The series finale of Vice Principals is a showstopper.
Over the course of 17 episodes, Vice Principals has delivered some of the funniest and most over-the-top dramatic acting I’ve seen on TV. And now it is coming to an end. Not just the end of the season — this is the series finale, and boy does it ramp up the drama to eleven. We’re talking people getting shot in the face, being mauled by wild animals, and losing their jobs for all the wrong reasons. Just another day being a principal at a high school I guess!
This episode opens with Gamby (Danny McBride) giving the morning announcement to the school. He’s positive and looks happy in his new role as principal as he gives warm congratulations to Robin Shandrell (Conner McVicker), who will be graduating. It seems without Russell (Walton Goggins) around, Gamby was able to pour more effort into Robin and become a redeemable character. The bombshell of Gamby accusing Russell of being the man who shot him, and then kicking him out of town, appears to have made Gamby’s life all the better. That said, Ms. Abbott (Edi Patterson) is not too happy that Ms. Snodgrass (Georgia King) has taken her precious Gamby away from her.
Gamby is now the top dog.
Ms. Abbott is the core of this episode and a big reason as to why it works. Her jealousy is apparent from the get-go and there’s a reckoning to pay. I don’t want to spoil her part in this story because it involves major twists and turns, but let’s just say she goes off the reservation. Big time. I’m talking full-on psychotic, ready to do whatever it takes to get Gamby back or at the very least make him pay. Patterson continues to show she’s good enough to be a lead character not only because she’s believable at every turn, but capable of landing the most insignificant of jokes. Take for instance a moment where she requests to use the bathroom at Gamby’s house and ensures him, “I’m not going to shit though, I just want to go in for a second.” It’s an awkward line and yet she adds a complexity to it that’s sad, but also funny.
Much of this episode is focused on redeeming Russell. This is the ultimate bromance plot if I’ve ever seen one, which means Russell and Gamby must make amends. These two characters bonded over the last 17 episodes and it’s in this episode they reveal their true feelings and true selves to each other. It just sucks it required one of them to get shot and both of them to team up to save a teacher’s life! Russell’s character is handled well all the way to the end too, and his arc is earned and genuine.
The episode as a whole is a strong one and it not only will it make you laugh, but also think about the things Russell and Gamby have done and how they got here. It even ends with a nice “3 months later” title card to show how they’ve grown over a few months after the events of the climactic ending. It’s in these scenes we see the impact each of them had on each other and how they’re both better off in their own ways.
The only element that didn’t quite work is a dramatic sequence involving a man-eating tiger. The idea is funny, and it’s worth a laugh or two especially when it escapes, but it goes on for too long and ends up becoming a bit boring. To make it worse, Russell makes a very stupid mistake involving the tiger that isn’t quite executed well enough. Russell was always an egomaniac, but to actually believe he can tame a tiger with his body language is outrageous, especially when you consider he’s lost everything and has no confidence left at this point.
All good things must come to an end.
When watching this series finale it’s easy to see how the writers were taking in consideration everything that came before it and it’s better for it. This is the ending of the 2-hour movie version, complete with a big climax and a thought provoking epilogue. There aren’t a lot of wasted scenes or pointless dead ends. It gets in, reveals who shot Gamby, and gets out to a satisfying and funny conclusion. In many ways this show has proven to be better at drama than humor and that’s more evident than ever in the final few minutes.