This Vice Prinicpals review contains spoilers.
Vice Prinicpals Season 2 Episode 1
Despite what I thought about Vice Principals last season episode-to-episode, the show was never dull. At times, the first part of Danny McBride and Jody Hill’s two-and-through series was genuinely shocking in the ways that it was willing to make its lead characters so utterly despicable. Sure, McBride’s Kenny Powers on Eastbound and Down could be an unlikable guy, but Vice Principals trafficked in a different vibe with its ugliness, a sort of sad malevolence that was a little too realistically twisted.
In Neal Gamby and Lee Russell, we find two emasculated, ineffectual manchildren desperate to assert the dominance they feel entitled to, making them eerily similar to the pathetic demonstrators brandishing tiki torches that have been embarrassing themselves on the news lately. So power hungry and afraid to submit to the failure that they have fallen into, they commit several overzealous and cruel crimes in their pursuit of becoming the head principal. Gamby in particular alienates so many people in his life with his overcompensating, brash behavior that he finds himself shot at the end of Season One, with an abundance of believable suspects.
We begin Season Two at the end of Gamby’s rehabilitation, waiting for a final push to get out of his stair chair (a great gag, by the way) and back in the saddle. Stuck at home in recovery, all Gamby has been doing is practicing his revenge moves in the mirror like DeNiro in Taxi Driver and sweating his way through nightmares. It takes an aggressive touch from Russell to finally get Gamby to shed his sweats and don his tie once again, but Gamby’s return is more motivated by getting the whereabouts of Dr. Brown, his prime and only current suspect, than it is by molding the minds of the youth.
Russell is mighty supportive of Gamby’s rehabilitation and return. Apparently he’s been delivering Gamby drugs in his brand new sports car, acquired from his generous pay increase on becoming principal. Coming into this season, I really worried about two things: Dr. Brown obviously didn’t shoot Gamby, so how long would we waste going down that rabbithole, and also, are the writers going to be too obvious and make the shooter Russell? Luckily, the first concern is put to bed pretty easily, though I am dismayed that Kimberly Hebert Gregory appears to be done on the show, as she was a real bright spot in the first outing. At least she went out by showing Gamby her tattoo of him and Russell eating shit and holding hands.
My second concern is also addressed early, but not so black and white. The show takes quite a bit of effort in detailing the way Russell’s life has improved following Gamby’s accident, before flatout pointing the fact out. However, Russell makes a compelling, and quite funny, case that he’s innocent, highlighting the ways that he’s helped Gamby and the “annoying confused gangbang” that school has been without him as his Number Two. Even with his binder of suspects on hand, I still wouldn’t cross Russell off the list.
This premiere episode is an effective way to reinsert Gamby into a school ecosystem that’s felt his absence. McBride is as funny as ever, delivering lines that no teacher would ever dare utter with hilarious venom, and Walton Goggins shines as the cattiest administrator in the South. Director David Gordon Green injects some style into the episode, shooting the proceedings in the visual language of a revenge thriller. As Russell says, Gamby has been a caged beast and now he’s back in his jungle. Students and faculty should both be scared.