When you’re part of a cast as stacked as The Righteous Gemstones, it’s hard to stand out. Yet that’s exactly what Edi Patterson has done in Season 2. With her patented snarl, aggressive vulgarity, and intensity that always manages to somehow miss the mark, Judy has emerged as the most unhinged Gemstone around. In this tale of abuse, hypocrisy, and undeserved wealth, that’s a compliment.
Back in Season 1, Judy had her moments. Who could forget her passionate rendition of “Misbehavin’”, a performance that removed all the charm her late mother brought to the number and replaced it with awkwardness, aggression, and a whole lot of elbows? Then there was the Sunday brunch slap. During a gasp-worthy scene, Eli (John Goodman) slapped his sons Jesse (Danny McBride) and Kelvin (Adam DeVine) for being disrespectful. It was a gut-wrenching example of the power this father still had over his family as well as a glimpse into their abusive childhoods. But Kelvin’s cheek was still stinging when the chronically outcast Judy piped in with one of the all-time funniest lines of the series, “Slap me too, Daddy. I’m a Gemstone.”
Those were the sorts of slivers Judy had last season, glimmers in the narrative that Patterson always pushed to their absolute comedic limits. This time around, The Righteous Gemstone has given Judy the full fourth of the story she’s always deserved. And ultimately, the show is better for it.
If Kelvin is the heart of this story and Jesse is our obnoxious everyman, then Judy is an embodiment of the undeserved confidence that fuels this toxic family. That’s the best part about Judy Gemstone. Almost everything she says is wrong, but Patterson presents Judy’s truth so seriously and loudly, for a fraction of a second you wonder if she’s right.
That doubt was there in “After I Leave, Savage Wolves Will Come”, an episode that featured Judy screaming at her dad and his friend, “Y’all are hanging out here being rough with each other like grizzly bears, doing donkey punches, tussling each other, getting each other hard.” It appears again at her husband BJ’s (Tim Baltz) baptism in Episode 4. While confronting BJ’s sister, Judy declares that her brothers hate her husband because they want to hook up with her and BJ took her off the market. Logically, we know that Eli and Junior (Eric Roberts) didn’t have sex, and we know that Jesse and Kelvin aren’t sexually interested in their sister. But there’s something about Judy’s outrageous claims paired with her relentless intensity that makes a small part of you question “But what if…?”
It doesn’t help that sometimes Judy’s wild lines contain some truth. In Episode 7, Judy and Amber (Cassidy Freeman) try to comfort Tiffany (Valyn Hall) after Uncle Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) leaves her. Lounging against a chair, Judy says “even if you love [a man], they’re like a not necessary type deal. Like microwaves.” Comparing men to microwaves is weird, jarring, and highly insulting — exactly Judy’s brand. But there’s a knot of truth to her declaration. The men around Judy, Amber, and Tiffany are largely unhelpful man-children who waste their free time planning sting operations and inventing new ways to spend obscene amounts of money. They are nice to have around but functionally unnecessary. Based on that definition, Judy is a microwave too. But you just know she’ll never see the hypocrisy and never admit it.
Then there’s Patterson’s physicality. It’s hard for a performer to make something as mundane as walking out of bathroom stall hysterical, but Patterson manages to do just that. Even more-so, she makes her physical comedy look effortless. When Judy confronts KJ (Lily Sullivan) in “As to How They Might Destroy Him”, Patterson emerges from the bathroom with an awkwardly assured strut, her shoulders leading the way. It’s so clear that Judy’s trying to be intimidating in this moment that it becomes immediately laughable. And that’s before she gives KJ a threatening lick.
In a show filled with privileged savages, Judy is far and away the most stuck up, most privileged of them all. Only she could make an invitation for Aunt Tiffany to come live with her sound like a roast from a mortal enemy. God bless Judy Gemstone, and God bless Edi Patterson fearless quest to always push the envelope. Judy’s pure awfulness is a constant reminder about what this show is truly about: calling out mega-rich religious hypocrites.