Last year the folks at Netflix introduced us to three totally different students moving in opposite directions. Dylan Maxwell was your typical burnout senior. He had no plan, and no drive to develop one. In many ways he was a lost kid. Which made him the chief suspect when someone spray painted 27 dicks on 27 faculty cars. Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund are the opposite. Precocious sophomores with a burgeoning film career just on the horizon. What followed was a mockumentary in the same vein as Serial or other whodunits. The show was funny for sure (at one point there is an in depth conversation about ball hair that seems neither juvenile nor superfluous but somehow still hilarious). But what made it so great to me was how it treated high school kids. Even in a comedic fashion which has its roots in farce and hyperbole the kids all felt real. At the series conclusion we are left with more questions than answers and it never felt frustrating. High school is difficult and complex and American Vandal Season 1 leaned hard into that complexity. I had big hopes for Season 2. Just what what could the show runners do to up the stakes (maybe 28 dicks on 28 cars).
Season 2’s crimes center around a criminal who uses excrement as his/her tool of choice. The Turd Burglar was responsible for a number of crimes at St. Bernardine Prep and this time the lead suspect is not the burnout but rather the weird kid who drinks tea, and talks in a clipped British accent (there is one in every school, trust me). Kevin McClain admits to the crime spree in the first 15 minutes of the series. The rest of the show places Peter and Sam in the familiar role as lead detectives and documentarians. The stakes are higher. People get legitimately sick. People get fired. Someone will go to jail. As the series continued it still made me laugh. There are more than a few poop jokes. There are lots of high school archetypes and what struck me as dynamic in the second season was how they get the way high school kids talk when they feel comfortable. They are open, direct, and often coldly analytical. They can identify the weaker of the herd with a unemotional disinterest that makes all of them at some point difficult to take. New movies like Tragedy Girls or 8th Grade are also deeply interested in just how difficult it is to be an adolescent right now.
Like the first season though this understanding translates incredibly well to describing what high school is like. The students at St. Bernadine talk and act like they do because that is how we all survived high school. The characters all want someone to like and to be liked in return. Season 2 goes hard at how social media plays a role in this development. Peter and Sam are not a fan of how social media helps us curate a perfect life while alienating us from human contact. I gotta tell you, I agree with the kids.
Season 2 doesn’t quite have the punch of season 1, and the moral of the season is less ambiguous which makes it feel a little heavy handed. Overall the second season is still successful. It is nice to have a show that does not treat its kids as something to ridicule but rather as their own interesting and rich subject matter. If you liked season 1 go check out season 2 on Netflix. Its well worth your time.