This Vice Principals review contains spoilers.
Vice Principals, Season 1, Episode 7
Anyone that’s been following my reviews for Vice Principals has probably found a trend emerging weekly: I tend to enjoy the episodes that have the most dramatic moments. Funny dick jokes and insult comedy can only go so far – if I’m going to tune in weekly, I need characters that I am invested in, and drama builds characters. This week, Vice Principals played several moments straight, and tonight the show seemed to transcend the label of a comedy series, instead presenting itself like some sort of adult version of a Coming-of-Age John Hughes movie (Danny McBride stated in an after episode extra that the episode was largely inspired by ‘80s teen movies).
Instead of a teen character struggling with a break-up, we find middle-aged Gamby in the midst of a fight with his daughter. The episode begins with Gamby practically breaking up with her, giving her back her things and surrendering her to Ray. It’s clear that Gamby’s desire to better himself, to become principal, is out of a desire to be a better father to his daughter. Gamby’s single-minded care for his daughter is what proved to Ms. Snodgrass that maybe there’s more to Gamby than what he presents at school, and now the two are closer than ever.
Gamby’s not the only dedicated father, as Dr. Brown’s ex-husband arrives desperate to see his sons, who are spending the day being watched by Russell. Dr. Brown is already having a hard time getting the support of the teachers, so having her dead beat ex show up on Teacher Work Day is less than ideal. “Take this broke ass motherfucker out to the street,” she tells Gamby, not softening until Gamby relays his own experiences as a single dad desperately trying to see his child more. With this moment, Ms. Snodgrass getting bullied by the other teachers over her book, and Ms. Abbott slowly morphing into a jealous stalker, everyone gets their moment in the episode, which was missing from the series’ problematic early episodes.
I’m only disappointed with Russell’s story. Once again, Russell gets the comedic B-plot while Gamby’s showered with leading man moments. Watching Russell do his sassy routine to children works momentarily, and I think the boys that play Dr. Brown’s children are both funny in their own right, but when they start pushing Russell’s buttons, I was hoping Russell would display some of his next-level sadistic revenge moves, not just let them push him around. I was also hoping that Dr. Brown’s newfound distrust of Russell would be more explicit and cause more conflict, but I suppose there’s more time for that.
In the end, Gamby got to win the episode like the good guy in an ‘80s movie, kissing the girl and reclaiming his importance as a father (even if it came at a scary cost to his daughter). The thing is, does Gamby deserve all of this? How long until Ms. Abbott blows up his thing with Ms. Snodgrass? When will Gamby’s toxic rage rear its head? Two episodes of this season remain; I don’t expect them to end with a Judd Nelson triumphant fist pump.