This South Park review contains spoilers.
South Park Season 23 Episode 10
Santa Claus is as old as South Park itself. Saint Nick first appeared in Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s underground short “The Spirit of Christmas,” the viral video that led to the creation of South Park—long before viral videos were even a thing. The concept of “Father Christmas” dates back to 16th century England. So you can forgive Kris Kringle if he’s a little conservative in the philosophical sense. In this modern age, the spirit of Christmas has yet again taken on new meaning in the town of South Park.
The South Park season 23 finale, “Christmas Snow,” sees Santa fighting the town not with his fists—Lord knows this version of Santa never shies away from a good fight—but in a battle of bureaucracy, red tape, and prohibition in a rather joyous special episode. Already a town full of drunks, South Park ups its alcohol consumption to cope with the stresses of the holiday season. It leads to increased drunk driving, and Santa makes a plea for moderation. It goes poorly. When has a rational person telling these citizens what to do ever gone well? Santa’s PSA leads to a brutal montage of the townsfolk wrapping their cars around poles and flattening children and small animals.
“Christmas Snow” flips the problems of season 23 on their head. Hanging the intro on drunk driving feels like an odd choice at first, but the episode blossoms fairly organically into a storyline that served both the season’s “episodic” continuity and the long history of the series. I got so used to strong first acts falling apart, that it was a holiday treat to see each story beat build on top of each other like LEGO blocks in this episode. In an uneven season, which was salvaged with three straight worthy entries, the finale prioritized story structure, yet still had time for plenty of silly fun along the way.
Whether it’s been through Mr. Hankey or Al Gore, some of the better installments in recent seasons have been South Park revisiting problematic areas with the help of a guest character. While the townsfolk are ticked off with Santa for the booze ordinance, he’s not exactly in danger of being canceled either. What I loved about the episode is how it’s somewhat of a full circle moment. Santa feels slighted by the town because they are prioritizing consumption over giving. He wants to restore the holiday spirit, something he was once accused of misappropriating from Jesus more than two decades ago in “The Spirit of Christmas.”
The special appearances of Santa and Jesus weren’t just a well-plotted callback. Much like the episodes themselves, the use of serialization was up and down in season 23, but Stone and Parker seem to find the point in an excellent episode starring Scott Malkinson last week. It was Randy’s Tegridy Farms that ran its course fairly early in the season. Giving Randy a hiatus, only to bring him back with a burly white beard, actually pumped some new life into the tired “Tegridy” jokes. Randy infusing the weed with “snow,” then not realizing cocaine was illegal, was one of the season’s best sequences. It provided three highlights: Towlie shrugging when Randy asks if coke is illegal, the montage of Randy lobbying to legalize cocaine and succeeding, and Tegridy’s “Farm to Nostril” commercial. Bonus points for Towlie being wrapped around Randy’s shoulders as he speeds across a mountain on a snowmobile.
I’ve been a big fan of South Park’s holiday episodes over the years and “Christmas Snow” lives up to the presents of Christmas’ past. Randy and Tegridy Farms were the ideal conduite to get us from point A to point C. In the final act, Randy, Santa, and Jesus look like they’re about to have it out. Family tensions during the holidays, in South Park or elsewhere, are undeniable. Ancient history or political ideology gets brought up and weaponized. The true spirit of the season can get lost. The trio ultimately realize that sometimes people can use an escape during what is billed as the “most wonderful time of the year.” Who are we to judge if that’s a favorite home-cooked family recipe, a special holiday cocktail to loosen everyone up, or Tegridy Farm’s non-marijuana Christmas Snow? In these trying, contentious times, we’ll take any miracles we can get.
Merry Christmas, loyal readers. Please drive safely. And if, IF, you chose to do recreational drugs this holiday season, at the very least, make sure it’s Farm to Nostril.