American Vandal has graduated from dicks to turds. Literally. The mockumentary is in its second season on Netflix and, like season 1, season 2 is a true-crime mystery. Think Making a Murder crossed with Cold Justice and a little of the Hardy Boys tossed in.
However, there is one thing a lot of people (who haven’t made it to the end yet anyway) want to know: Who is the turd burglar? If you don’t want to get spoilers, stop reading. First, we will walk through all of the plausible suspects, and why each character might have done it, before the biggest spoiler will come at the end of this article.
In season 1, it turned out that the person the system thought drew the dicks didn’t draw the dicks – initially, anyway. The show was a statement on the fallibility of evidence and assumptions, including by law enforcement. Some people are just easy for the system to blame. Sometimes the evidence all points in one direction, but it’s wrong. However, season 2 takes things in a different direction.
Season 2 takes place in a private, religious school in Bellevue, Washington. The two high school documentarians who were the main characters in season 1 (Peter Maldonado, played by Tyler Alvarez, and Sam Ecklund, played by Griffin Gluck) are asked to investigate season 2’s central mystery: Who is the person who put laxatives in the school cafeteria lemonade, causing a massive “brown out” of frantically crapping students? (There were several other pooping incidents after that one, too, including crap being sprayed on the student body during a pep rally.) As with season 1, season 2’s genius is how perfectly it gets the high school archetypes right (in fact, it’s so believable that a lot of people think it’s real. Despite the social media posts that make it seem so, it’s not. It’s fiction. The show is a spoof that gets high school culture down perfectly.)
First, the possible suspects:
Kevin McClain (Travis Tope) is guy the system thinks did it because he’s confessed. That’s convenient, because the school and police officials are getting a lot of pressure from parents and alumni who aren’t too pleased their children took a dump in the school hall. However, things soon get more complicated when other evidence emerges pointing away from Kevin. However, he’s got motive. He’s the guy who acts like he doesn’t care if he doesn’t fit in because he knows in advance he won’t. Plus, people thought he crapped his pants in middle school, and he’s called the “Fruit Ninja” as a running gag. But was he really bullied? Like season 1, season 2 of American Vandal plays with the mind by showing how easily one can be convinced by evidence that looks legitimate when there are alternative explanations. Maybe Kevin was never bullied at all. Kevin, with his over annunciation and obsession with tea, grows on the viewer as the show progresses. He’s one of the few people who seems to really get it.
DeMarcus Tillman (Melvin Gregg) is, as several characters repeatedly remind the viewer, one of the best high school basketball players in the entire country. Thus, he’s the star of an athletic program that is the bread-and-butter of the high school. He’s a star athlete literally known as “Mr. Untouchable” who can pretty much get away with anything he wants and who seems to like and be liked by everyone he glad hands in school, especially his ever-present sidekick Lou. As with the other characters, Gregg plays Tillman so smoothly that you completely forget he’s an actor.
Lou Carter (DeRon Horton), the sidekick of DeMarcus, lives in the better player’s shadow and forms his two-person entourage since they grew up together in a poorer neighborhood than most people in school. How far will he go to protect DeMarcus and the gravy train that living in his reflection could someday provide?
Paul Schnorrenberg (Miles J. Harvey) is the most religious student in school. He reads Bible verses on YouTube videos, challenges the English teacher, and seems to think all of the other students are sinners needing repentance, which could give him motive to spike the lemonade.
“Diapey” Drew Pankratz
Drew Pankratz (Jonathan Saks) is the theater lover/drama kid who is constantly friend zoned but doesn’t seem to mind. Bizarre photos of him naked except for a diaper spread throughout the school.
Jenna Hawthorne (Kiah Stern) is so rich there’s a bust of her distant relative in the school, and her family’s company is supposedly worth a billion dollars, but she’s endured her share of scorn in school after it was revealed she faked a friendship on her too-perfect Instagram page with Kendall Jenner. That might give her motive.
Chloe Lyman (Taylor Dearden) offers the documentarians evidence that, maybe, DeMarcus did it, and she’s the one who has asked the documentarians, Peter and Sam, to come to Bellevue and investigate whether Kevin McClain, her old band friend and Angry Birds playmate, might have been framed.
Mrs. Cathy Wexler
If she wasn’t involved in the crime (which seems doubtful), she was clearly involved in a cover-up. Mrs. Wexler (Barbara Deering), the dean of students, seems way too determined to make sure Kevin McClain takes a quick fall, even if there’s strong evidence that maybe he didn’t do it.
Tanner Bassett (Jay Lee) is Kevin McClain’s best friend, and he’s the one who pointed the finger at Kevin to the cops (you know what they say about the person who points the finger). He was part of Kevin’s pretty awful middle school band (they wore horseheads), and he’s angry at him because he thinks Kevin’s the one who called the cops on a student party called “skip day.”
Various Smug Teachers & Coaches
American Vandal always has teachers who fit various archetypes and seem somewhat malevolent. In this season, there’s Mrs. Montgomery, the Kurt Vonnegut-obsessed English teacher; Mr. Fernandez, the teacher whose selection as a chaperone to a school charity mission in Costa Rica seems suspiciously rigged; and Mr. Gesualdi (Tyler Lamb), who kicked a student, Greyson Wentz (Jeremy Culhane), out of school when he was caught writing offensive tweets on school computers. Coach Devlin (Tim True) seems way too quick to cover for DeMarcus.
The “hot janitor” and female student Snapchat favorite suddenly disappeared from school, and no one knows why. Peter and Sam find him living in a trailer in the woods where he happily grows magic mushrooms.
Now the big spoiler: Who did it? Who is the turd burglar?
All of them – and, in a way, none of them. The person who orchestrated it all turns out to be Greyson, who catfishes four students and one teacher (DeMarcus, Jenna, Drew, Kevin, and Mr. Gesualdi) with the photos and videos of a hot college girl he swiped when he was fixing her cell phone at a stand at the mall.
It turns out that loneliness and a desire to have an authentic relationship is a trait that exists in everyone – from the star basketball player to the rich kid to the theater kid. Faced with blackmail over embarrassing photos and videos, DeMarcus, Jenna, Kevin, and Mr. Gesualdi agree to follow Greyson’s instructions to perform the poop-filled pranks.
The series still manages to accomplish what the first one excelled at: It makes you realize how easily you can be swayed into believing for sure that this person or that person did it because it seems like they did, or they seem like a person you think would do something like that, while not properly appreciating that there might be alternative theories for each piece of evidence. It’s a reminder that we should take due process seriously, check assumptions at the door, and avoid rushes to judgment. The system doesn’t look great here; it’s invested in cover ups and protecting the wrong things and people, and it’s almost impossible for an actually innocent person to fight. The school system and police system conspire to not care whether an innocent guy takes the fall – even if they end up being both right and wrong at once in the end.
In a way, this is Breakfast Club for a social media age: A group of kids from different backgrounds ends up realizing they aren’t that different after all. Loneliness, after all, is a human need.