+ Recommended – TV-MA, Comedy, Mockumentary
American Vandal Season 1 (a spoof on the popular Netflix series: Making a Murderer) struck critics and audiences alike for style, sharp camera work, and excellent storytelling, leaving everyone on the edge of their seat until the next time they were able to sit back and binge more episodes. It helped that the first season had a fantastic cast, with Jimmy Tatro (Dylan Maxwell) at the center of the story. When a second season was announced, I was concerned with it diminishing the impact of the first. But, I’m happy to report that this wasn’t the case! It’s rather the opposite, actually.
Season two’s investigation leads Sam (Griffin Gluck) and Peter (Tyler Alvarez) to another school where they intend on finding a suspect, dubbed The Turd Burglar, who’s been terrorizing the school using feces as one, continuous joke. Why, you might ask? Poop is funny. This time, a kid named Kevin McClain (Travis Tope), aka Fruit Ninja, has been christened the culprit of these horrendous, disgusting acts. Kevin’s character is vastly different from Dylan Maxwell in the first season; yes, they are both outcasts in their own way, but Dylan was trying to be cool and get everyone to like him while Kevin doesn’t really care to be cool. In fact, he goes out of his way to differ himself from the rest of the student body. Unlike the Season 1 protagonist, Kevin doesn’t really involve himself too much in the investigation, staying on the sidelines to let the gang uncover the deep-seeded corruption of the school and/or the students.
While the cast may not have a standout like Dylan Maxwell, the narrative through-line is sharper. The showrunners are telling a more concise story, while keeping all the twists and turns that made the original season a captivating audience experience. They find a subtle way to layer this season with meta humor and important social conversation pieces that parallel topical issues the country is currently facing; with many finding similarities between the current mass shooting epidemic sweeping the country, especially our schools, and the way in which The Turd Burglar terrorizes the school with feces. [VERY LIGHT SPOILER AHEAD] In the very beginning episodes, we find out that Sam and Peter are using this investigation as their senior project. Could it be possible that they are moving to college in Season 3? If so, what issues could they tackle on college campuses? Rape culture, fraternity/sorority hazing, and binge drinking could all be possible targets. Of course, it would be much harder to turn these issues into a comedic gag, and I worry about the way in which it could be handled.
At eight episodes each, both seasons make for a sure-fire way to easily get through one of the seasons in a day or two; catering to the streaming-on-demand audience that is familiarized with the process all too well. The challenge that Netflix has with marketing this show is simply this: they need to make sure that everyone knows it is fiction in the form of a mockumentary style show, and not a real investigation. Right after this season premiered, I saw several people on Facebook and Twitter sharing different clips of the show with captions like: “I can’t believe kids are doing things like this nowadays.” It was so bad that multiple trades had to do a “fact check” on everything about the show to ensure a fragment of people that it was all synthesized.
If you saw the first season and loved what you got, check out the second season on Netflix streaming now and comment down below what your thoughts on everything are. Were you bored with a Season 2 without Dylan? How did the finale shape your opinion of the season as a whole? Were you surprised? Let us know and be on the lookout for more Netflix reviews coming this week!