The Righteous Gemstones Treads Familiar Ground in Season Three | TV/Streaming

Although the core cast is incredible, the series’ supporting actors truly help the material shine. In Season Two, Jason Schwartzman and Eric André joined the show, providing its biggest laughs. This time, the roster includes Kristen Johnston as May-May Montgomery, Eli’s estranged sister; Steve Zahn as Peter, Eli’s ex-con brother-in-law, who runs a vaguely libertarian militia; Stephen Dorff as head of the Simkins clan, three siblings—albeit a calm, confident, and non-dysfunctional trio—who pose a financial threat to the Gemstones; and best of all, Shea Whigham as Dusty Daniels, a wealthy race car driver who is debating which megachurch will receive the rights to his estate in his will, complete with a trademarked catchphrase “Hoowhee, sucker!” Zahn and Dorff appear to be having more fun than just about anyone on TV this year, and it’s impossible not to smile when they appear. And don’t worry, Baby Billy (Walton Goggins), Aimee-Leigh’s brother, is back this season too, full of new harebrained schemes that are just as delightful as they are witless.

By now, “The Righteous Gemstones” has developed a bit of a formula. I don’t have a problem with that, but the repetitive nature does strike me as very safe. The siblings fight, and Dad is disappointed; Martin Imari (Gregory Alan Williams, who deserves more to do), the family’s fixer, shows up to shake his head or dispense hugs. Only when the Gemstones are attacked by outside forces do they band together and save each other. Don’t get me wrong: this continues to be one of HBO’s best series, with excellent production value, vivid costume work, and of course, great writing. But I wonder if the show isn’t capable of more. Its first season, in hindsight, now feels darker than what followed, and even though Season Three takes a few big swings in the finale, it doesn’t have long enough to develop them into something bigger and more meaningful.

Still, there are plenty of stellar small bits dolloped throughout this season. Jesse is inducted into the Cape and Pistol Society, a secretive club for the leaders of evangelical empires in America. They carry ancient-looking pistols but are forbidden from doing evil; their ostentatious royal blue capes are fringed in gold thread and lead to physical comedy that perfectly undercuts the group’s self-importance. The society’s ceremonies and rules are reminiscent of “Eyes Wide Shut,” and that comparison alone is enough to make the audience laugh. Zahn gets in a few sharp one-liners and practically steals the series by honking the nose of BJ (Tim Baltz, deadpan king) at a family dinner. Episode four is told entirely in flashback and is a standout this season due to David Gordon Green’s pitch-perfect direction.