Three episodes into HBO’s “Vice Principals,” and it certainly clear that this is a show with multiple personalities. We figured that the best thing we could do going into this past installment was pretend as though the prior one never happened — who would’ve thought the show itself would aid in that quest?
For the vast majority of the episode, there was no Lee Russell or Belinda Brown, and as much as we do love Walton Goggins, we needed a break from Lee’s completely-psychotic tendencies as explored last time. The show ventured away from the completely unbelievable (burning down Belinda’s house for minute reasons) and to the completely believable: Neal Gamby working his way onto a field trip with the primary goal in mind of getting closer to Amanda (Georgia King), the teacher who he set his sights on back in the pilot. There were hilarious moments aplenty in here, whether it be Gamby continuously undermining Mr. Hayden, the organizer of said trip.
Also, there was Neal Gamby with a secret notebook containing every possible detail about Amanda, including social-media posts and even some sort of bank receipt that had been put through the shredder. After looking at this, the main conclusion we were able to draw is that this guy is basically the grown-man version of Helga Pataki from “Hey Arnold!” — someone who acts like a complete jerk to everyone’s face but has some sort of secret heart underneath. There were a few small flashes of it at the episode’s end, similar to how Helga would occasionally be nice to Arnold.
The biggest problem that came out of all of this is that Neal, after being told off by Amanda the night before for being incredibly rude and mean to everyone, slept with Ms. Abbott, who may be almost as into him as he is into Amanda. Then, she found his secret book the next morning. We don’t think that she spilled the beans in that hilarious closing scene on the bus; instead, we think that she’s going to enjoy hanging this over his head for a while.
We ultimately hope that every episode of “Vice Principals” follows more of this pattern than what we saw last week where things were dark to the point of not really being funny. Every character had their own voice, Amanda was infinitely more interesting than in the premiere, and we understood Gamby more as a fleshed-out character. Knowing what we know about the series now, we have to hope it continues in this direction rather than reversing course. Episode Grade: A-.
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