A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article about how this season of South Park was taking some really exciting risks and how those risks were paying off in a really big way. But after watching the latest episode, I have to rescind that article. This season isn’t exciting. It’s fucking thrilling. Watching the show I’ve loved for well over a decade morph into what it’s becoming is one of the most gratifying and, yes, thrilling TV experiences I’ve ever had. There’s still two episodes left in the season, and if they make them half as good as “Sponsored Content,” we will have possibly the best season of South Park yet. South Park is famous for the quick turnaround the writers have episode to episode. They have six days to write, animate and voice half an hour of pointed, timely satire. But after watching this latest episode, I don’t understand how this whole season could have been unplanned. Even with two episodes left, things are starting to fall into place in a very intriguing way.
I should back up.
This episode follows Jimmy, our handicapped stand-up comedian friend, as he butts heads with PC Principal over the use of the word ‘retarded’ in the school newspaper, which Jimmy is the editor-in-chief of. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Basically every important character of the season made an appearance, and it looks like we’re headed into another three-part finale, something the show has done for the past few seasons. And I’m so excited to see how all this plays out.
Here are some thoughts.
1. We (finally) got to see PC Principal off guard
The episode starts with PC Principal storming through the halls, demanding to know who signed off on the use of the word ‘retarded’ in the school newspaper. “I’ll break his fucking legs!” he screams at a bored looking Kyle. “Who was it!?” Kyle points off screen to… Jimmy Valmer. Whose legs do not work. For the first time, PC Principal was speechless. Here he was, trying to play PC police with the word ‘retarded,’ and accidentally committed the dreaded “micro-agression.” It was great to see him flustered for once. And it only got more pronounced as the episode went on.
2. There’s echoes of the college campus debate
At Yale University, The University of Missouri, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, Claremont McKenna College and many other institutions of higher learning across the country, the debate between the right to free speech and the protection of the marginalized is raging. South Park is taking a clear stance here. Though it might be a tad reductive, the point seems to be that you have the right to be offended, but you don’t have the right to silence anyone else. That’s always sort of been the role of the show. To say the things everyone else feels like they can’t, while still trying to get at what it means to be a good person. It was great to see that debate played out in such a literal way, and especially to see PC Principal clearly losing the fight.
3. The frat is back!
After the pilot episode, the PC frat that PC Principal was a part of disappeared into the newly progressive South Park. But now they’re back in a big way. With their hilarious overbites, their sexual consent forms (for both vaginal and oral sex) and their “pussy crushing” bravado, the frats boys return is welcome and hilarious. Watching them agonize over why they are suddenly being marginalized is great. Hopefully, they’ll be a big part of the next two episodes.
4. “There’s a war coming”
PC Principal has decided he’s going to replace Jimmy on the newspaper. Who’s he going to replace him with? Why, none other than Jimmy’s arch nemesis, Nathan, who is… uhh… I’m not sure, he might have downs syndrome? Anyway, when Jimmy confronts him about why he’s pretending to care about the use of the word ‘retarded,’ he responds with this ominous retort: “there’s a war coming.” I don’t care what genre you’re working in, when that phrase is used, it will inevitably send a shiver up my spine. What will the war be? Between PC and free speech? Between the police and ninjas? Between Mr. Garrison and Hillary Clinton? Oh, right I forgot to mention…
5. Hillary Clinton vs. Mr. Garrison
Apparently in this timeline, the two political parties have already chosen their nominees. One is obvious: Hillary Clinton. The other? Mr. Garrison. Who’s his running mate? C’mon that’s an easy one. It’s Caitlyn Jenner, of course. Watching the two of them hold a debate and seeing Caitlyn Jenner say that Clinton looks like “a donkey shit on her face” was glorious, non-sensical lunacy. And of course, she has her “buckle up, buckaroo!” moment where she runs over about ten people with her car. Oh, Caitlyn. What are we going to do with you.
6. Jimmy is the perfect hero for this story
Jimmy is perhaps the only South Park character whose values have not changed since the show started. Being a comedian (and an editor now, apparently), he is fiercely defensive of free speech. So it makes sense that he would be the one to take up the mantle against PC Principal and Sponsored Content (ads that are made to look like articles). And it makes him perfect to discover the shocking reveal…
7. Principal Victoria?! Officer Barbrady!?
After Mr. Garrison finishes his debate, Principal Victoria, ousted by PC Principal and absent this whole season, emerges from the shadows (literally). She’s walking with a cane now and she has something very important to tell Mr. Garrison. But we don’t find out what it is. Also, Officer Barbrady shows up to shoot a guy in the head.
8. I wonder if Geico signed off on this?
The guy who gets shot in the head is an exec from Geico. He visits Jimmy to try and convince him to use sponsored content in his newspaper, but pulls a gun on him when he refuses. But Barbrady comes to the rescue and saves Jimmy. “Come with me if you want to live!” he shouts and the two scurry away to a secret facility, where a guy played by Bill Hader tells Jimmy a little bit about what’s going on.
9. Holy shit, Leslie
The old newspaper men (think Mad Men) have gathered together to recruit Jimmy. For what, it’s not entirely clear. But they’ve recruited him because he has an uncanny knack for knowing when an article is real news or sponsored content. Which leads to a shocking revelation: Leslie, the girl who’s been shouted at all season, is an actual, sentient ad. “Does she know!?” Jimmy demands the ad men after talking to her. Apparently, she does not. But her connection to PC Principal is revealed when we see an ad for State Farm with him pushing Leslie on a swing. WHAT!? WHAT IS HAPPENING!? Seriously, there seems to be so many possibilities for this finale. I’m so excited to find out what happens.
10. The boys weren’t around at all
I really hope they get to play a role in the final two episodes. It would be a bummer if they ended being side characters for the three part finale…
Tags: Comedy Central, jimmy, south park, sponsored content