The Netflix show American Vandal's first season turned heads last year by transforming the patently absurd into something sublime. The series is a mockumentary (which means it’s scripted, but the characters behave as if it were a real documentary) about solving the mystery of who vandalized 27 teachers’ cars with phallic images. Sam (Griffin Gluck) and Peter (Tyler Alvarez), the two kids who run the investigation pursue their work with the seriousness of a true crime drama show, but this production makes so many jokes about male genitalia that it all becomes a hilarious parody. Although this is all enjoyable enough, it’s the show’s deeper moments that make it a sincere and truly well-crafted teen drama.
The second season swaps out one repeated lowbrow joke for another, as this time poop takes center stage. It all begins with an unforgettably horrific incident at St. Bernadine High School in Seattle. Everyone calls the event “the brownout.” After someone slips a massive amount of laxative into the lemonade, everyone loses control of their bowels, and total chaos breaks out as students search for any place to do their business — bathrooms, garbage cans and even lockers. The scene is reminiscent of the opening of Saving Private Ryan, which depicts the beach storming at Normandy. Both are startlingly graphic, and no one would blame you for looking away.
From there, Sam and Peter begin their search to determine who is the “turd burglar,” which is indicative of the sort of silly verbiage that runs rampant throughout the show. The boys delve into the details of the infamous lemonade, a poop pinata and horchata, which is a cinnamon-milk drink that I didn’t even know existed until I saw this season. Eventually, they settle on a couple key suspects: pseudo-intellectual Kevin McClain (Travis Tope) and beloved basketball phenom DeMarcus Tillman (Melvin Gregg).
Kevin is a bit of an outcast because he misuses uncommon words, like ocular, and he slurps his tea obnoxiously to “create a mouth-filling vapor.” The police suspect that he poisoned the lemonade as a way to exact revenge on the classmates who tease him. When clues point to Kevin’s innocence, DeMarcus becomes the focus of the investigation and completely takes over the show due to Gregg's effortless charisma. His DeMarcus character has such a natural magnetism that everyone wants to be near him, but he has a “Spice Girls thing going on,” so to get with him you have to get with his friends. His best friend Lou (DeRon Horton) is always around assisting DeMarcus on the court and off. “A dime’s a dime,” as Lou says.
That’s about as much as I can say about the plot and characters without giving too much away. American Vandal's second season is not quite as funny as the first, but what it lacks in humor it makes up for in social commentary. After watching two seasons of the show, I’ve noticed a pattern of silly humor in early episodes to ease in the viewers, followed by increasingly deep explorations into teen life. The last couple episodes of this season deliver an especially poignant take on what it’s like for these kids to grow up on social media. As viewers, you can come for the silly jokes and stay for the insightful closing monologue. Both are well worth your time.