American Vandal season 2 reviews

The first season of American Vandal took us all by surprise. A show that appeared to be nothing more than a surface-level, stylistic joke poking fun at the popularity of true crime documentaries proved to be so much more than that. It was a hilarious satire, yes, but it also became an unexpectedly powerful exploration of how a person functions after society leaves them behind, and an insightful look at the modern high school experience. And now it’s coming back for a second season.

American Vandal season 2 reviews have started to arrive, and you can find out what critics are saying about the new episodes below. Does it live up to season 1?

The thrust of season 2 involves young documentarians Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) driving from San Diego to Seattle to solve a new case: they must uncover the identity of “The Turd Burglar,” a devious prankster who caused a pants-crapping epidemic known as “The Brownout” at a Catholic high school.

Daniel Fienberg at The Hollywood Reporter says the new season is “more ambitious”, but also less funny and far darker than the first:

Unlike the dicks in the first season, which remained in the realm of juvenile and cartoonish, the poop in the second season is concrete and confrontational. It’s always safe to find frivolous a discussion of whether or not a perfectly illustrated animated penis requires pubic hair, but when explosive diarrhea goes from something people whisper about in embarrassment to something depicted onscreen in some detail, you’re forced recognize that what feels like a prank is really a poisoning, a multitiered health catastrophe and something with consequences that could be expected to go beyond school censure. No amount of analysis could turn dick-drawing into something serious, but American Vandal is quick to chill your chuckles this time around…

Some new characters are introduced with traits encouraging you to mock them, including Kevin (Travis Tope), with his love of ritualized tea drinking, and DeMarcus (Melvin Gregg), nationally ranked basketball star and genial jester.

Both characters and the situation around them get darker as episodes progress. Without ever committing entirely to parodying The Keepers, the series uses some of St. Bernardine’s Catholic imagery as the basis for suggestions of an ominous institutional cover-up, before moving into a bigger point about teen bulling and shame amid the performative popularity of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Andrew Husband at Den of Geek also had nice things to say about the new supporting players Tope and Gregg:

The stories they help flesh out, both in relation to and separate from Peter and Sam’s investigations, recall some of the “realer” moments that helped American Vandal’s first season rightly earn so much acclaim. Because it wasn’t just about figuring out who drew the dicks, but why certain people were blamed while others were flatly ignored. Considering the roles inhabited by the school outcast and the star athlete, and what each may or may not have to do with the poop pranks, Tope and Gregg’s work stands out.

So yes, much like its freshman season, American Vandal’s follow up will plague audiences with a whole new set of infuriatingly silly but necessary questions about poop, pranks and a cat and mouse game of whodunnit. Cat or mouse shit might even be involved, no less. But with its stellar ensemble of returning and new cast members and a solid writing ethos, chances are no one is going to mind. Even if poop is involved. (A lot of poop is involved.)

Steve Greene at IndieWire says that season two takes a little while to find its path, but once it does, it gets back to what it does best:

There’s some slight shaky footing early on as the show hovers between what it used to be and what eventually becomes. Navigating the new ground rules for how much recap conversation to give makes for some extra time at Peter and Sam’s new evidence wall home base (this time in a St. Bernardine student’s living room). There’s also an exponential increase in doc-style recreations this season to deliver vital parts of the story…

This show has an unmistakable ability to identify what means most to a student body in time of crisis. “American Vandal” assembles another group of students that slide right into long-established archetypes, but are always afforded a few extra character shades that let the show build out from a familiar center. Cutting to the core of all of these kids’ perceived identities (“theater kid who lives in the Friend Zone” is one particularly sharp blade), it’s able to cultivate a large list of suspects and witnesses that keep this mystery from being solely dependent on the final answer of who is responsible.

And finally, Matt Fowler at IGN is a big fan, saying that the new season is an improvement over the first:

Season 2 raises the bar, presents wonderfully layered and nuanced new characters, and hits you with some amazing twists and curveballs in the final two episodes. By the end, you’ll be angrily shooing people out of the room if they try to bother you while you’re watching because you won’t want to miss a beat.

This string of 8 episodes is everything you want from a sequel season. It’s new, but also familiar. It uses the blueprint set in Season 1, but adds interesting new variables and tweaks. You’ll still find the “wrongly accused,” the “top suspect,” a school cover-up, a bit of larger messaging about academics taking a back seat to athletics, and enough wildcard to make your head spin.

But mostly, American Vandal scores where and when you least expect it to. The mystery aspect is cracking, as you’d expect, but it’s when the veil drops and you see the human beings, the real teens, behind the labeling and the trope-y classroom cliches that you start to fall in love with the generational commentary.

American Vandal season 2 premieres on Netflix on September 14, 2018.

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