It is suggested in the Book of John (the gospel where The Righteous Gemstones‘ seventh episode draws its title from), that Judas, the great betrayer of Christianity, was possibly possessed by the devil during his deception. But his betrayal of the most name-dropped human in recorded history came from a much more human place; it was his jealousy and greed that was his ultimate downfall, his snitching on Jesus eventually driving him to suicide once he realized what he’d done. While I don’t think this season is going to end with Gideon hanging himself, his botched attempt to rip off his family contains echoes of ol’ Judas, attempting to crucify his father in order to make off with the Easter family fortune, forming the foundation of “And Yet One of You is a Devil,” another terrific episode of HBO’s blossoming young comedy.
What ‘And Yet One of You is a Devil” does so well is find the Judas in all of its characters; Judy’s selfish streak, Billy’s jealousy, Jesse’s desperate attempts to feel powerful and relevant.
Admittedly, “And Yet One of You is a Devil” is a bit messier than other episodes; if there’s one-half hour feeling the weight of the season’s many running plot lines, it’s this one. Though some attention is given to Kelvin being pidgeon holed into “Youth Pastor” role once again, and a bit more attention is paid to the familial conflict she’s ingrained herself into the middle of – but the majority of the half-hour is spent observing Gideon’s mental state and floundering on him and Scotty’s plan, which does dull the impact of the episode’s other two stories.
Gideon’s slowly become the most fascinating case study on The Righteous Gemstones, the catalyst for the show’s observations on paternal relationships. Opening on the infamous Atlanta hotel room when Gideon decided he’d had enough of his father’s shit, “And Yet One of You is a Devil” spends most of its running time hyper-focused on Gideon’s internal conflict; specifically, how easy it is for the relationship between father and son to become toxic. We’ve already seen it with Kelvin and Eli; it’s a lot more potent with Gideon and Jesse, as the former admonishes Jesse for his self aggrandizing behavior, and the latter dismisses the son as petulant and ungrateful, challenging him to leave the family and go to California, where he’s bound to be rejected for his Christian beliefs (though this is something I disagree with… plenty of Hollywood is religious, and not in the borderline psychotic Kevin Sorbo sense).
The intergenerational conflict between the two is rich, and only adds layers as the episode continues: as Jesse makes a space in his home for Scotty (who unceremoniously shows up to dinner at the Gemstone home) and admits “he’s not a perfect man” while celebrating on the family yacht (“Easter fucking Sunday,” Amber says at one point, helping explain how they can afford all this shit); which is just enough self-recognition that Gideon begins to get cold feet. It’s always interesting to see the low expectations of children with their parents; as long as they show up and give half a shit, most children are going to stay loyal to the people that raised them, no matter what kind of terrible person they may be.
Smartly, this development is contrasted by the episode’s opening scene, where we see how Gideon and Jesse’s relationship fractured; Gideon viewed his father as a phony, and Jesse viewed his son as ungrateful, since he was reluctant to join the church (and by proxy, the family) and had his own dreams of fame and success, dreams he wanted to achieve away from his family. Throw on a layer of toxic masculinity on both sides, and you’ve got the recipe for the sociopathic nightmare the Gemstone family’s become, in a nutshell.
But the real highlight, as it often is, is Judy Gemstone, and her decision to forego her dreams of performing the Easter collection song, and instead participate in Baby Billy’s much-smaller holiday sermon – even if it doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves through the second half of the episode (BJ’s departure, while rich in comedy, in particular, feels a bit sudden, given how much shit he’s already put up with this season).
Judy, in her attempts to appease her father, saw her gamble pay off when Billy and Eli alike recognized her talent; but the inability of men to honestly express themselves haunts Judy’s story as well, as Billy’s condemnation of everything and anything Eli, rips away her chances at creative expression – and more importantly, making her daddy proud, perhaps for the first time in her life (at least knowingly).
It all builds to the final, climactic sequence, where Gideon foils Scotty’s attempts to rip off the Gemstones, only for him to return with a gun, pistol whip Eli, and steal everything out of the family’s vault. And with the money gone, the fractures between Gemstone family members is only going to grow more potent; after all, there’s not going to be any money for Jesse to buy his wife’s attention with lavish gifts and impromptu, poorly-conceived family photoshoots. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but once Scotty the Devil reveals himself to the family, there’s no telling how quickly the kingdom could unravel; with the Gemstone children already at each other’s throats, it’s only a matter of time before factions within the family form, and everything collapses in on itself, like a Jenga tower going through a black hole.
What ‘And Yet One of You is a Devil” does so well is find the Judas in all of its characters; Judy’s selfish streak, Billy’s jealousy, Jesse’s desperate attempts to feel powerful and relevant. All it takes is a little push and a little gold, and these deeply flawed people are already poised to rip each other to shreds; The Righteous Gemstones‘ captures the dichotomy of that dynamic with aplomb, in another half hour of what’s shaping up to be one of 2019’s best freshman comedies.
Boy, Gideon’s attempts to …. *resurrect* his image within the family were going so well! (sorry, couldn’t help myself)
Love how the Gemstone Easter service featured 150% too many lasers.
Adult things Judy does: wears regular panties, and does sex.
“A foe can plan your destruction, but only a loved one can break your heart.” On the nose, sure, but still evocative.