This South Park review contains spoilers.
South Park Season 23 Episode 5
What’s fun about South Park Halloween episodes is how (not unlike The Simpsons before them), they take Halloween pretty seriously. And by that I mean they usually let the social commentary fall by the wayside and go all-in on the spooky tropes and gore. I’m happy for South Park to do this kind of thing every so often because, after all these years, the satire can get awfully labored at times, with episodes awkwardly shoehorning in current issues in an effort to say something about them, however confused or vague. Plus, South Park has done straightforward Halloween stuff really well in the past; the original Halloween episode, “Pinkeye,” is still a classic and one of the best of the first season.
Following in the tradition started by “Pinkeye,” “Tegridy Farms Halloween Special” is all silly Halloween fun and no social commentary, but the thing is, “Pinkeye” had a solid, funny premise, while this one has two lame, boring ones.
One plot follows Butters, who’s been saddled with a curse that means a mummy keeps showing up at inopportune moments to scream at him and generally wreak havoc. The weird comedic angle the episode goes with is to reimagine the idea of a mummy’s curse as a dysfunctional interpersonal relationship between the mummy and Butters. The mummy is bipolar or something, texting Butters innocuous selfies and then turning up to scream at him in person. Though he never speaks while onscreen, the mummy is evidently also talking shit about Butters behind his back, causing his friends and the rest of the town to always take the mummy’s side.
This is the entirety of Butters’ storyline. It’s just the mummy yelling at him and everyone else gaslighting him into believing he’s the abusive one in his relationship with the mummy. South Park regularly goes with this approach of picking a gag and then just hammering that gag into your head for the entire episode. Unfortunately, if you don’t find the premise of the gag funny in the first place, you’re just bored, and Butters having a dysfunctional relationship with a mummy was dead on arrival for me. Archaeologist Butters was cute, at least.
Sadly, Randy’s plot also runs with a gag that isn’t funny from the start. Randy keeps on mentioning the Tegridy Farms Halloween Special. This is effectively the same joke they did two episodes ago in “Shots!!!” where Tegridy Farms had made $300,000, giving Randy an excuse to keep mentioning the number 300, a reference to the fact that it was the 300th episode. Not that this was all that hilarious, but all the 300 nonsense felt more tied to the plot and Randy’s character. This time, he’s developing a “Halloween special” strand of marijuana, which feels like a much lazier way to the same joke.
And, frankly, calling it a joke feels generous. Why is it funny to hear Randy say things like “I’d like to see anyone compete with this Halloween special” and, at the end of the episode, “Did everyone enjoy the Halloween special?” Okay, we’re watching a Halloween special and a character in the special keeps mentioning it’s a Halloween special. Ha ha? I guess that’s a joke? Is it? How is it a joke?
What actually eventually happens in this plot is slightly more inspired than what happens to Butters, but it’s more accurate to call it a few clever bits in an otherwise ho-hum storyline. It takes a while to get there, but Shelly trying to sabotage Randy’s weed, only for it turn into overgrown monster weed (the reveal of which comes complete with a John Carpenter-esque synth soundtrack), is fun and surprising and made me think the episode was about to get a lot cooler. But the plot barely delivers on the promise of its setup as it quickly goes off the rails and then gets explained away as Randy and Towelie having pot-induced hallucinations. Basically, the story starts to pick up only to have the air sucked out of it almost immediately afterwards. And the icing on the cake is that it’s all capped off with a forced Harvey Weinstein anal rape joke.
As mentioned, there are a few other clever moments in “Tegridy Farms Halloween Special.” Shelly temporarily embodying a classic witch character, speaking in rhyme as she concocts a weed-destroying potion, made me smile. Plus, I laughed at some lines here and there, mostly from Randy (“Did you know… that Snoop Dogg smokes weed?”), when he wasn’t harping on endlessly about the Halloween special. However, although there were brief instances this episode fooled me into believing I was in for a classic South Park Halloween special good time, it was mostly just boring.
Joe Matar watches a lot of cartoons and a lot of sitcoms. He’s obsessed with story structure so that’s what all his reviews are about. Joe also writes about video games on occasion. He has an MA in English if you can believe it. Read more of his work here. Follow Joe on Twitter for more fun @joespirational!