TV Thoughts - American Vandal (Season 2)
When Netflix crime documentary spoof American Vandal debuted last year, I was hooked. I’d honestly never seen a show like this before, one that blended so many different styles and managed to be ridiculous and hilarious yet engrossing and emotional all at once. It really broke the boundaries and I was addicted to it.
Now Peter & Sam the fictional documentary makers are back solving a new crime at a new school. Someone known only as “The Turd Burglar” is committing horrible poop-based crimes around St. Bernadine’s and calling out their victims online. School oddball Kevin McClaine has confessed to being the criminal, but things aren’t adding up as new evidence surfaces. There are lots of different suspects with their own individual motives in the school, but who is the one responsible?
Here are my mainly spoiler-free thoughts about the events of Season 2:
- “The Brownout” was truly horrifying as a crime
Last season’s mystery of drawing dicks on cars was nothing compared to the horror of a whole cafeteria of students being poisoned with laxatives and pooping themselves. It starts out being downright hilarious and then as the show gets into the details, you can’t help but imagine yourself in that situation and think about how horrific it would actually be, especially if your public defecation had also been filmed and posted online for the world to see. Literally the stuff of nightmares, and the mix of re-enactments with phone footage really brings it to life.
- DeMarcus Tillman is legendary
The character of DeMarcus is everything you want in a TV series - iconic, hilarious and complex at the same time. His narcissistic one-liners are often played so dead-pan that you nearly miss how funny they are and he’s written to be so un-self-aware that he doesn’t even realise when he’s being a total dickhead to the people around him. I really believed in DeMarcus from his pompous arrogance to his jokey banter to his defensive bravado, and best of all the roots of his background make him so layered that despite it all you can’t help but completely love him for it all. Such a great addition to the show.
- It’s so realistic you start to question if it’s even scripted
Seriously, they have teenage stereotypes SPOT ON. I have known guys just like Kevin McClain who are teased and eccentrically awkward but think they’re in on the joke. And all the background characters, their crazy in-jokes (shout-out to the Horsehead Collective band) and their reactions to everything going on feels so natural and real. I love how they incorporate Snapchat, Instagram and other modern communication to the show with so much detail, it truly makes the cast feel like actual people who might be on your own friend list. In fact, from the trailers of “The Brownout” online, I know a few people who actually did think it was a real incident at a real school!
- The use of technology is genius
There is a huge spotlight on technology in American Vandal and how it affects us in both positive and negative ways. The writers have really incorporated social media and phones into the mystery in a way that is so clever and makes everything feel even more real - there is one part where an iPhone glitch that actually happened in the real world is incorporated into the mystery, something that other crime shows would never do. You know that silly, geeky tech plot points will never go unnoticed in this script and it’s awesome.
- You genuinely get caught up in the mystery
Some of the clues that Peter and Sam unpick include analysing use of emojis, comparing a picture of a yoghurt swirl with a poop and checking laxative ingredients in the local drug store. They are all completely ridiculous and you laugh a lot, but then you kind of forget how ridiculous they are because the mystery is SO WELL DONE and you genuinely want to unravel all these clues, no matter how crazy and hilarious they are. I was just like, deadly seriously, OMG they DID both use the grimace emoji instead of a smiley, what can it mean?!
- There are some amazing points made on all kinds of issues
This season tackles so many important themes. The way technology shapes our lives and the effects of a generation growing up with it in a way no other generation has before. How lonely so many people are feeling in a world full of instant connections. How teachers and people of power will abuse their positions for financial gain. And on top of that there are lots of thoughtful messages about race, class, sexism, nepotism, bullying, religion and general teenage life in America (and beyond). This show is so much more than a poop joke, it’s incredibly smart, powerful and filled with emotion.
- The cast is diverse in an understated way
I love that there is a lesbian character whose storyline doesn’t revolve around any kind of adversity about being gay, but the same relationship issues as all the other characters. And the students in the school are from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities , making the setting and story that much richer.
- I kind of missed Dylan and the old characters
Maybe it was just me but I was kind of disappointed to know this series didn’t include Dylan (see above) in any way, or really focus much on Peter and Sam’s world. This time they really were pure documentary makers rather than having any kind of personal connection to their subject. I loved that angle in the first season and kind of missed it, but at the same time I get that they had to go somewhere different this time around to keep the show fresh, and it didn’t take long to get totally caught up in the new mystery and characters.
- It lags towards the ends before a really satisfying reveal
I did find episodes 6 and 7 lagging a little for me, I think the mystery was drawn out to it’s limits and I was longing for some more twists and turns by this point… But by the final episode, you realise that all the set-up was worth it for the reveal which is as complex and twisty and satisfying as you’re hoping it to be.
I am really sad to read that this show hasn’t been renewed for a third Season because I think it’s so innovative, smart and entertaining. If you haven’t already seen it then please check out both seasons, I promise you won’t regret it!