In an interview with Jesse David Fox at Vulture, McBride said he and co-creator Jody Hill saw the two-season arc as a first and second semester. “These guys embarked on this devious, reprehensible quest in the first season, and they achieved what they set out to do. The second season is about them getting what they asked for and how that plays out for both of them. We said it’s like Crime and Punishment. The first season is the crime and the second season is the punishment,” said McBride. Because of this narrative structure, the characters really get to stretch their legs over the course of the episodes. Sure, the things they’re doing are often repugnant, but there’s much more going on than that.
At the heart of the show’s comedy is the fact that these two people are fighting so hard for a position of power at a below-average high school where none of the students or teachers will ever like or appreciate them. And they’re both clearly unqualified for the job in the first place. But damn, do they want to be principal.
Neal Gamby is not just a dumb guy on a power trip. He’s actually got a heart underneath it all. And Russell, who has even lower moral standards, actually has some painful stuff going on in his life outside of NJHS. They are complex characters despite appearing to be idiots with one-track minds. But you’ve got to stick around for more than a few episodes to see that.
Season one ends with a pretty great twist, so if you can get there (and I believe you can!), season two takes off right away with a new energy injected by McBride and Goggins. It’s like something clicked between the two of them, and suddenly, I felt like I had to see what they would do next. And season two just adds to the complexity of both characters as individuals and as part of this weirdly perfect duo. Gamby and Russell are interesting characters on their own, but together? Together is where McBride and Goggins shine – and made me laugh out loud a lot. They’re hilarious as a team, and I suspect they did a lot of improv in their characters’ interactions. Good improv.
Gamby and Russell made their beds in season one, and in season two, they’re lying in them. And they’re having a really uncomfortable time. Gamby is obsessed with solving the mystery of who is out to get him, and Russell is constantly battling the hatred of every teacher in the school and trying desperately – and I do mean desperately – to get them on his side. Until he stops trying and goes full Lee Russell, which is when Goggins is at his best. The more unhinged Russell becomes, the more hilarious Goggins is. We get to see more of Russell’s family life in season two as well, and his interactions with his wife and mother-in-law are even more ridiculous and cringeworthy than they were in the first season.
Season two also keeps viewers guessing more than season one did. The moment you feel some sympathy for Gamby or Russell, they do something to make you question if you were right to have a little faith in them. When you think you’ve got a person figured out, they will surprise you.
Perhaps one of the best things about season two is the evolving friendship between these two sometimes-enemies. There are times you wonder if either of them could ever care for any other person besides himself, and then there are moments that are so unexpected and tender that they’re almost – dare I say it? – heartwarming.
So come for the concept. And if you can get past the aforementioned unpalatable setup, I think you’ll actually see that much of the show is a really funny commentary on toxic masculinity, not a celebration of it. Then, stick around for the hints of complexity you think you might see in Gamby and Russell. Stay longer because McBride and Goggins are brilliant together. And get rewarded for it all in season two with surprising plot twists, a really unlikely friendship, and honest-to-goodness snort laughing (if you’re like me). Gamby and Russell gave each other a chance. I need you to give Vice Principals a chance.
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The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.