Danny McBride and company have been at the top of their game all season on The Righteous Gemstones, and this week’s finale is no exception. “I Will Tell of All Your Deeds” sticks the landing, answering every question and tying every loose end while hammering home its message as to how generations should relate to each other. Also, a baby is born in a port-a-john. Gemstones, take a bow…
The finale’s first order of business is to finally reveal what really happened to journalist Thaniel Block (Jason Schwartzman). During his campaign to expose corrupt evangelicals, Block enlists Texas pastor Lyle Lissons (Eric André) to bring him dirt on competing churches. Block expects Lyle to help him destroy Eli Gemstone (John Goodman), but now that Lyle is getting in business with Jesse, this is no longer in his best interests. When Block attempts to blackmail Lyle into cooperating, a firefight breaks out between Block and Lyle’s goons. While Block is technically responsible for his own death (shout-out to eagle-eyed viewers who noticed the wall of cast-iron cookware and suspected a ricochet weeks ago), it’s Lyle who decides to burn all the evidence, including his own friends, just in case. This prologue is the best kind of reveal; by now, the audience could have guessed the broad strokes, but the details (all the business with the grenades) are fresh and funny.
Lyle Lissons is Jesse Gemstone’s dark mirror in every way, a clumsy blockhead with occasional flashes of brilliance who craves power and prestige, resents his withholding father, and takes his friends for granted. But where Jesse has a conscience, Lyle is ruthless. He and his wife Lindy (Jessica Lowe) have seized power from his elderly father (John Amos), to whom they are physically abusive. Jesse willfully puts his drinking buddies in dangerous or embarrassing situations, but he does at least halfway care what happens to them. Lyle also has a bit of Kelvin in him, running an orphanage that is also a training ground for his band of dirt bike-riding assassins, to whom he shows no loyalty. The Cycle Ninja jailbreak from the end of last week’s episode turns out to be an unsanctioned operation, the gang looking out for each other because Lyle won’t protect them. Now, they’re shaking him down for $200,000, and they won’t be very happy if he doesn’t pay up.
Meanwhile, the Gemstones are more united and functional than ever. Eli has thrown his full support behind Jesse (Danny McBride) and Amber (Cassidy Freeman) and invested in Zion’s Landing, the Christian timeshare resort they share with the Lissons. Jesse and Amber, in turn, demonstrate their respect for Gideon (Skyler Gisondo) by visiting him on the set of his new movie. Judy (Edi Patterson) and BJ (Tim Baltz) have more or less adopted Tiffany (Valyn Hall), who is due to give birth any day now, and Keefe (Tony Cavalero) finally has a seat at Sunday brunch next to Kelvin (Adam Devine). The entire happy family journeys together to the groundbreaking ceremony for Zion’s Landing, where they dance, drink, and hang out with pop star Joe Jonas (Joe Jonas). Even Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) shows up at the Florida beach party, broken nose and all, looking to patch things up with Tiffany.
In a moment of panic and indecision, Tiffany runs from Baby Billy and takes refuge in a portable toilet to cry and get her bearings. This is surely a lightbulb moment for attentive fans, who remember the account of Tiffany’s own birth back in the Baptism episode. Tiffany was born into a toilet bowl, and even before she goes into labor, you know history is about to repeat. Concurrent with the high-stakes drama of the rest of the episode, Tiffany gives birth alone on the crapper and her baby falls into the blue goop of the septic tank. This becomes the final checkpoint on Baby Billy’s road to redemption, as he unflinchingly debases himself to save his newborn son, diving into the filth to retrieve him. This proves both to himself and to Tiffany that he no longer fears being a father. It’s the season’s last big gross-out gag, and true to The Righteous Gemstones, it’s somehow both nasty and heartwarming.
During the party, Eli gets a phone call from Junior (Eric Roberts), who is once again his friend and ally. Junior uses his shady connections to trace one of the Cycle Ninja’s recovered firearms back to Texas, which is all Eli needs to put the puzzle together. At the same time, Lyle slips up in front of Jesse and ends up confessing his entire role in this season’s plot. He expects Jesse to understand, because he believes that they’re alike and that Jesse wants his father dead. But Jesse has never been that far gone, and he and Lyle end up fighting. Jesse nails Lyle in the head with his biblical sling, which he apparently keeps on him all the time now. He gets the job done with one blow, redeeming his poor marksmanship during the shootout with the Cycle Ninjas after the Baptism. Further, when Lyle is nonresponsive, Jesse immediately seeks his family’s help as to how to handle his possibly murdering their business partner. An earlier Jesse may have tried to cover his tracks alone, but he’s done keeping secrets from his loved ones.
The arrival of Lindy Lissons turns the tables, and she and a revived Lyle hold the entire Gemstone brood at gunpoint (minus Tiffany, Baby Billy, and Keefe, who has been waiting in line for the bathroom this whole time). The family demonstrates solidarity, letting the Lissons escape in exchange for BJ’s safety. Cut to a month later, and this bond is holding strong. Judy has learned to appreciate the people around her, particularly BJ, who finally feels as if he belongs. Kelvin and Keefe are running a new Youth Squad of juvenile athletes, though let’s hope Kelvin’s gleeful objectification of his young charges’ muscular development gets no creepier than it is here. Eli has taken a step back at the church, letting his children share the spotlight without him.
But in the season’s final moments we see that Eli has not totally set aside the Maniac Kid within, as he has apparently hired the Cycle Ninjas to track down the Lissons at their Alaska hideaway and execute them. The murder of the Lissons, which is intercut with a triumphant Gemstones musical number, evokes the famous “settling all family business” montage from The Godfather, juxtaposing a false declaration of religious righteousness against the performance of evil deeds. The direction and performance of the Lissons’ execution is half funny, half horrifying, and as the credits roll over the sound of Lyle being torn apart by wolves, it’s as if the storytellers are daring us to laugh, even though we should definitely be judged for it.
This season of The Righteous Gemstones has been about what generations owe to each other, a relevant topic in an America whose youngest are projected to live shorter, less prosperous lives than their parents. What will we inherit, and when? Gemstones’ thesis is that children shouldn’t view their parents as obstacles to be overthrown, but also that parents shouldn’t make themselves obstacles in the first place. Progress has to come from a place of mutual trust, and from acceptance that passing down a legacy means letting it change under new leadership. Eli accepts that his kids will do what he’s done, but differently. Jesse and Amber accept that Gideon won’t do what they’ve done, at all. Everyone learns the value of loving and trusting their family. Judy finds that there’s fulfillment in taking care of Tiffany, who is younger than her, but also her elder on the family tree. Baby Billy seeks forgiveness from his first son and gets a second chance at being a father. Lyle and Lindy try to summarily discard their elders and receive a horrible death. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
This episode could easily stand as a series finale, but The Righteous Gemstones has been renewed for a third season, and creator Danny McBride sees this saga going on indefinitely. What will these corrupt but lovable huxters learn next year? God only knows.