Season two of the Netflix original “American Vandal,” released Sept. 14, continues the show’s documentary play-acting executed so well in the show’s first season. This time around, it ups the ante with a larger cast, more complex plot and ultimately a more resonant message.
Season one of “American Vandal” used all the tropes of a true crime documentary to tell the story of two high school filmmakers trying to prove the innocence of a student accused of drawing penises on the teachers’ cars.
In the new season, Peter and Sam have been called to a Catholic high school in Washington state to figure out who put laxatives in the lemonade one day, referred to as “the Brownout.” As in the first season they come to the aid of a student falsely accused of the vandalism. The crimes and suspects pile up so quickly that it’s hard to recall the exact turn of events.
A key component of the show’s humor is how effectively it replicates true crime shows such as the Netflix original “Making a Murderer.” The serious tone makes a hilarious contrast with the scatological nature of the crimes, since the narrators use official language to describe juvenile pranks.
The only actors who carry over from season one are the documentarians, Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck), who in a meta joke are shown in the first episode employed by Netflix.
One fault with the second season is its use of narrators. In the first season, narrators participated much more in the investigation and formed more relationships with other characters. In season two, they’re mostly bystanders.
“American Vandal’s” jokes land better in its second season. Since the vandalism in question is very immature, the humor isn’t exactly for people who are easily grossed out. But for those who can enjoy it, the show consistently delivers. “American Vandal” uses the interview segments which are often found in true crime to deliver great one-off jokes which set up future plot points.
Since the cast of the show is comprised of many lesser-known actors, viewers can better immerse themselves in the show. The show does its best to appear real, utilizing common documentary scenes like interviews and footage from security cameras.
Movies and TV shows usually cast older actors as high school students, often to their detriment. But “American Vandal” actor Jimmy Tatro, who plays accused penis painter Dylan Maxwell, portrays the look and feel of a high school student perfectly.
The show accurately represents the use of modern technology. The teenagers use social media – Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter – in a realistic way. Those social media aspects are seamlessly integrated into the show and lead to crucial moments later in the season. By the season’s end, “American Vandal” makes the point that social media forms an important part of life today and it’s almost impossible to ignore that.
“American Vandal” succeeds at making a relatable show about high school, as well as a very funny mockumentary about a vandal making everybody poop. Season one was good, but this takes it to another level. All episodes are now available to stream on Netflix.