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It's all panties, prayers, and paternal problems on an outstanding The Righteous Gemstones

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The entire Gemstone family is built upon a foundation of men. I’m not just talking about Jesus, though that dude is certainly part of it. Rather, it’s the men in the Gemstone family that have control of everything. They make all the decisions, and see themselves as the only ones able to execute the family vision. It never even crosses their mind to involve the women in their family in the business. It takes Eli 40 years to give Judy a shot, and then when she confronts him about it taking so long, he immediately says he knew he couldn’t trust her. Even when the women get a shot, they’re expected to be grateful and submissive.

The first season has been telling a few interesting stories about the Gemstone family. There’s the very underdeveloped and surprisingly toothless part about the family’s expansion into small town territory, where it swallows up local churches and congregations. There’s the multiple storylines involving women attempting to make their mark in this family, whether it’s Amber attempting to reunite her family when Gideon comes home, or Judy having to choose between two manipulative men just to get a shot at what she wants. Then there’s the focus of this week’s episode: fathers and sons and the complicated relationships they share.

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This week’s cold open flashes back to the Prayer Power Convention in Atlanta, the site of Jesse’s debauchery as fuelled by cocaine and prostitutes. Gideon walks into his father’s hotel room and sees him partying with his friends, well on their way to being drunk. He tells his dad that he skipped out on their dinner together, that he heard he’d gone to the bar and then never came back. Jesse not only plays it off like it’s no big deal, he also shames his son into not appreciating time to himself. The look on Gideon’s face when Jesse tells him to just pack up and leave if he really wants to is one of heartbreak, but not surprise. You can tell some version of this situation has happened numerous times, where Gideon has attempted to connect with his father and received nothing in return. Skyler Gisondo’s baby face works wonders.

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Gideon isn’t a rebellious kid who got sick of living under his father’s rule. Instead, he’s a kid who feels betrayed by his father, a man whose image and template of morality don’t match the man himself. When he leaves that hotel room, it’s because he’s sick of being told what the path is by a man who doesn’t walk it himself. So, he heads to Hollywood to try and make it on his own, and in the meantime sets up his phone to record the night’s raunchy proceedings.

Who knows when Gideon decided to actually get back at his dad and concoct this plan to blackmail him and get a hefty dose of the Gemstone money; what matters is that when Gideon saw through the facade of his father, he replaced him with somebody else. Scotty stepped into that role, manipulative and angry, but just nice enough to make them a team. He’s the surrogate father here, the man who may be selfish and brutal, but who’s also able to justify Gideon’s anger towards his family. Scotty knows exactly how to use Gideon for his own gain. Now, he’s in the house, weaving a lie about Gideon saving his life with the power of Jesus, and getting ready to hit the family’s vault on Easter Sunday.

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There’s the sense that Scotty himself has his own paternal problems. It’s hard to say how much of it is an act, because he’s desperately trying to stay close to the Gemstones, but when the family is on their yacht and Jesse announces that he’s doing Easter’s main sermon, Scotty acknowledges that “lots of dudes and dads don’t get to share special moments like this,” before mentioning that his dad is in prison. I wouldn’t take Scotty at his word, but I also think this is the show imbuing each of its male characters with some form of troubled paternal past as a way to complicate and deepen the heist storyline.

The entire episode hinges on the fact that a son is torn between accepting his father and seeing him as a flawed person, or latching onto a surrogate father who’s just as or more terrible. Judy is in the same boat (or yacht), finding herself torn between her father and Baby Billy, both of whom fail to truly understand her. I’m not sure this episode, or even the season, has any sort of profound larger message about fathers and sons and masculinity, but it does acknowledge that such a bond is particularly difficult to forge because of what’s tied up in masculinity. “And Yet One Of You Is A Devil” is one of the best episodes of the season because it’s able to delve into ideas about men and cultural expectations while also morphing into a family drama and a high-stakes thriller. It’s a balancing act that the show has consistently pulled off this season.

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Stray observations

  • Shout out to Edi Patterson for delivering a powerhouse comedic performance this week. She steals every scene.
  • “I took it to Geek Squad, had some Incel fix it.”
  • “You can’t gobble the pie if you didn’t help bake it!”
  • “I’m not a little girl anymore. I have regular woman panties where the string goes up my crack. I have tits. I do sex.”
  • “Singing and dancing at church has changed you.”
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About the author

Kyle Fowle

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.