The second season of “American Vandal” starts with a poop joke and transforms it into one of the most riveting and insightful stories of the year.
The show returns with the two student documentarians from Season 1, Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck). They take a deep dive into a new mystery at a new school. This time, instead of asking “Who drew the dicks?” the central question becomes “Who is The Turd Burglar?” Attempting to find whoever is behind the multiple poop-themed crimes at St. Bernardine High School leads Sam and Peter to discover so much more, specifically in regards to corruption in the athletics department.
Unlike most mockumentaries, the series strives to be as meticulous and realistic as possible despite the outlandish premise. This results in complex themes and commentary that so few shows, including top-tier dramas, are able to accomplish. Despite all of this, it still manages to be one of the funniest shows on television by quite a wide margin.
The show expertly uses scatological humor to comment on societal problems that are hard for many people to talk about. The main storyline was an unmistakable nod to O.J. Simpson — it follows a star athlete who had a multitude of evidence pointing toward his crimes, but his status prevented him from facing any consequences. The writers use this as a jumping off point for an exploration of themes such as bullying, relationships between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds and the universal desire for attention that leaves the audience in tears.
“American Vandal’s” strongest theme is undoubtedly that every person, no matter how they put-together they seem, just wants to be loved. The two main suspects, Kevin (Travis Tope) and DeMarcus (Melvin Gregg), are about as different as possible. DeMarcus, a black student recruited to the school for athletics, is the school’s star athlete and the most popular person in the entire school. Kevin is a very odd teenager raised in a dysfunctional family, and is bullied by his peers.
Despite their many differences, they share the universal desire for genuine affection. What they both crave so desperately is authentic love from others instead of the superficial attention they receive. Through drawing these parallels, the writers hit a gold mine, or rather a black gold mine, of character development that seems to never end.
On top of being hilarious and delivering commentary in innovative ways, the reveal of the mystery is a genuine shock. The buildup to the ending is perfectly
constructed and creates one of the most satisfying twists of the entire year.
Additionally, the performances and casting are spot-on. The actors channel their characters in ways that everybody will be able to relate to. Specific standouts include Travis Tope and Melvin Gregg. Both performers take classic high school archetypes and add an authenticity that so few portrayals have done before. Such authenticity, which leads to fully formed characters, is exactly why the show works so well.
The praise for the show does come with a warning, however. “American Vandal” is not for everyone. Despite its thoughtful social commentary, the graphic nature of the poop humor will definitely push away some viewers. However, if it is possible to handle that aspect of the show, then ‘American Vandal” is undeniably worth watching.
In the end, while the second season of “American Vandal” starts off less than fantastic, a combination of amazing performances, jokes and commentary build up to an incredibly satisfying ending.