The following will include spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones season 2, episode 2. For our review/recap of the previous episode, click here.
After a sturdy season premiere, the second episode of this season of The Righteous Gemstones ups the momentum. This week’s episode, titled “After I Leave, Savage Wolves Will Come” refers to Bible verse Acts 20:29. Said verse is fitting, as the Gemstone family face a new threat while Eli seems to be segueing into taking a step back.
The episode opens with obnoxiously pretentious journalist Thaniel Block (Jason Schwartzman). Doing rails of cocaine and continuing to smoke a cigarette after a neighbor telling him not to do so, Schwartzman could play this kind of role in his sleep. He’s the perfect villain for this season. Before we can get more into Thaniel, Judy and BJ go to visit Eli.
After the events of the last episode, Judy is shocked to find a severely hungover Eli and Junior. She angrily (and hilariously) accuses the two of being lovers. Moreover, she reveals that BJ is ready to be baptized, wanting Eli to do the honors, before storming out. It’s clear Junior is a bad influence on Eli, perhaps making him regress further into the version of him we saw at the beginning of last week.
There’s not too much time to ponder that, as Thaniel calls a meeting with Eli. He invites Eli to participate in an investigation he’s doing. Still headstrong, Eli declines, but not before Thaniel drops a bombshell: he’s actually investigating the mistreatment of Gemstone staff by Eli’s deceased wife Aimee-Leigh. This reveal comes as a major shocker, as Aimee-Leigh has, to this point, been seen as a saintly figure. Thinking of what kind of acts she’s committed makes one’s stomach turn. Moreover, it hits on the season’s apparent theme of the past’s uncovering.
On Jesse and Amber’s side of things, they go to a fancy investor event for “Zion’s Landing”. There they mingle with a variety of higher-ups including… Joe Jonas?! As if Jonas playing himself in a Danny McBride/Jody Hill joint isn’t funny enough, Jesse finds an odd kinship with Joe, who also went against his siblings to strike out on his own. Jesse, Amber, Joe, and the Lissons all drink together. The always-game Eric Andre doesn’t do much here to do justice to his outstanding talent. Yet, he adds just enough texture to The Righteous Gemstones cast of characters. The real purpose of the Lissons in this episode is to reveal another bombshell: they expect investors to shell out a minimum of $10 million.
Despite this project being his bid for striking out on his own, Jesse comes to a family dinner crawling right back to Eli. Or, more accurately, crawling back to his money. Eli dismisses his ask of $10 million. He has another matter to address. Eli informs them of the article coming out. The Gemstone siblings are eager to go have what they claim will be a polite conversation with Thaniel. Eli expressly forbids this, telling them to do nothing.
You should know the Gemstones by now. They do not heed their father’s advice, going to visit Thaniel. His AirBnB, strangely, is quiet. His door is open, and the siblings debate whether they should go in. The longer no response from Thaniel comes, the creepier it gets. As Kelvin states, “maybe it’s his wine times, and he’s in the bathtub!”. Their investigation ends, however, as they see a dead Thaniel in the AirBnB. Outside, there is a charred second body.
After a mishap where all three of the siblings end up covered in blood, they flee to the Gemstone compound. As they struggle to wash it off in the fountain, they are confronted by Eli, who himself is covered in blood. Did Eli murder Thaniel? Is this a red herring? Who in the hell is the second body! Knowing how McBride and Hill’s shows tend to go, the answer to those questions could be just about anything. And so ends a phenomenal episode.
If the season premiere of The Righteous Gemstones was the appetizer, this is the first course of what will undoubtedly be a scrumptious meal of a season. The intrigue is near Vice Principals level, and has me theorizing in the way that that show’s mystery-laden first season did. My current working theory is that Eli is not involved in the murder of Thaniel, nor do I think that Junior is at this time. It seems a little early with the established themes to let Eli go that far. Nevertheless, Hill and McBride are full of surprises. What matter is that the Gemstones are falling apart, and it’s looking less and less likely they’ll be able to recover from the coming storm. – James Preston Poole
Season Rating: 9/10
The Righteous Gemstones is now streaming on HBO Max.