Competing protagonists not going down without a fight
Planned as a two-season series, the dark comedy “Vice Principals,” about two “frenemies” vying for the top position of principal, is ending—and, it doesn’t look like either protagonist will go down without a fight.
Three episodes into its current and final season, the uneasy alliance between high school vice principals, Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins), is still intact—although the seed of doubt has been planted by the person they almost ruined last season, former principal Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory).
In the initial season’s finale, Gamby and Russell successfully blackmail Brown into quitting. But, the victory was short-lived—Gamby is shot in the school’s parking lot by a masked assailant, whom he believes is the disgruntled Brown.
Recovering but understandably paranoid, he tracks her down and confronts her. The sassy ex-principal denies any wrongdoing and wonders why Russell, now the principal, hasn’t had any similarly nasty encounter.
“Vice Principals” (Mondays, HBO, 10:30 a.m., 10:30 p.m.) has made the two titular characters more fleshed-out, given proper depth despite their amorality and abhorrent behavior.
Gamby is shown to have a genuine relationship with his daughter (Maya G. Love), and an amicable one with his ex-wife (Busy Phillips); while Watson is in a stable marriage with a kind woman (Susan Park).
Of the two, Russell is more the villain of the story, his inherent deviousness and ambition clearly setting him apart from the conflicted Gamby, who mostly feels that he does nasty stuff out of some necessity.
Infuriatingly, even when it’s suggested that Russell nearly killed him, Gamby is still manipulated into believing that other suspects have more plausible reasons to dispose of him.
With six episodes left, the series needs to be tighter. There’s little story left to tell, true, but it sometimes feels padded. Still, it’s laudable for sticking to two seasons—hopefully, it ends divertingly.
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