'Vice Principals' Season 2 Episode 2: "Slaughter" Recap

We're now two episodes in to season 2 of the HBO comedy Vice Principals, and after last week's excellent premiere, it's safe to say it's better than ever. With a firm two season plan in place, this "Final Semester" of the show is moving at a faster pace now that the table setting has been done. This week's episode, "Slaughter", finds Neal Gamby focusing in on one of his attempted murder suspects while Lee Russell tries a different strategy to win over the faculty. 

The episode begins with Gamby using new school security guard Willows to harass students he suspects were involved in his shooting. Going off a lead from school lunch man Dayshawn, Gamby has narrowed his search down to the "afro-americans" in the student body. After inviting Dayshawn to dinner, a new suspect is fingered: Robin Shandrell (Conner McVicker). Shandrell had previously been expelled from school by Gamby for selling drugs to other students, so there's a motive. With a suspect in his sights, Neal Gamby teams up with new Vice Principal Nash to spy on Shandrell for intel.

As Gamby and Nash are trying to gain evidence from Robin Shandrell, newly minted Principal Lee Russell is trying a new tactic to win over the teachers. After hearing the teachers make fun of his frosted tips, bad breath, and tight clothing, a very hurt Russell is given some sage advice from his wife Christine: kill 'em with kindness. It's on that advice that Russell pays to bring sushi to the entire staff for lunch. Despite his best efforts, the teachers, led Ms. LeBlanc (Robin Bartlett), pay him nothing but disrespect and indifference. This sends Russell's fragile ego into a spiral, causing him to throw the sushi on the floor and storm off.

It is here where our two stories converge. Russell, done playing nice, longs for the days of last semester when he and Gamby teamed up to take down Belinda Brown. He quickly jumps at the chance to tag along with Gamby to break into Robin Shandrell's home for further evidence. They end up finding nothing, and a dejected Gamby ends up revealing to Russell that he had previously planted drugs in Shandrell's locker in order to expel the kid and send a harsh message to all other would-be drug buying students. Gamby is clearly feeling guilt over the act and is simply looking to confess his misconduct. Russell instead takes this as sound advice, inspiring him to switch up tactics once again in order to gain the upper hand on the teachers.

Russell gathers all of the gossiping teachers to the train tracks in the woods where he then fires them all. If you "break the law" he "fucks you raw". Ever the showman, he then lights all of their school badges ablaze while a guilt ridden Gamby watches on. Last season's Gamby would have relished the opportunity to fire Bill Hayden in such dramatic fashion. But Gamby has gone through a lot of personal growth since the beginning of the series, and this is not a moment of triumph for him. After the mass firing, Gamby pays a visit to Robin Shandrell, offering to allow the kid to come back to school.

Neal Gamby and Lee Russell used to be on parallel paths, before merging into one as they attempted to dethrone Belinda Brown. For both men, victory has been bitter sweet. As Russell decides to double down on his behavior, expecting better results, Gamby is beginning to realize that playing, nay, being nice, might actually be the best course of action.

Overall, this was an extremely solid and hilarious episode of Vice Principals. With this being the final season, there's really no telling where this all could go, and I can't wait to see how it all wraps up. Lee Russell's decent into madness is going to be a fun journey to follow this season. His over the top train track mass firing, including a promise that if the teachers were ever seen on school grounds again they'd be "shot on sight" elicited huge laughs from me. But the real highlight of the episode was Conner McVicker as Robin Shandrell. With a cadence and delivery unmatched on television, McVicker blurs the lines of awful and genius with his performance. I cackled at every absurd line reading, from something as simple as "what are you doing here?" to the goofy "did you doo doo? Did you poo pawpaw?" Is it good acting? I don't know? Is it absolutely perfect and my current favorite television performance? Without a doubt.