“South Park” and me has been an on again, off again relationship. When it first came on 20 years ago (holy crap, 20 years?), I fell in love, for all the wrong reasons. I was 9, and these kids on this cartoon, they were yelling, and cursing, were telling poop jokes, had gory cartoon deaths, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before! “The Simpsons” was close, but unlike that show, “South Park” was a show I wasn’t allowed to watch, but would totally sneak out of bed late at night to see the next episode, because I was a rebel, and this show was totally worth not getting enough sleep for school the next day!
Something happened after a few years into this relationship. I seemed to find the show less appealing, less funny, less charming. I’ve matured in my years, and I felt as though the show hadn’t. As much as I tried to make it work, at the end of the day, I stopped watching… and started watching “Family Guy” regularly instead. (We all do things we shouldn’t.)
It wasn’t until university, about 10 years ago when I saw South Park again, and boy, did it ever change! Some of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen were during those days. Episodes like Imagination Land, Lice Capades, Guitar Queer-O, Night of the Living Homeless (most of season 11 is gold actually), brought me back to the show. Showed me how much the show matured, how smart it was, and how clever it became with its irreverent humor! I wouldn’t miss an episode.
After a while though, it fluxed in quality a bit too much. Sometimes you would get a wonderful episode like “Make Love, Not Warcraft”, and the next week, you’d get an awful episodes like “A Million Little Fibers”. I lost interest again after a while, just catching episodes here and there, before dropping off again.
In the past year or so, I got back into the show, by way of “Book of Mormon”. It came to a local city, and I saw it, and loved it so much! I wanted more things like it, so I bought the soundtrack, and got back into South Park again! Watching recommended episodes, watching past episodes that I love, and playing “The Stick of Truth” multiple times. I’m back into the show now, and look forward to more!
This whole introduction it here to let you know that I haven’t watched every single episode, but I am a fan. I’ve missed out on the entirety of season twenty, which might be why there are a couple references that flew past me, but I’m going to do my best, as an on again, off again watcher of this show, to give you my honest opinion of season 21 of South Park.
Since there was no new episode this week, I’m going to give you little mini reviews on the first 6 episodes. These won’t be incredibly in depth, but this will just be a taste of how I feel about season 21 so far.
EP. 01 White People Renovation Houses.
This first episode of the season is, unfortunately, kind of a stinker. There is a lot of satire that attempts to be meaningful, with the Alt-Right rallies in Charlottesville being the main focus as rednecks with Tiki Torches walk the streets of South Park, claiming Alexa devices took their jobs, but the satire gets lost in the shuffle with too many other plot lines. Randy Marsh, A.K.A. arguably the best character in the show, has some humorous moments hosting his reality house renovation show, “White People Renovating Houses”, and the conflict that he has with the rednecks is inspired, but it’s never laugh out loud funny.
The plot line with Cartman, and his Alexa device mostly works. I love the parallels between Cartman’s relationship between his Alexa, and the kind of relationship he wants from his girlfriend, Heidi. Subservient is the key phrase he uses. It shows how much of a manipulative psychopath Cartman is, which is par for the course for this show. I’ve never met Heidi before this episode, but boy do I feel bad for her. She seems like a legitimately good girl, and to have Cartman as a boyfriend is legitimately frustrating for me.
Over all, this episode just doesn’t mesh as well as it should. It doesn’t say anything about the things that it wants to lampoon, and just comes off as a mediocre episode. The funniest thing about it is the meta humor of your actual Alexa, or Siri device adding “Big Hairy Balls” to your shopping list.
EP. 02 Put It Down.
While the last episode was a disappointment, “Put It Down” is one of the series best for me. It’s a super smart, concise and funny episode that exploits our fears of current day tensions between the U.S.A. and North Korea, displays Cartman’s never ending quest for everyone’s attention, and best of all, the ever-evolving relationship between Tweek and Craig. At times, the episode cane get incredibly dark, with Cartman threatening suicide (again, for attention), but being over ruled by all the kids dying from the towns real problem, distracted drivers (mostly distracted by whatever President Garrison is tweeting at the moment). But the episode is incredibly sweet with Craig doing everything he can to calm Tweek down, and by the end realizing that Tweek just needs to talk through his panic. This half hour has a wonderful build up, full of hilarious, and sweet moments, that ends with the final song, which is super fun, and catchy. It’s a must watch!
Ep. 03 Holiday Special
This is another really good Randy centric episode. Randy tries to and succeeds in cancelling Columbus Day in South Park, therefore taking away the day off of school the kids so desperately want. “Holiday Special” is a very good example of taking a smaller idea, and going crazy with it. We start from Randy telling everyone what a horrible person Columbus was, to him taking down statues, and shitting on statues, to being found out as a former Columbus fan, to him making out with a Native American so that he can use the DNA for a 23 and me like test, so he can identify as at least partially Native American (seeing other people identify themselves as 21% victim, because of their ancestry, is very funny). Randy’s evolution of insanity is one to behold. It’s full of clever bits (“In 1492, Columbus got us all a day off school”, and Randy not knowing what Indigenous means made me laugh pretty hard), and while not as great as the last episode, it’s still certainly worth watching.
Ep. 04 Franchise Prequel
In lieu of a brand-new video game coming out, of course we need a tie in episode! It’s a joy to watch the kids being superheroes, it always brings up what it felt like to make pretend as a kid.
The boys must stop a string of fake Facebook news about them, created by Professor Chaos (Butters), so they can get a superhero franchise going on Netflix. Eventually, it gets to the point where the town invites Mark Zuckerberg to explain Facebook posts, and immediately they regret it! He invades houses without permission, and eats all the food in their fridges.
The superhero stuff really works, but everything else is a mixed bag. I get that Mark Zuckerberg should be taken down a couple pegs, and needs to be more responcible with what goes onto Facebook as “News”, but I’m not sure why he has a lower quality, Kung-Fu like voice, and why is he so obsessed with his style? It’s funny for a bit, but it wares out its welcome after a while. That being said, “Franchise Prequel” really works, and is a fun primer before you play the video game.
By the way, you should play the video game, “The Fractured, But Whole”, it’s really fun! You can make your character into anything, so I made mine a Cis-Gendered, Gay, Native American Girl, who is a Chaotic Wiccan, because I’ve never seen that in a game before, and that’s pretty cool!
Ep. 05 Hummels and Heroin
I’m pretty sure I wanted to like this episode more than I did. I really like the idea of an old folks home being the drug dealers of South Park, but something doesn’t quite click. The war on opioids is a topic worth exploring, but I feel it’s not done as well as it could have been. Mascots all over town are overdosing on opiates, and Stan finds out that he’s been tricked into being the drop man in a drug operation, but way of the old folks home, and his grandfather. Stan later complies and helps his grandfather stay out of trouble, and help gather enough hummels so that he can be the top bitch of the old folks home. Hummels are traded for Opiates, so the home sacrifices their drugs so they can have hummels. It’s a weird plot, that’s a bit too convoluted to explain, and it doesn’t come together as well as it should, so it’s not even worth trying to wrap my head around.
Thankfully, there’s still some humor to be had, the boys doing a barbershop quartet of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” is a highlight, as well as Killer Mike doing an original song for the episode about the Old Folks drug cartel. There’s fun to be had, but I spend 2/3’s of this episode just watching, waiting to laugh.
Ep. 06 Sons a Witches
So, a bunch of the adult men of South Park, every Halloween, dress up as witches, and spend a week doing Jack (Daniels) and Crack (the drug), it’s about as super weird as you’d think. I really want to go all Sigmund Freud, and unpack what all this means, but I don’t have time for that! It gets weirder when one of the men get an actual book of spells and becomes an actual witch, and starts kidnapping children. The other witches feel as though they are being singled out as dangerous, and think that they are the targets of some sort of … what’s the word… witch pursuit thing!
Cartman, in his wonderfully awful, sociopathic ways, sees this witch as an opportunity to get rid of Heidi, instead of, you know, the rational and moral thing of just breaking up with her. The other kids agree that Cartman should just break up with Heidi, that poor girl, but Cartman just doesn’t work that way.
I kind of love this episode! It’s the sort of weird, and crazy humor that I love about this show. I especially love how nothing goes right for Cartman, even though the solution is super simple. His stubbornness, and the plans hatched out of said stubbornness makes Cartman as compelling as he is. You want him to fail, just as much as you secretly kind of want him to succeed.
Overall, it’s a very good season so far! “Put It Down” itself is totally justifies the existence of this season. I look forward to seeing what the next several episodes have in store for us.
Do you agree with my assessment of the season so far? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks much!