American Vandal is everything you’d want in a guilty pleasure. With its guise of being a crime documentary, less-than-serious topics are tackled with a serious, no-nonsense tone. The show presents itself similarly to Making a Murderer, but it knows full well that it’s nothing more than a fun and joyful satire to binge-watch. Being in on the joke together is one of the reasons why the first season was such a success. We all got hooked on the question of who drew the dicks? But, with a new mystery in the can, would the story be a flushing success or would it feel like number two?
American Vandal’s second season, while fun in concept and execution, didn’t have the same punch as the original. From the looks of both mysteries, their plots had many of the same elements. The cheeky jokes left their mark, the suspects were fleshed out with well-developed stories, and there were cliffhangers that left us waiting for the next chapter. And, American Vandal recognized its own meta-ness by connecting its success into the “real life” plot of the story. However, the structure of the second season didn’t lend itself well for the plot to carry over eight episodes.
For the second season, high school reporters Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund (played by Tyler Alvarez and Griffin Gluck, respectively) decided on the case they would cover next in their online hit show, American Vandal. The case: someone by the name of “The Turd Burglar” had poisoned the students of a private Catholic high school with laxatives, as well as vandalized the school with feces on multiple occasions. Peter and Sam, along with a new ally Chloe (Sweet/Vicious’ Taylor Dearden), worked to prove the innocence of Chloe’s off-beat classmate and friend, Kevin (Travis Tope). Along the way, there were many new friends, enemies and, of course, suspects wrapped up in the case.
The tale of The Turd Burglar was a fun one. The ongoing antics caused by this mysterious foe created hilarious pandemonium for everyone at the school. In fact, the first strike involving the laxatives and the ensuing chaos was more devastating compared to the vandalism of the first season. Whereas one criminal caused one instance against the teachers, this enemy taunted the school and struck on a few occasions. So, in that regard, The Turd Burglar won in the battle against the dick drawer.
The cast of characters also served the story well. American Vandal focused on a few key characters that drove the majority of the plot instead of inundating us with red-herring options. There’s a difference between introducing characters who support the story/add to the investigation and over-indexing with names to keep the suspect pool large. American Vandal’s first season suffered from this, but luckily the second season kept it to a reasonable number. Plus, the characters that were included in American Vandal were fun to watch.
Taylor Dearden did a good job as the likable Chloe Lyman and Melvin Gregg as DeMarcus Tillman won us over in his portrayal as the complex basketball star. Meanwhile, Alvarez and Gluck continued their streak of the funny crime-fighting duo. But Travis Tope was definitely the breakout star of American Vandal’s second season. His chill, snobby, and came-off-as-a-hipster performance of the accused Kevin McClain was captivating to watch. Right from his introduction, the actor exuded the eccentric qualities that were meant to make us suspicious of him. Kevin McLain was a character – and he’s one we hadn’t seen for a long while.
The issue with the season overall, however, was that the development of the mystery didn’t connect as easily as the original case. There were obvious moments where the mystery here didn’t have the next phase without a plot device intervention. For example, by the fourth episode, new elements were abruptly added into the mix without a seamless connection – in this case, suspects of note were added via an anonymous tip box rather than by investigative deduction by Sam and Peter. Sure, investigators received anonymous tips all the time, but the reasoning for these two to check the box in the first place or to look into the suspects didn’t make sense. This lack of connection came off as lazy writing.
Part of the reason could be that Peter and Sam weren’t as knowledgeable or invested in the case like they were with the dick drawer. American Vandal’s first season happened at their school, involving their friends as suspects and the gossip they already knew to help put the pieces together. Placing them in this new setting with people they didn’t know exposed the limitations of their first adventure away. We got more in-depth information in the original mystery to flesh out all the chapters; the second mystery didn’t have that luxury to make things as seamless.
Despite its sophomore slump, American Vandal season two is a binge-worthy mystery that hits all its marks. Peter and Sam were back in full detective mode to get justice and take down The Turd Burglar. The new characters were pleasant additions, and the ending was a satisfying conclusion for why everything had happened. On the other hand, the path it took to get there needed some more development to connect all the pieces for a well-rounded mystery. Overall, American Vandal is a fun time and you’ll enjoy yourself solving this mystery, despite how gross it is.