I *just* finished season 2 of American Vandal and I’m here to say: you should too, if you for some reason haven’t already.
“Why do I like this so much?” I was wondering to myself throughout the whole experience. The final episode really made it clear: this show is emotionally intelligent in a way a lot of TV just isn’t.
There’s also the fact that I find a lot of “true crime” documentaries tasteless and sometimes outright harmful, that I used to watch them anyway and feel skeezy afterwards, that with only a rare couple of exceptions I really wish I’d never watched them and won’t watch new ones unless they’re thoroughly vetted by someone else, I guess. And American Vandal has the same tropes, music choices, aesthetic, and manages to show them all up, which is a lot of fun.
But really, it’s the emotional intelligence. Lately, I’ve been watching a few old episodes of The Office where our favourite characters are actually kind of awful. It’s not always, of course. Jim and Pam are usually kind people and easy to like. But I do keep coming back to the Amy Adams character from seasons 1 and 2 in particular. I can’t remember her name, because, I don’t think the show really wanted me to. I do think the part where Jim is excessively mean when he dumps her is supposed to show that he’s not perfect, but ultimately that episode oozes with syyyyympathiiiiize with poor, friend-zoned Jiiiiiiim and it, uh, works. I do feel bad for him. But knowing it all turns out fine in the end really contributes to watching how Amy Adams’ character is belittled in small ways, how Pam seems to be nice to her but is actually not nice at all, how she smirks privately because she likes Legally Blonde even though Jim has just told Pam it isn’t worthy of being on anyone’s top whatever list, and feeling kind of gross about it.
Happily, American Vandal will show something kind of gross and eventually, or, almost immediately, call it what it is. In season 1, one of the “filmmakers” gets “put on blast” amazingly. It was an amazing moment on its own, made just a little better because I wasn’t expecting it. TV usually allows protagonists to get away with callousness and unthinking dismissals of other peoples’ humanity, but here, not so much. There are always consequences when people do that, even if it’s the “filmmakers” themselves. I don’t want to go into specifics because I think you should just watch the show, but, it’s good stuff.
Season 2 is bigger and smarter even than season 1, and the final episode is a 40-minute long gut punch of a reveal, culminating in a little monologue about social media and Gen Z that is, by far, BY FAR, the smartest thing any TV show or even news media has ever said about either of those subjects and the undeniable link between them.
You should watch it.