It’s back. It’s finally back.
If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of South Park. Unlike the other 90s and 00s cartoons that have either died off, faded into obscurity or become shadows of their former selves — I’m lookin’ at you, Homer — South Park has maintained a level of comedy and quality unlike any other show I’ve come across.
To be so excited for a season 22 of South Park is quite an achievement for the creators. Sure it might not have the following it once did, but it’s still much-loved by fans and never fails to offer up something worth watching.
But is it still worth watching? Season 22 episode 1 kicked us off the delightfully titled ‘Dead Kids’. 21 years on and nearly 300 episodes in, have Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought the series back once again in good form, or is South Park finally on the way out?
What Happened in South Park: Season 22, Episode 1 – Dead Kids?
South Park’s first episode of season 22 follows two major plot threads:
The Primary Thread:
Randy attempts to manage an ‘out of control’ Sharon Marsh as she fights to put a stop to the school shootings that are plaguing the town. In typical South Park fashion, the show effectively satirises an important issue by adjusting the perspective from which we view these events. As we’ve seen many times before in South Park, one character holds a genuinely reasonable viewpoint — in this case, Sharon being upset by the shootings — while everyone else holds onto an idea that would in reality be considered insane, but in the show is normalised. In this instance, everyone has become pretty used to the shootings and don’t seem concerned that their children are being killed. The switch in tempo between what makes sense and what doesn’t results in some brilliant comedic moments that prove Parker and Stone haven’t lost their ability to tap into dark humour with brilliant effect.
The Secondary Thread:
After failing a maths test in which he cheated off Token, Cartman discovers he was sabotaged. Feeling hurt and betrayed, convinced it’s because he didn’t like the movie Black Panther, Cartman begins his quest to figure out why Token set him up to fail. This is yet another masterstroke of Parker and Stone, because it presents them with the opportunity to showcase Cartman’s hysterically misguided concepts of culture. Racially-charged humour done right can provide a shock value that is hard to achieve in the modern world without just being blatantly offensive. In South Park, season 22, episode one, the creators manage to find that balance of mixing controversial ideas with genuinely funny moments.
It’s All Political
Once again, South Park is taking aim at the political landscape of modern America. This episode did three things for comedic effect. It normalised public shootings and it presented contrarian viewpoints as nothing more than emotional outbursts. It also victimised the white man, currently at a time in American history where there are a lot of controversies surrounding such themes — which we won’t be getting into here!
South Park is a show that is not afraid to satirise unsettling topics or controversy and often actually offers up compelling ideas about the insane politics in the USA — if not portrayed through bizarre and over-the-top stories. But, it is this obsession politics that keeps the show comedically relevant.
If they carried on making fart jokes and swearing the South Park brand would have died out long ago, yet Parker and Stone have tapped into a well of comedy gold when it comes to effectively ripping on the fragile state of their own country. It’s sort of tragic in a way, but that works for us, cause damn it’s hilarious.
I’d love to see them take on Brexit.
Well, given the great start they’ve had with South Park season 22, episode 1, Dead Kids, we can only expect that the show will go from strength to strength. Carrying on with their political satire is definitely working for them, and we expect more hilarious takes on the goings on of the nation of America over the coming months.
It also seems like Cartman may have a series-long plot line, or at least, one that continues for a few episodes, in which he seeks to track down more people who don’t like Black Panther and expose it for the bad movie that he believes it to be. This will undoubtedly offer up more opportunities for some brilliant and racially-charged humour that is very much in Cartman’s wheelhouse.
I’ve seen this episode described as a tasteless parody of the current shooting epidemic in the USA. You could say that… But you could also argue that it’s a pretty poignant look at how people are dying and nobody is doing anything about it. That in itself seems crazy and craziness leads to comedic moments, which is why this episode works so well.
It might be a tough and raw subject matter, but the real world situation is so utterly insane that it makes how the show is able to handle it funny, mainly because it speaks to the reality that we live in and holds up that deeply unsettling mirror. This wouldn’t work if there was no truth to it, because it would just be silly and nonsensical. But there is truth behind it, which means Parker and Stone have been able to extract some of that classic dark humour South Park is famed for. They aren’t playing off the horrific shootings as funny, instead the reactions to them. The comedy comes from the people, not the events themselves, which is why we can laugh without feeling horrendous pangs of guilt.
Episode MVP: Tie (Randy and Cartman)
- Rating: 9.5
- Best Play: Turning Up at Token’s House
- Best Line: Family Black Panther Discussion Night
- Rating: 9.5
- Best Play: Handkerchief Period Charades
- Best Line: His Entire Song
Honourable Mention: Hall Monitor Butters
James is THG’s technophobic TV nut, movie addict and theorist crackpot. He’ll be bringing you features, insights and incoherent ramblings on all your favourite and least favourite shows and movies.