SOUTH PARK Season 19 Review
Note: This review does contain spoilers, however they should not detract from the reader’s overall ability to enjoy the episodes if the reader is not fully caught up. Shame on you if you haven’t caught up yet, though; get with the times.
As someone who has been an avid South Park fan since the age of 12, it’s been incredibly difficult to not constantly be saying “I told you so” over the last several weeks. The show has been universally praised this season, and admittedly this has been one of its strongest seasons in years, but in many ways the show simply fine tuned what it’s already been doing for a long time now. After 19 years, it’d be almost acceptable if SOUTH PARK had quietly thrown in the towel, still relevant for brief moments, but no longer the regular pop culture juggernaut that it once was. It’s what THE SIMPSONS has done in its twilight years, and no one holds that against the series.
Honestly, a reasonable style change at this point
Rather than fade into the background, however, SOUTH PARK managed to change up the format of the series entirely, crossing over into their first fully serialized season ever. With each episode being written and produced over the course of six consecutive days, the additional burden of keeping storylines consistent and crafting an arc to the entire season while still coming up with individual plots on the fly week-by-week is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The series has been making moves towards serialization for years now; characters have become more consistent and not simply sounding boards for different jokes, and the entire town has begun to be shown as a whole rather than a stock collection of loosely jointed locations. On an even grander scale, more and more episodes have been split into multiple parts, although this format can be traced back all the way to season 10, which had the absolute classic episodes “Cartoon Wars Parts 1 & 2” and “Go God Go/ Go God Go XII”.
The introduction of a new recurring character, PC Principal, proved to be the crux of really synthesizing everything the show has been building towards over the last several years, though. With this new character who aggressively needs to regulate the behavior of the rest of the town, Matt and Trey found an incredible way to really make the town feel like a cohesive community. SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH was famously the first time the entirety of South Park was mapped out, but this season is the first time where the whole town felt connected; something that happens at the school will affect how people behave at the new Whole Foods, which affects how people behave at the PC frat house.
By the time we got to the very end of the last episode, with the entire town pointing guns at each other at a gun show, we not only understood why they were there, we understood the motivations that had lead them there. To do that with the 15 or so characters the scene focused on would have been incredibly difficult for a feature film, and nigh impossible in a single 20 minute episode of TV. It’s a level of storytelling sophistication that deserves nothing but respect.
You gonna challenge that in the comments, bro?
On top of the excellent crafting of the storylines for this season, Matt and Trey also managed to weave some of their most coherent satire out of their entire careers. Their ruthless attacks on modern neoliberalism will no doubt actively change the way people enter into arguments, and hopefully cause some people to think twice before attacking others in a righteous rage of indignation. Their relentless pounding of Caitlyn Jenner as a public figure, combined with their perfect skewering of Donald Trump by equating him to Mr. Garrison, made both people look shamefully silly to be such a major part of our zeitgeist. Connecting a rapidly changing and ever-more baffling culture to the advertisements that secretly run our daily lives online was brilliant both in concept and through the BLADE RUNNER-inspired execution.
You’d really think the boys would’ve learned to stop playing ninjas by now, though
The last episode, in which every single person in South Park gets their hands on a gun and uses them to solve their problems, was nothing short of genius. Having children openly carrying guns, pointing them at their parents, only to have guns pointed back at them, thus forcing them to actually talk out their problems with their parents, was the funniest and most clever way to tackle the gun debate of anything we’ve seen over the last few years. When literally every man, woman, and child has a gun, there really is no need to shoot anyone, thus both making the same case as NRA nuts and undercutting it by demonstrating how silly it is in practice.
That’s exactly what this show has always been about, letting one side make their case until they look absolutely ludicrous, then turning the attention on the other side. Many people will criticize SOUTH PARK for being crude or for taking jokes too far, but oftentimes those people fall into one of two categories. Either they firmly agree with the side being skewered, or they don’t spend enough time listening to the opposing viewpoints to realize how insane some of their arguments really sound. SOUTH PARK is first and foremost a balanced series, a series that believes anything that’s taken too somberly has to be cut down for the good of mankind.
Kyle traditionally has served as the clear advocate for the good of mankind in the series. However, he was very actively driven into silence in this season, very much told to be quiet by PC Principal and the people that character represents. By the end of the season, even Kyle could not think clearly, driven to blindly following an ad posing as a cute girl and waving a gun around like everyone else.
Yes, this really is as close as SOUTH PARK gets to a stable, reasonable character
The world has truly lost its mind over the last year, and now more than ever we’ve needed a clear voice of reason to guide us through it all. Without someone to point out how absurd everyone is becoming right now, we’re only going to get crazier. As we hurtle towards yet another presidential election, we get more and more vitriolic. As our technology becomes more sophisticated, we continue to unravel worse and worse corruption, while simultaneously leaving ourselves at greater risk to be controlled by our technology. We attempt to force everything into a bright and shiny future while carefully ignoring our dark present. That’s exactly what this whole season has been about. SOUTH PARK didn’t need the world to go crazy to be good this season, South Park is always this crazy, it’s just that the world at large needed SOUTH PARK this season to stay sane.
Certain episodes of SOUTH PARK are available to watch through Comedy Central