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TV Brew: South Park S21E5: “Hummels and Heroin”

Hmmmm. Almost, but not quite. South Park‘s defining feature is often its ability to bring together disparate elements of society, culture, and politics and mix them in ways that people wouldn’t have thought possible to great humorous effect. Last week didn’t really get there and the episode just sort of foundered. This week deals–no pun–in throwaway celebrities, the opioid epedemic, prison violence, and our tendency to throw away people who are no longer useful to us.

This definitely comes together much better than last week, which just sort of blurred together the slightly untimely topics of superhero film franchising and the closure of Circuit City all for the sake of launching South Park‘s new video game. This week is a little more relevant in that it uses comedy to skirt a serious social issue: namely, that we cast people away, often at great expense to do so. We put old people in homes and send criminals off to prison, and maybe both of those are socially necessary–but neither is really helping them, is it?

Stan raises the pertinent question of why, exactly, the family sent his grandpa off to what’s effectively a prison environment masquerading as endless television and visiting children’s choirs. (And in a weird bit of synergy, South Park ends up doing a cover of the same song Riverdale did on the same evening. It’s probably coincidental, but damn if that isn’t freaky if you watch both shows.) And on the side, why do we allow beloved celebrities to fade into irrelevance and tragedy? Of course, you have to dig through the humor to see that one–mostly, we get the ludicrously tragic displays of children’s mascots like Chuck E. Cheese and Peppa Pig overdosing on heroin at various children’s birthday parties.

This all climaxes in a “prison yard” confrontation between Stan’s grandpa and Mrs. McGillicutty, the prison boss of the retirement home. To be fair, seeing a geriatric club another geriatric to near-death with a bag full of Hummel figurines is the kind of shock humor that only South Park can get away with. But where the episode severely misses the mark is that it seemed to be going for a Harvey Weinstein parody, with one of the younger town kids, Marcus, investigating the extent of the Hummel-heroin smuggling operation and how society is just covering for powerful figures like McGillicutty. The episode notes that McGillicutty is powerful, yes, and she has many victims, but the problem goes much deeper.

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It’s just that the episiode then cuts to a Big Pharma closing gag, when everything about these final moments screamed Ronan Farrow and his Weinstein expose, and how Hollywood’s problems run much deeper than just one man, and how one of the major TV networks tried to kill it because of how deep they were in Weinstein’s pockets. This story is still incredibly raw and fresh, and South Park is often nick-of-time timely in editing its episodes to be relevant. Hell, they made a quick Weinstein joke last week, one of the few really standout moments of an otherwise weak episode.

So, not a bad episode as far as Season 21 goes, but definitely a “B” effort where some well-placed commentary would have turned it into an “A.”

Rating: Three Hummels out of Five.

Also, The Fractured But Whole game has released this week. Come see our 1st impressions of the game.

About Adam Frey (337 Articles)
Adam Frey is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. In the meantime, he's an attorney and moonlights as an Emergency Medical Technician in Maryland. A comic reader for over 30 years, he's gradually introducing his daughter to the hobby, much to the chagrin of his wife and their bank account.

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