What started off feeling like a less ambitious, more juvenile season of American Vandal slowly revealed itself to be something much greater and more unexpected. The saga of the Turd Burglar is not just about Mrs. Montgomery getting covered in shit or T-shirts launched with cat feces on them. It’s also about an entire generation who is judged twice, both in their IRL existences in class and high school halls, and online. The resolution to the mystery of the Turd Burglar is a commentary on the isolation created by social media drama and how much we need the people we call friends to stand by us no matter what. Consider this - if Kevin McClain hadn’t felt the distance he did from Chloe and Tanner, he wouldn’t have committed a crime. The same is arguably true for DeMarcus Tillman, who couldn’t trust Lou enough to think that he had his back as a real Robin to his Batman. And yet the brilliance of this episode is that it’s not a mere castigation of the Instagram Generation, but a call to people to support every iteration of those you love, even the kinky online ones.
So here’s what we know for sure: Grayson Wentz is the Turd Burglar. Kicked out of school after hijacking open Twitter accounts in the library, he enacted his revenge from a place from which so many vengeance plans are launched: a mall kiosk. With access to so many phones, he created the online identity of Brooke Wheeler, and catfished a number of people at St. Bernardine’s, basically casting a net that dragged in four people, who committed the four crimes of the Turd Burglar:
- Jenna Hawthorne, who we learned last episode was the puppet who rolled cat shit into T-shirts, knowing they’d be launched at students.
- Mr. Gesualdi, who sent Brooke a ‘Pooh Shot’ (shirt and no pants), committed the 4th Poop Crime, the one with the advent calendar that Mrs. Wexler covered up because it didn’t fit the narrative that Kevin committed all four crimes.
- DeMarcus Tillman, who put poop in a piñata, knowing a Bible-loving teenager would smash it into his classmates and sinful teacher.
- And who?
The first suspicion is that the fourth crime must have been committed by ‘Diapey’ Drew Pomeranz, especially after a video was released of him doing something so obscene that it’s basically just one big block of pixelation on the show - the implication is that he’s, well, putting one of his body parts into another. But Drew claims innocence, leading Sam and Peter to the realization that Tanner Bassett was right all along, Kevin ‘Shit Stain’ McClain was responsible for the Brownout.
Think about the four victims of Grayson Wentz. They all came from very different social spheres (and you can include Drew in that for five very different personality types). The implication is that social media makes ALL of us vulnerable. Anyone can be manipulated when all of us are putting so much of our lives online.
The season finale was pretty much everything that fans of American Vandal could ask for. It’s very funny while also allowing its cast some vulnerable, truthful moments. Melvin Gregg is phenomenal in the scene in the car with Peter, revealing how he was really just looking for a deeper connection than he got from dumb nicknames and violin pantomimes. And Travis Tope matches him. These guys from completely different social spheres essentially fell victim to the same trick, and there’s something fascinating about how much social media can level the playing field, allowing everyone a chance for expression, but an equal chance for vulnerability.
And yet the brilliance of this episode is that it’s not mere finger-wagging at the dangers of Twitter and Instagram. As the show says, “Imagination is what makes us human,” and people can be imaginative online. It’s where we “figure ourselves out,” especially young ones, testing out boundaries and personalities. Could that really be a bad thing? This is the most-exposed generation of teenagers ever and this season of American Vandal has said more about the impact of that exposure than any other TV series so far. It is constant feedback & judgment, but it is also constant expression & individuality. And yet Kevin McClain’s final three words sound more wistful and important than ever before as he longs for the connections he found: “In real life.”
- Did you see Kevin’s other names for the Turd Burglar on his texts? It might have been even better if he were named the Crapsmith or the Poopetrator.
- The big question: Is this season better than the first? I’d say it’s at least equal, but I loved season one. That season was straight-up funnier, but this season is more ambitious and arguably smarter (while also being pretty damn funny). It felt a little rushed at times (it’s just about the only Netflix show that doesn’t sag and could actually be longer) but it ended with such a brilliant, timely episode that flaws can be easily forgiven.
- Speaking of flaws, the one thing I missed most this season was the Sam/Peter dynamic. They were classmates and even suspects in the first investigation, and the personal stakes made the season even more interesting in that respect. And I loved the scenes of them just breaking things down in season one, but it felt like the mystery of season two was too crowded to allow for that. I hope that returns in season three.
- MVP of season two? I’ll go with Melvin Gregg, a young actor who made DeMarcus Tillman into a truly complex, fascinating character, more than just the ‘popular athlete’.
- Thanks for reading this season. Hope to see you next year when we’ll probably investigating piss-related crimes or puke or something else that would get you kicked out of school but that the writers of American Vandal can turn into something much smarter than you first expect.