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Series / The Righteous Gemstones

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Praise be to He.

"You are about to enter a world much larger than your own, a world full of riches and glamour. A world full of... Gemstones."
"Baby" Billy Freeman

The Righteous Gemstones is a 2019 HBO dark comedy that follows a world-famous televangelist family who rule over an empire of megachurches and present themselves as the epitome of holiness, but behind the scenes, they're riddled with dysfunction. It was created by Danny McBride, with frequent collaborators Jody Hill and David Gordon Green as executive producers and directors. The show stars McBride, John Goodman, Edi Patterson, Adam Devine and Walton Goggins.

The plot of the first season involves the Gemstones trying to open a new megachurch against the resistance of the locals while the eldest son deals with being blackmailed by mysterious parties over a scandalous video.

The second season, which premiered in January 2022, focused on the Gemstones trying to solve a murder mystery and open up a Christian-themed beach resort.

The third season premiered in June 2023, with the season centered around the power vacuum in the wake of Eli's retirement and the reemergence of his little sister May-May, needing his help.

It was renewed for season 4 on July 27, 2023.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: "Interlude III" shows Judy in her early high school days, with a crush on the boy who sits behind her in class. She isn't any nicer than she is as an adult and he doesn't reciprocate her feelings at all; when she spreads her hair on his desk he responds by cutting off a big chunk.
  • Aborted Arc: During his interview with Eli, Thaniel Block implies he knows something dark and secret about Aimee-Leigh, but nothing is revealed before or after Block's sudden death. Dialogue with Lyle implies this was more of a gambit on Block's part than anything else, since he was relying on Lyle for actual information.
  • Abusive Parents: Eli is an emotional example. His three children are all adults but they all still live on the family compound under his thumb. Jesse is married and has children of his own but Eli still controls his money and Judy has to hide that her fiance is staying at her house. The fifth episode of season one, which flashes back to the family's younger days, implies that Eli — while still somewhat of a jerk — was not always quite so harsh or domineering and that age, ruthlessness, greed and grief (over his wife's passing) have hardened him. Season two provides some Character Development, and he softens somewhat.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: After Judy gets karate chopped in the throat by her aunt, Eli can be seen with a slight smirk on his face.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Baby Billy's Bible Bonkers. Billy notes how fun it is to say.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's not clear how Kelvin managed to succeed in carrying and lifting the cross during his trial with the God Squad. Did he rig it? Did he get help from God? Did he simply persevere?
  • An Arm and a Leg: When Peter redeems himself by driving his explosives away before they can destroy the Gemstone church, he ends up losing a leg below the knee in the resulting detonation; the ending shows him some time later, wearing a prosthetic.
  • Anti-Climax: At the start of Episode 8, after getting away with raiding the Gemstone vault, Scotty quite literally runs into "Baby Billy" Freeman and his wife Tiffany, and is shot in the head unceremoniously by the latter.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In Season 3, Kelvin is confronted by parents about Keefe's role in the church and the nature of their relationship.
    Parent: With all the rumors swirling about you, can't you see how strange this all looks?
  • Armored Closet Gay: Kelvin, who is in a Transparent Closet due to his Christian background, starts up a campaign against sex and lust by protesting sex toy shops in season 3, obviously driven by his own desire to indulge. Not surprisingly, after he finally kisses Keefe, he decides on a "live and let live" policy on sex shops.
  • Artistic License – Education: The Citadel is a military college, so Jesse couldn't force Pontius to go there. Plus, it's mentioned Pontius didn't get into any colleges anyway.
  • As Himself: Joe Jonas appears in Season 2, Episode 2.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Season 1 has Scotty, who is killed off after robbing the Gemstones.
    • Season 2 has Glendon Marsh Sr, who threatens Eli’s family and meets his end moments later courtesy of Eli’s father and his rifle and the Lissons, who meet their demise the same way they tried to kill Eli.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Kelvin is about ten years younger than his siblings (veering into Practically Different Generations) and Jesse and Judy never let him forget it.
  • Badass Driver: Gideon is a skilled motorcycle stuntman. In season two, he hunts down the remaining two motorcycle ninjas and defeats both of them, even using his driving to dodge gunfire. His skills are slightly impaired in Season 3 after he's suffered a neck injury, but he's still able to outmaneuver two attacking trucks while driving with Eli as his copilot, causing both of them to wreck.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Gideon and The Redeemer save the day when his dad and aunt and uncle are abducted by their Evil Uncle Peter.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Kelvin and Keefe at the end of season 3.
  • Big Fancy House: The Gemstone compound, where all of the Gemstone children and Eli live in their own mansions, is extremely massive and also has an amusement park and a golf course.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Gemstones are riddled with interpersonal conflict in spite of their wholesome and united public image, and their extended families might be worse.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Gemstones are all rather hypocritical and greedy, but the people they come into conflict with are almost always much worse.
  • Blackmail: The inciting incident of season 1: someone got their hands on a video of Jesse snorting cocaine and his buddy's sleeping with prostitutes while he was at a conference and wants $1 million for it.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Judy has a three-minute monologue about how she raped her economics professor under the deluded belief that he was flirting with her. It only goes downhill from there.
  • Blasphemous Boast: A Recurring Riff that plays during particularly intense moments (Lucy shooting at the siblings, Gideon showing down with the Cycle Ninjas, etc.) features a gospel choir proclaiming that "Jesus was a Gemstone".
  • Book Ends: Season 3 opens with a flashback to the early 2000s, where a teenage Jesse is preaching during a rally with his monster truck The Redeemer. The final scene of the season is the whole extended Gemstone family (including the Montgomerys) taking their turns driving The Redeemer, while Aimee-Leigh watches on in spirit.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Cape and Pistol society in Season 3, silly outfits, largely ineffectual in practice, and no end of vaguely homoerotic punishments for stepping out of line.
  • Butt-Monkey: BJ is the target of a lot of Jesse and Kelvin's jokes. Jesse's friends, Chad, Levi, Matthew and Gregory also get a lot of abuse.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Kelvin's increasing inability to articulate his feelings for Keefe becomes a plot point in Season 3, both Played for Laughs and Played for Drama.
  • Cast Full of Rich People: Due to focusing on an insanely rich family of televangelists. In addition to a massive family compound with a handful of huge mansions and a private amusement park, they also have a squadron of private planes titled "The Father," "The Son," and "The Holy Ghost."
  • Chekhov's Gun: The thousands of pounds of explosives the Montgomerys steal from the Gemstones. Also the Redeemer is a Chekhov's Monster Truck.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The Gemstone siblings swear profusely amongst each other in spite of their positions as pastors. They also prove surprisingly bad at self-censoring, often swearing right in front of their congregations. This gets Jesse in trouble when he joins a secret society in season 3 and has trouble following their rule against swearing.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Eli leads his family in preaching about holiness and morality, but behind the scenes, his own family is riddled with dysfunction.
  • Cold Open: The season 1 finale, "Better Is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning," opens with a flashback at Aimee-Leigh's deathbed. She dies quietly in a hospital bed, with her family around her. Eli and his children join in prayer, but are distracted by a little buzzing bee. And... things go downhill.
  • Color-Coded Characters: It's subtle, but the Gemstone kids and their partners tend to each be associated with a specific color:
    • Boorish eldest son Jesse is Red, fitting for the hero he sees himself as and his assertive personality. He's married to the classy, demure Amber, who projects the image of a "perfect church wife", and is often seen wearing White.
    • Middle child Judy is often in Blue, as she's looking to take her late mother's place as the most visible woman in the church. Her Henpecked Husband BJ often wears Pink, highlighting their Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy dynamic.
    • Youngest child Kelvin is associated with Green, as he can be bitter about the lack of responsibility he's trusted with compared to Jesse. His friend and later boyfriend, Creepy Good former satanist Keefe, is rarely seen in anything but Black.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Jesse, a "Christian" minister, often prays to Jesus to help him with whatever scummy, underhanded tactic he's engaged in (including sending his lackeys to assault a man in a parking lot).
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Truth in Television for most "gospel of wealth" evangelists. The Gemstones' outrageous affluence is a large part of their appeal to their audience.
  • Corrupt Church: The titular Gemstones, as a parody of crooked televangelists.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Judy’s speech to BJ at Outback Steakhouse about her relationship with her married economics professor just about drives a monster truck through the line and back.
    • She misinterpreted a casual friendly comment from him, so she followed him into his office after class and forcibly jerked him off while covering his mouth.
    • Then he took out a restraining order on Judy, so she bought him a Jeep Grand Cherokee as a token of their love (which he did keep).
    • Then she saw his wife driving said car, so she forged a note on Gemstone letterhead and kidnapped his son from his school.
  • Cruel Mercy: The Cycle Ninjas have ample opportunity to shoot Lyle Lisson in the back while he flees into the Alaskan tundra, but choose not to... instead allowing him to freeze to death (his corpse devoured by wolves for good measure.) Amazingly, they also show cruel mercy to Lindy in the opposite way, by shooting her to pieces and killing her quickly, instead of letting her suffer.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Eli gives Kelvin this speech when he wants to give up on the rebellious daughter of a prominent donor. He tells Kelvin that he didn’t shove him aside to youth pastor work because he didn’t trust him, he put Kelvin in charge of it because he did. Kelvin succeeds in getting through to her by the end of the episode.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Eli turns out to have once been a violent professional wrestler called "The Maniac Kid" who ended matches by breaking his opponents' thumbs. He also worked as a bagman and bruiser for Glendon Marsh; it's eventually revealed that the Gemstone ministry was built with illegal cash that Marsh wanted laundered through the church, which Eli kept after his father killed Marsh and Eli buried him under the family rollercoaster.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Judy describes her only "boyfriend" before BJ. Their "relationship" began when she locked him in his office, covered his mouth with one hand, and masturbated him with another. BJ doesn't even seem all that phased by this, being more appalled by Judy kidnapping his son. It also doesn't stop him from taking her back.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see the Gemstones, they're in China trying to baptize as many people as they can in a wave pool, while the two sons argue over who has a superior technique, showing how the family is more concerned with showmanship and scale than actual theology. When they get home, Judy shows a lot of jealousy to her brothers for being included in the affair, establishing her as the ostracized sibling.
  • Everyone Is Armed: In “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, But a Sword”, Peter sarcastically asks, “Oh, who’s gonna shoot me?” In response, Eli draws a gun, as do Jesse, Amber, Judy, BJ, and Martin. Amusingly, Kelvin and Keefe don’t have guns, so Kelvin brandishes a fork while Keefe points a Finger Gun.
  • Evil Uncle:
    • Downplayed with Baby Billy Freeman, Aimee-Leigh's brother. He's not evil per se, but a bitter and jealous man who tends to undermine the Gemstones for his own profit.
    • Season 3 introduces Peter Montgomery, estranged husband of Eli’s estranged sister. He is a right wing militia crank with a grudge.
  • Fakeout Opening: Season 2, Episode 9 opens with Gideon being chased through an office building and jumping out a window. It turns out that it's just a movie he's filming.
  • Faking the Dead: Chuck sets off Peter's bomb and lets him think it killed him so he could protect the Gemstones.
  • False Prophet: Explored and zig-zagged; Eli Gemstone is head pastor of a massive megachurch, and uses his wealth to live a lavish lifestyle, as well as providing mansions and endless perks for his three children. However, not only is he shown to be a diligent preacher, but he also struggles with justifying his riches after losing his wife, who is implied to have kept his feet on the ground. He also seems to be a genuine Christian.
  • Fingore: A preferred technique from Eli when he was younger and working for Glendon Marsh Sr as a hired goon. He would grab his victims' hands and snap their thumbs backwards.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Season 1, Episode 2, the head blackmailer, Scotty, is fighting the unnamed third blackmailer. The unnamed one does a lot of fancy jumps after he is knocked down. Jesse earlier mentioned that his son Gideon left to be a stuntman in Hollywood. Sure enough at the end of the episode, Gideon is revealed to be the third blackmailer.
    • In Season 3, episode 2, Jesse complains about visiting the Montgomery's militia compound, stating he didn't want to "get Ruby Ridged" or "Waco-ed." The feds raid the compound later in the episode.
    • In Season 3, episode 2, when Peter is ranting at his sons about the raid, it's revealed they were still in contact with their mother after moving into the militia compound. In Season 3, Episode 4, it's revealed they had not cut contact with their father after going to the Gemstone compound.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: thanks to a long stint in prison after a botched bank robbery, Peter Montgomery went from being Eli's brother-in-law and pastor of a tiny church to a sinister doomsday prophet with his own private army of armed followers.
  • Greedy Televangelist: Donations from the family's megachurches fund their lavish and debauched lifestyles and enable their awful behaviors. While the family members have varying degrees of devotion to the church and God, the trend for the Gemstones is prioritizing profit over true belief.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: After Keefe quits his position as Kelvin's assistant pastor, he becomes extremely jealous of his replacement and later admits as much.
  • Groin Attack: During BJ and Stephen fight, a beat-up BJ is able to turn it around by grabbing hold of Stephen's balls.
  • Hen Pecked Husband: BJ has almost no power in his relationship and struggles to get respect from the rest of the Gemstones.
  • Hollywood Atheist:
    • BJ's atheist sister is condescending to the Gemstones and openly mocks BJ during his baptism. When Eli makes a friendly comment about maybe baptizing BJ's family someday, she bluntly shoots him down. Her behavior provides a rare opportunity for the Gemstones to look polite and supportive by comparison.
    • Journalist Thaniel Block simply wants to go after mega-church pastors because he hates them, not out of any sort of journalistic ethics.
  • Hypocrite: The entire family claim to be people of God but are really just in it for the money, which is not a biblical way of living.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Episodes have titles like "Now the Sons of Eli were Worthless Men" and "Better is the Ending of a Thing Than Its Beginning," which, if they aren't properly Biblical, sure sound Biblical.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Eli invokes this to try and get through to his ex-brother-in-law Peter, after his children are abducted. After a fashion, he's right.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: How Scotty is killed. In season 2, this is how Thaniel Block meets his own end.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: All three of Eli's children are immature, self-centered, hedonistic, and hypocritical idiots.
  • Ironic Echo: At one point in the fifth episode of season 1, Eli and Aimee-Leigh survey the lands that will one day form the Gemstone estate. Eli comments to Aimee-Leigh that he'd one day like to build houses for all his children there so that they'll always be close by. At the time, Eli is saying it in a fond, loving tone, suggesting that at this point it's just an innocent dream that symbolizes how happy he is to have his family around him. Of course, we've seen that Eli will eventually achieve his dream — and that it's become an example of his domineering, controlling personality that has basically turned into a gilded, miserable prison for everyone.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the Gemstones are this to varying degrees; deep down, they're all capable of doing the right thing, especially for each other, but this is usually eclipsed by their extreme pettiness and greed.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In a cast full of Jerkasses, it's inevitable this happens.
    • Judy may have been callous and blunt with Tiffany, but she was absolutely right that Baby Billy running out on her was more likely than him having a stroke or coming back with a truck full of Funyuns.
    • While Judy blows it out of proportion, she is right that it was rude for BJ's sister to ask why they weren't staying in Judy's house when the Gemstones were paying for their hotel.
  • Kick the Dog: The Lissons seem like a decent sort, at least as far as mega-church pastors go, but they show their true colors when Jesse reveals that he cannot afford to invest in their resort. They rudely storm out and even stiff the Gemstones on the bill.
  • Last Disrespects: Played with in the Season 1 finale. When Aimee-Leigh dies in a hospital bed, at first her family joins hands in prayer... then a bee distracts them... and within minutes the family is screaming, sobbing, and destroying the hospital room to try and kill it, to the horror of a crowd of onlookers. (At least they left Aimee-Leigh in peaceful repose.)
  • Leitmotif:
    • Baby Billy's appearances are often accompanied by an ominous Western-sounding whistle tune.
    • Even Jesse's monster truck The Redeemer gets one, and the style changes based on who is driving it (80s hair metal for Jesse, bluegrass for Chuck and Karl, and a Hollywood-style orchestral score for Gideon.
  • Local Hangout: The Gemstones, along with Martin's family, go to Jason's Steakhouse for lunch after church every week. They've been doing this ever since Jesse and Judy were kids.
  • Loved by All: No one ever speaks of Aimee-Leigh in anything less than glowing terms. Eli and their children practically worshiped her, she was the only one Baby Billy gave two shits about besides himself, and even crazed survivalist Peter wistfully remembers her "singing like an angel." While Thaniel Block claims there was a dark secret behind her sweetness, nothing sinister about Aimee-Leigh is revealed after his death, implying he was trying to provoke Eli.
  • Memorial Statue: A prominent setting is a small garden featuring a bronze bust of the Gemstones' late, beloved matriarch, Aimee-Leigh. Eli sometimes visits to chat wistfully with his wife.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Judy resents her place and sees herself as overlooked between commandeering Jesse and Kelvin, the "baby" of the family. She calls this out as sexism, only to meet dismissal from all sides (except BJ, who believes in her).
  • Millennium Bug: In "Interlude III", Eli and Aimee-Leigh sold Y2K survival kits for the upcoming "apocalypse". Naturally, when it didn't happen, the Gemstones faced backlash from their churchgoers. Billy also recounts partying hard on New Year's Day 2000 because the world didn't end.
  • Minnesota Nice: Block's interaction with a neighbor is dripping with Southern passive aggression and New York bluntness. The southerner approaches Block and informs him in a friendly tone of his B&B's rule against smoking, then probes him for information about himself in the guise of casual conversation. Block shuts him down and bluntly states that he's not inclined to chat with someone who made him put out his cigarette. Still affecting a friendly demeanor, the Southerner criticizes Block as a rude outsider before leaving.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe, the family is watching The Neverending Story and Jesse is laughing at Artax's death.
  • Mistaken for Destitute: When Peter believes his son Chuck died in an explosion, he slumps by the wall of a convenience store and cries to God for help. A passerby drops some change into his cup, ruining his coffee.
  • Morality Chain:
    • While the Gemstones were always somewhat less Godly and righteous than their public appearances would suggest, as shown in episode 5: "Interlude", Aimee-Leigh, the recently-deceased matriarch of the family, was the one who kept everyone more-or-less on the right track, with them being more restrained with their wealth and more sincere with their intentions towards Christ, and that her death was what prompted them to start giving in to their worst impulses.
    • Episode 5 also portrays Eli’s dad as being this to the family. The elder Dr. Gemstone was a good hearted, compassionate preacher who wasn’t in it for the money. He gets Eli to see that Judy’s birthday party was over the top and that she and Jesse are brats. He also tells Eli that he should just be happy with the church he’s got.
  • Morality Pet: Her loving relationships with BJ and Aunt Tiffany are basically the only thing keeping Judy from being a complete monster.
  • My Fist Forgives You: Baby Billy reunites with his son Harmon near the end of Season 2 for the first time in nearly thirty years. While Harmon made peace with the abandonment, Baby Billy demanded some stronger token of atonement. Harmon requests "one closed fist punch to the face", delivers it, and immediately helps his father back up after the punch floored him.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The opening sequence and setup for the Gemstones' TV show back in The '80s closely resembles those of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's show The PTL Club. Eli's emotional transition from cheerfulness to dour unpleasantness is also reminiscent of Jim Bakker's on-air persona during his attempted comeback in The New '10s.
    • Eli Gemstone, especially with his glasses, build, and personality, resembles Jerry Falwell.
    • Jesse's bouffant hair style, muttonchops, paunch, fondness for guns and entourage of abused bootlickers make it clear that he's based on Elvis Presley. He also resembles Jerry Falwell Jr, who was also the son of a wealthy televangelist who was blackmailed with evidence of a sex scandal.
    • In season 1, episode 4 we're introduced to Dale Nancy and family, who own a chain of fried chicken fast food restaurants ("Fancy Nancy's") and give a lot of money to evangelical causes such as the Gemstones' church, clearly evoking Dan Cathy and the Cathy family, who own Chick-Fil-A.
    • Though broadly based on a number of pseudoscientific scams, the "health elixir" Baby Billy starts peddling in Season 2 bears more than a little resemblance to the Genesis II Church of Health & Healing and its "Miracle Mineral Solution", which gained national infamy during the COVID-19 pandemic; while Billy's elixir is nothing but coconut water that he touts as a product of "biblical science", the Genesis II Church declared itself a religious institution to try to sell bleach as "sacramental" and (unsuccessfully) avoid going to prison.
    • Season 3's "Interlude III" shows that the Gemstones went all in on Y2K, much like the Bakkers did. Eli's "Survival Buckets" are a direct parody of Jim Bakker's post-prison career selling survivalist "Bakker Buckets."
  • Non-Residential Residence: Eli’s estranged sister, May-May, lives in a dilapidated church, much to his disbelief.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Jesse coins the name "Motorcycle Ninjas" for a group of biker assassins. While they do wear black and attempt assassinations, there is nothing specifically "ninja" about them. This gets called out to him.
  • Not Me This Time: While Junior may have threatened Eli over the course of season 2, he wasn't the one who sent the motorcycle ninjas to kill Eli.
  • Once More, with Clarity: In season two, the Gemstone siblings stumble upon a scene of carnage. We later get a flashback to this scene from a different perspective, revealing how it occurred.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Baby Billy might have silver hair and at least one grown-up child, but he's still "Baby" because that was his stage name when he performed with Aimee-Leigh. Even Eli's kids refer to him as "Uncle Baby Billy."
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The assassins who target the Gemstones wear black clothes and ride black bikes accented with red lights.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In season 1, Baby Billy treats his niece Judy like a stand-in for Aimee-Leigh, going so far as to perform "Misbehavin'" together and using "Judy-Leigh" as a stage name. Eli accuses Baby Billy of cynically invoking the trope to prey on Judy's feelings of discontent and to ultimately make money off Aimee-Leigh's likeness. But the interlude does show Eli that Judy has depths he's overlooked.
  • Rule of Three: Eli uses his thumb-breaker move three times in Season 2; first in a flashback when he's shaking down someone who owes Glendon Sr. money, then on a belligerent jerk who Junior gets into a fight with and finally on Kelvin when he damages Aimee-Leigh's portrait.
  • Running Gag: People have trouble getting Keefe's name right.
  • Serious Business: Kelvin takes the reality show-like rules for his God Squad very seriously, to the point that he allows himself to be kicked out of his own home for losing a challenge.
  • Sibling Team: After some Character Development in season 1, in "After I Leave, Savage Wolves Will Come" (season 2 episode 2) Jesse leads his siblings in a badass fist bump and says "Let's go save this family." Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin have grown in their ability to handle threats together... or at least, they think they have.
  • Start of Darkness: "Interlude III" reveals Peter was once a surprisingly meek Pentecostal preacher, dominated by his wife May-May. After squandering most of his money on Eli's Y2K scam, he tried to rob a bank and ended up killing a security guard. After a long stretch in prison, he emerges as a borderline psychotic, militia-leading doomsday prepper planning a terrorist action.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: After a whole season of treating the God Squad's rules as Serious Business and allowing himself to get kicked out of his house over a challenge, when Kelvin finally wins back his authority, Torsten casually reminds him that he could have moved back into his own house at any time and didn't need to "make it weird."
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: Season 3 deals with some darker subject matter (Judy's affair, Peter and his murderous church of doomsday preppers, the Gemstone ministry endangered by Jesse's poor leadership), but ends on a highly positive note. Jesse and his siblings finally start working together, Peter pulls a Heel–Face Turn and reunites with his family, Kelvin and Keefe finally kiss and start a relationship, Gideon chooses to become a preacher, and Aimee-Leigh's spirit is seen watching over the Gemstone family as they enjoy each other's company.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Jesse sends his goons to rough up Johnny Seasons, thinking he's the blackmailer. Masked men show up at a South Carolina preacher's home in the middle of the night... of course, Chad ends up shot.
    • In Season 3, Eli has semi-retired and finally allows his children to run the ministry as they see fit... which results in church membership declining to worrying levels. They may be the protagonists, but Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin all lack Eli's diligence and history as a pastor and are openly unpleasant people; ordinary churchgoers are naturally turned off by the sudden change.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Almost all the main cast have younger counterparts for their Once a Season flashback episodes.
  • Transparent Closet: Kelvin is heavily implied to be a closeted gay man through the first two seasons, being an extremely coiffed and stylish man with an obsession over male fitness and an extremely homoerotic but chaste relationship with a close male friend, Keefe. When he finally kisses Keefe in season three, his family seems surprised only by the fact that he actually did it, rather than by the revelation of his feelings.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The Lissons share everything with each other and were equally complicit in their nefarious deeds.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In the season 2 episode "And Infants Shall Rule Over Them," after seeing family patriarch Eli wounded in a hospital bed, several of the Gemstone siblings and their spouses vomit all over the parking lot.
  • Wham Shot: The third blackmailer shows up at Jesse's home and is identified as his son Gideon.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The season 3 finale's climactic Locust Plague gives us this. The Gemstones, who have spent the season fighting and bickering, ultimately care more about saving each other than themselves, unlike the "superior" Simkins. Particularly, despite being angry at Eli over the kidnapping, Jesse prioritizes finding his Daddy over his own safety.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Zig-zagged. The series is filmed in and around Charleston, South Carolina, and real-life Charleston locations are occasionally seen or referenced. However, there are also several references to a fictional Rogers County, SC, including the police department that responds to calls from the Gemstone compound and the high school Jesse and Judy attended. It’s possible Rogers County is a suburb of Charleston in-universe.
  • Workout Fanservice: In Season 2, we're treated to numerous glamor shots of Kelvin's troupe of muscular male followers. They rarely wear shirts and often put their strength on full display while working out. It's implied that this is their primary interest for Kelvin.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Lissons try to replicate an outrageous stunt they'd just watched in Young Guns when the motorcycle ninjas come for them. It involves one of them hiding in a chest while the other throws them out the window, so they can surprise their attackers. It fails spectacularly.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Invoked by May-May when she faces down her ex, Peter. She's right.