Vice Principals Season 2 Episode 5 Review: A Compassionate Man

Russell's birthday party produces fireworks on an explosive Vice Principals.

This Vice Principals review contains spoilers.

Vice Principals Season 2 Episode 5

It’s party time on this week’s Vice Principals, as Lee Russell gears up to throw his own birthday extravaganza. As in real life, pack a house full of coworkers and friends, toss in some booze, and sparks are sure to fly. Another solid installment, Vice Principals keeps finding interesting things to do while largely ignoring the “Who Shot Gamby?” thread that threatened to control the course of the season.

Focusing a lot of the attention on Russell’s wife, Christine, was a great way to infuse a different sort of energy in this week’s outing. When Russell and Christine run into an ex of Christine’s, she pieces together that Russell was likely the cause of that ended relationship. The long suffering wife and front row witness to Russell’s insufferable ego and petty conniving, Christine begins to unravel as Russell starts acting like a spoiled teenage girl in an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 while preparing for his party. When Christine explodes later in the episode, I found myself pumping my fist. It’s become clear that Russell is being driven to a darker and darker place, probably so he can fully embrace being the story’s villain.

Meanwhile, Vice Principals seems intent on pushing a Neal Gamby redemption narrative, albeit in their own special, cruelly-laced way. Gamby tries to reconnect with Snodgrass, only to find her content in her new relationship with Brian. When Snodgrass mentions Brian’s charity work with underprivileged youth, Gamby devises to show his own interest in wayward kids by bribing Robin Shandrell to attend Russell’s party with him. Gamby clearly has an interest in helping Robin and it’s one way the show has proven that maybe he isn’t entirely incapable of change.

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That being said, in the episode’s funniest yet hard to reconcile scene, he delights in learning that creepy Jen had roofied Brian for Gamby’s pleasure. Of course, Gamby accepts the act as the insane romantic gesture that it was intended as and takes Jen home. It’s incredibly dark stuff but it somehow still elicits laughter, which is essentially Vice Principals’ mission statement. Also, the episode ends on a melancholy note of a dejected Russell cleaning his house, another moment that perfectly encapsulates Vice Principals’ vibe.

It will be interesting to see what the fallout of the party brings. Russell was aggressively embarrassed in front of not only his co-workers, but his boss as well. The superintendent already doesn’t love Russell, I’m sure Christine’s outburst didn’t do much to help the situation. Also, what will happen if Brain discovers that he was drugged? Gamby would clearly be the main suspect and it would certainly dash his chances at rekindling things with Snodgrass.

Vice Principals has been consistently upping its quality week after week by going down darker paths. The first season followed a similar trajectory, but for whatever reason, this year seems far more engaging. Perhaps it has something to do with getting used to the overall mean-spirited mood of the show. Or maybe I’ve sadly come to empathize with the monsters at the heart of this series.