Vice Principals S02E01 Recap: 'Tiger Town'

Committing to only two seasons and eighteen total episodes from the very beginning, Vice Principals was an ambitious proposition from the very beginning. The idea of a limited run show that would tell as tight a story as possible and get allow its creatives to move on to something else is phenomenal. And the execution on the first season was even better. This was a show that felt fully formed from the very beginning and ostensibly perfected its formula by the end of the season. Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) were instantly relatable and recognizable as extensions of characters those two had previously played, both of them delivering their A-game throughout the entire first season. The premise was good and could have filled much more than 18 episodes of material. This is a show that had everything going for it. And then, with last year's finale, they changed the game.

The genius of only committing to two seasons is that you can pretty much do whatever you want for the run of the show. You don't have to wrorry about filling out episode runs or getting renewed, you just have to write what you've committed to. And it seems as if the writers have made the most out of that finite stack of paper they have to work with. What could have been a long-running premise has already taken some crazy twists and turns over the course of its first nine episodes (you'll recall how Gamby and Russell quickly decided to work together and eventually became friends, despite first being pitted as enemies, or how they burned down their rival's house, or took an incidental LSD trip). Then, as mentioned, the finale changed the game when Gamby got shot.

This easily established the premise for the second season, as a show about school politics suddenly finds itself to be a murder mystery as well. Gamby must figure out who shot him, all while fighting to get his life and and cope with the fact that he can't be the principal, as his frenemy Lee Russell got the job in his absence. What's more, in "Tiger Town", the season 2 premiere, we go one step further as we see Gamby eliminate not only the former principal Brown from his list of suspects, but also Russell himself, despite being the man who benefited the most from his demise. Russell even offers a (very large) binder full of potential enemies that Gamby has acquired over the years. And I'm sure that by episode three or four, the binder and possibly even the manhunt will be in this show's rear-view mirror as it winds up doing something else insane and premise-altering.

But as much as "Tiger Town" is about establishing the task at hand for Gamby and Russell, it's also about getting Gamby back into shape. The episode begins with a fever dream, as elements of the school haunt a recuperating Gamby. He's also feigning a disability, as Russell has to push him out of his chair in order to get him to walk again, and eventually take back his old job as Vice Principal. Gamby is at first standoffish about getting a hero's welcome or discussing his incident (clear signs of PTSD, which he also doesn't want to discuss), but Russell winds up giving him a pep talk and by the time the credits roll, he's back.

"Tiger Town" actually winds up being a pretty straightforward episode. One that's well-paced and filled with great lines, don't get me wrong, but there's a lot of exposition and a lot of setting up that winds up needing to be done thanks to this new direction for the show. As good as it is to have Vice Principals back, I also know it has a lot more to offer, and a lot is expected from this second and final season, so "Tiger Town" gets 8 canes with swords in them out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • I'm hoping we get more of Dr. Brown this season, but if her only appearance was meant to show off that tattoo of Gamby and Russell holding hands and eating their own shit, then it was worth it.
  • One of the best parts of this show is Gamby's confronttions with the faculty at the school. In this episode alone, he had a racially-tinged conversation with Dayshawn, an awkward encounter with the two teachers he previously had relationships with, and yelled twice at the receptionist. Not to mention the new Vice Principal Nash, whom I'm very much looking forward to him interacting with.
  • "Ain't nobody got Cystic Fibrosis."
  • "King Tut died because he was poisoned." "I don't give a shit, I'm the king."
  • "WHat's going on with that red ribbon? Is it titty cancer awareness month"
  • "She's built like a corncob pie and swears like a sailor and the only thing she loves more than kicking ass is eating pussy."
  • "I have a class to teach." "Actually, I have to leave even more."
  • "Dweebs, gutterpunks, Sally... sure have made a lot of enemies.
  • "Eat your mash potatoes, you jackass."