South Park Season 20 Episode 10
The joke was on Hollywood telling us we better ‘member. The joke was on the rationality and the basic decency of the American people; Social media dependency; JJ. Abrams’ half-baked reboot; Elon Musk for thinking girls could be smart and funny; Chivalry; Denmark; and most importantly the joke was on us (Den of Geek, literally).
When the dream of reaching Mars imploded and the dust finally settled, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s best joke of South Park season 20 was on themselves. They’ve been saying all year that South Park had “Been There.” The last place to go was to watch their premise collapse under the weight of ridiculousness like a failed SpaceX test rocket, and try pass it off as start of the “post-funny” era of satire.
The finale, “The End of Serialization as We Know It,” won’t be ‘membered for how it landed a season-long arc. Whether it’s two episodes, three, or a full season, South Park has never done well by widening the scope of the series. That has less to do with the premise than it does them running out of steam, or lack of a plan.
I’d argue that season 19 wasn’t fully serialized, but the episdoes were thematically linked. What worked in spurts last season, one of my all-time favorites, was flat here, hence the episode title. Matt and Trey knew it, and they had a lot of fun saving a season that didn’t wholly work by stringing together a self-deprecating season finale.
The payoff wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped, but Cartman’s season-long arc is a brilliant commentary on the show’s 20-year track record of a complete inability to develop female characters. It led to one of my favorite uses of Cartman: make him overcompensate on the female character problem for 10 episodes by praising the new Ghostbusters and showering Heidi Turner with compliments.
Elsewhere, their two-season long Trump storyline is a win for their shoddy long-game record. They depicted a tweeting orange deciding to bomb Denmark on a whim.
Or after being egged on by his ex-boyfriend.
Like a little bitch president.
That level of pettiness is a real and unfortunate reality in this sick world. South Park made its mark with its uncanny ability to satirize current events and it does so again by chronicling the rise of Trump to a tee. It was pretty clear that the Garrison narrative was happenstance, that their serialized arcs were never meant to parallel real life so closely. Parker said in a panel discussion at Comic Con that they never thought the Garrison as Trump parody would continue into season 20 because they didn’t think Trump would get this far. They were thrown off twice, once on election night. They likely changed a good chunk of that episode. They rebounded as they always seem to do, and you can be assured that President Garrison’s penis will never be dry again.
What struck me tonight, though, was how South Park had fun playing off the intensity of satire. The Troll Trace Troll was a satirical extremist. Gerald was a misunderstood shit-talker. How you scale it is based on perception, and over the course of the show’s history, there have been times when people felt the show was going beyond merely “pointing hypocracises out in our society.”
But really, you can also do shit just to be funny.
Last season, Matt and Trey took aim at all the horrible things the town had done. PC culture forced characters to presume offense or fake empathy out of self-righteousness or fear of backlash. See: when Randy pulls the sandwich out of a cardboard cutout of a orphan.
This time around, they targeted the response to their satire, and in turn, themselves. Troll culture is about what it actually takes to get under people’s skin. See: Everything that happened in 2016 that got under everyone’s nerves, from all sides. The episode goes as far to make a literal formula of how to create an online uproar. Who knows better than Matt and Trey? This is peak South Park.
It’s a fascinating discussion to have in the middle of an episode they were trying to blow up. You were likely letdown if you had been popping those bittersweet Member Berries and wanted South Park to retread familiar plots and friends from its warm, fuzzed past.
Instead, you got a town preemptively praying for forgiveness for things they said online when a man revered for the nasty things he said while tweeting on the toilet will be leader of the free world in 2017. A second season in a row ends with a reset in South Park, but it doesn’t mean much. Garrison is president now. Women surely aren’t funny anymore. You can NEVER rely on the basic decency of the American people. And you can’t control how people interpret your satire.
Get over yourself.
Wondering if South Park is coming back in 2017? The show is already renewed for several more seasons. Follow Chris Longo on Twitter and let him know your thoughts on the finale!