SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not watched Season 2 of “American Vandal”
“American Vandal” is back for more mockumentary greatness. While the first season of the show asked America “Who drew the dicks?” the second season, which launched on Netflix today, dares viewers to unmask a serial vandal known only as the Turd Burglar.
In the season, documentarians Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck) travel to an elite Catholic prep school in the Northwest after the Turd Burglar pulls of a series of pranks that include dosing the cafeteria lemonade with laxatives and spraying a pep rally with dried cat poop.
Series co-creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault and showrunner Dan Lagana spoke with Variety ahead of the season premiere, in which they discussed how they continued their approach from Season 1 of designing the mystery first and filling in the comedy later.
“This season’s mystery is so much more intricate,” Lagana said. “I’d say we dedicated even less time to comedy and more time to just making it as compelling of a story as possible.”
According to Perrault, the new season also changed the way in which information related to the central mystery was delivered to the audience.
“In Season 1, there’s literally a line from Peter right out of the opening titles where he says ‘Here’s what we know,'” he said. “The biggest information dump of that season was the first half of the first episode telling everyone about the crime. For most of the season the question was ‘Did Dylan do this or not?’ In this season, in our world, Peter and Sam have crafted this story to deliver pieces of information to make the story as compelling as it can be. It’s just a different way of informing our audience with what they know and when they know it.”
Of course, a season based around poop has to devote serious resources to making its fake poop look as good as possible onscreen.
“We had a lot of discussions about it and there’s two types: there’s reenactment poop, which is all the slow motion stuff and looks a little bit less realistic…but then all of the found footage from the Brownout and stuff, we would just have our great production designer–he would send me an email about all of the different Bristol scale poops and we would try to mix it up and make it look like something that would come out of someone who had been given laxatives,” Yacenda said. “We had really long conversations about it, because if the poop didn’t feel realisitic the whole house of cards would crumble.”
“We had a great special effects team and special shoutout to the colorist too because not all poops look the same and color is a huge part of that,” Perrault continued.
In the conclusion of Season 2, it is revealed that multiple people carried out the various Turd Burglar pranks, but those people were being blackmailed by a former classmate who catfished them with a fake online persona.
“We had this idea for it to be a serial vandal kind of early on,” Yacenda said. “And the idea that they were all poop-related crimes was really dark and hilarious to us, the idea of the Turd Burglar being the central mystery was a lot of fun for us. When we talked about all of these different crimes and how they introduce all of this case data, it really felt thematically and logically that having multiple perpetrators was the best ending that checked the most boxes for us. When you’re trying to figure out who is the Turd Burglar, and it turns out its multiple people, it should be surprising but also the most logical answer.”
Like the first season, this season concludes with a serious message on the ways people use social media, both good and bad. The team behind the show said it was important they not simply do a show full of poop jokes that wraps up hastily with a moral about kids being online all the time.
“For us to finish a season and for our message to be ‘Social media is bad for kids,’ that just felt dishonest,” Lagana said. “The idea that our exploration was a little bit larger than that. Maybe as we evolve, it evolves with us. That was such a more interesting idea than being these old guys slapping teenagers on the wrist for being glued to their phones. It felt like a more compelling end and the right end to the story we wanted to tell.”