Last year’s brilliant first season of American Vandal didn’t just introduce the world to Baby Farting and the perfect comic timing of Jimmy Tatro (your biggest Emmy nomination snub of 2018). It also asked one of the most pressing questions of our time: “Who drew the dicks?” It was one-part mystery, one-part parody, while developing into a surprisingly smart examination of the pitfalls of reading people by the reputation given them by teachers and classmates. Finally, it understood how young people communicate in the ‘10s, often saying more over live streams, through stupid pranks, and on social media than they ever do face to face.
How do show creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault follow up the word-of-mouth success of the first season? With poop, of course. This is “#2" after all.
The first thing you should remember about last season of American Vandal is that the show makes reference to its own existence, and, in this case, popularity, not only pretending that the story of the spray-painted dicks took place in the real world but that the docu-series about it on Netflix did as well. As we learn in the season two premiere, Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) became stars after American Vandal went from their own personal project to a Netflix Original hit, even appearing on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Understandably, this led to people all over the world trying to get them to get the bottom of their vandalism story, most of them involving spray-painted cocks. But it’s the case of what happened at St. Bernardine High School that gets their attention and kicks off the second season with this year’s pressing question: Who is the Turd Burglar?
A student at St. Bernardine in Bellevue, Washington named Chloe Lyman reaches out to the boys and tells them the horrifying story of the Brownout. It was just like any other day until someone spiked the lemonade with laxative, leading to students in Catholic school uniforms shitting, well, everywhere. Kids shit in the halls; kids shit in urinals; kids shit in their lockers; kids just shit. And if the horror of defecating in front of your classmates doesn’t make you cringe enough, imagine being tagged on social media later that day. In this case, the social embarrassment is worse than the bowel movement as a monster known as the Turd Burglar becomes an online phenomenon, tagging in everyone in videos of the worst day of their lives, and promising greater havoc to come.
Much as it did last year, the season premiere of American Vandal first seems like it’s gathering a line-up of suspects. Could it be the lemonade lover who suspiciously had a Capri Sun that day? What about the dude who watches scat porn in the library? A student named Tanner Bassett fingers one of his friends, a relentlessly bullied young man named Kevin ‘Shit Stain’ McClain. The evidence seems to be overwhelming. Kevin earned his nickname after a picture posted on social media that made it look like he had shit his pants decimated his social life, and resurfaced as a Facebook memory days before the creation of the Turd Burglar. Kevin is mercilessly mocked at school and socially, including people throwing fruit at him and yelling ‘Fruit Ninja!’ He stopped an older teacher from drinking the lemonade that day. And as the Brownout was about to commence, he sat across from his greatest enemy, ostensibly so he could get a front row view of the shitting he knew was about to happen. It’s not long before he confesses to orchestrating the Brownout and two subsequent fecal-inspired events that followed in the next week or so.
Case closed, right? Well then, why, as his grandma points out in the final moments, did Kevin drink the lemonade himself? Why did ‘Shit Stain’ poop in his own pants?!?!
It may have more actual shit in it than any other episode of television that I’ve ever seen, but the season premiere of American Vandal mimics one of the greatest assets of the first year in that it’s doing something truly clever with seriously stupid humor. Just as season one became about way more than ball hairs, American Vandal is already laying the groundwork for the themes of this year. Is Shit Stain McClain this year’s Dylan Maxwell? They may be at different ends of the social ladder, but both gentlemen seem to be obvious suspects in part because of the way they’re perceived by their classmates as much as the actual evidence.
It’s also great to see American Vandal continue to deftly parody the increasing popularity of true crime docu-series with its self-serious interviews and detailed infographics. The sequence detailing who was sitting where on the day of The Brownout could have come from an Errol Morris documentary it’s so lovingly detailed, and Peter and Sam have clearly upped their production budget since their Vimeo Staff Pick days.
Comparatively, the season premiere of American Vandal doesn’t have the instant Wow Factor of season one, in part because it’s not as fresh and in part because I’m a little worried that it doesn’t have a Tatro to anchor it this season, although I could be wrong about that. Like last year, the premiere is plot-heavy, seriously dedicated to the actual facts of the crime, and hopefully it will get even more fun as the secrets of the staff and students of St. Bernardine come out. Everyone’s shit is going to be revealed. Literally.
- #1 Suspect: If it wasn’t Kevin McClain, who was it and why would he take the fall? We’ll talk suspects after every episode. My first instinct is that it was Tanner Bassett, and Kevin is purposefully taking credit for it, possibly even just for the social fame that will result, possibly to protect his friend. After all, the one who smelt it dealt it.
- Pause on some of the emails that Peter receives with ideas for a second season and you’ll see recent chats from Gabi and Dylan. It’s nice to know they’re all still friends.
- If you’re wondering if there is a real Instagram account for @TheTurdBurglar, the answer is, of course! As of this writing, it has only one post, but it references Chronicles 2:15, which reads: “And day after day you yourself will suffer from a severe illness, a disease of your bowels, until it causes your bowels to come out.” One of the responses reads, bluntly, “stop making them shit bruh.”