characters who are disappointingly absent from most of the season. For example, Skylar Gisondo’s Gideon doesn’t have much of an arc — with only an ancillary role as the driver for John Goodman's patriarch — although the cliffhanger in the finale leaves the door open for him to have a bigger role again next season. Even Goodman feels like much less of a dominant force here.
That being said, when it comes to the three main siblings, all of the performers are firing on all cylinders. Danny McBride, Edi Patterson, and Adam Devine have never been funnier in these roles than they are here. Also highlights are Walton Goggins, who continues to steal scenes, and Tim Baltz, who finally gets more to do than be the butt of the joke.
Season 3 also has the same awesome production design and technical aspects that draw us into the world of these televangelists. Although it’s hard to explain exactly how without spoiling some of the best moments, there are several scenes that up the scale of the show significantly. And, of course, there are plenty of great comedy songs that satirize Christian music.
Although this new season of The Righteous Gemstones never quite reaches the heights of season 2, the new direction the series takes still offers plenty of hilarious moments. After all, the reason that most people watch this show is the hijinks, and this season offers them in droves.
The Righteous Gemstones debuts on HBO on June 18 at 9pm ET/PT. All nine episodes reviewed.