South Park: “Titties And Dragons”
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South Park: “Titties And Dragons”

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South Park

"Titties And Dragons" 

Season 17, Episode 9

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Tonight’s episode brought the “Black Friday” arc to a close so hilariously and brilliantly that it’s hard to believe there’s still another episode left in the season. There’s no way next week can top the last three episodes, so we may as well prepare ourselves for disappointment. But it’ll be well worth it. There’s something about these three-episode runs ("Imaginationland," "The Coon/Mysterion") that enable the writers to pull off something sweeping, engrossing, and, yes, funny. And all for an animated comedy with potty-mouthed children making dick and fart jokes that’s in its 17th season and has show its age more often than not in recent years.

As I went on at length about in my recap of “A Song Of Ass And Fire,” the multiple episodes give time and space for multiple character and plot threads to unfold all against the backdrop of a Game of Thrones parody that also throws in weird things like Princess Kenny’s anime scenes and scathing satire of the Black Friday chaos.

Specifically, this episode starts strong with the Princess Kenny scene that, in and of itself, is a great concept: giving those scenes over to full anime. The cut to Cartman hearing the story was equally well-executed. When Cartman changes his mind and tells his mom not to tell Bill Gates what he said, it’s a great call back. These are the small touches that make the bigger picture all the more fun.

The “Red Robin Wedding” is another great touch, one that not only continues the Game of Thrones theme/parody but sets up a character conflict that actually goes deeper than just wiener jokes and jabs at Prometheus. By the time we get to the now-traditional Cartman-Garden-Of-Betrayal talk, this time with Stan, there’s legitimate emotional investment in the Stan-Kyle friendship and the pain Stan actually feels in learning his best friend has planned to double-cross him. The show’s ability to inject a bit of soul is one of the best tricks the writers have pulled off regularly throughout the show's run. Beneath all the crude jokes and the potty humor, there’s legitimate heart that manages to be genuine and self-aware without ever straying into the maudlin.

But there’s that larger plot to think about, too, and the character stuff at the center works all the better because the overall story does. Whether its Game Of Thrones or Dawn Of The Dead, the references are on point and so are the jokes: Randy’s rant about his favorite characters dying is terrific as are the recurring jokes about George R.R. Martin’s obsession with wieners (and the way Martin drags stuff out).

That Stan-Kyle friendship issue comes full circle with the climax inside the Red Robin where everyone (including Evil Tattooed Bill Gates and the Sony CEO) descends. Things come to a head with both a traditional Stan Speech and a brutal fight between the rival tech figureheads. That there were multiple violent incidents over this year’s Black Friday sales only serves to underscore Stan’s points (and the carnage that ensues later inside the mall). And, thus, amid the parody and jokes, South Park also delivers on the satire.

That’s not to say I don't have a few quibbles. I understand there’s only so much you can cram in even over three episodes, but I was still bummed to see the TV station anchors mostly dropped from this episode. And the show had set up the ridiculous nature of Black Friday well enough that the inclusion of actual footage of Black Friday sales were too on-the-nose by half (and not even all that outlandish).

But those issues are minor, especially given the terrific scene that follows the shopping chaos: the boys wading through literal rivers of blood to obtain the sought-after Xbox Ones as the corpses of shoppers are strewn about, all set to the jazzy piano riffs from A Charlie Brown Christmas. That simple cue, that one slice of familiar holiday music, is better at getting across the message than any stock footage of crazed shoppers tearing each other apart. The boys’ eventual indifference to the console adds the perfect layer of disappointment, the emotional deflation that follows such a prolonged, drawn-out sense of hype, both in the holiday season and with television shows.

And this is when the writers’ gleefully deliver their darkest jokes of the whole run, disguised as a hammy promotion of the new South Park video game. We knew it was coming. Many commenters called it during the first episode of the three. But while it seems to just be a tossed-in gag, it also serves to deliver a bleak message: Just as we strive to get past the same bullshit year after year, the cycle is only going to continue. The sales that now start on Thanksgiving night will soon start Thanksgiving morning and then on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and so on.

You can think you’re better than everyone, seeing the marketing hype for the scam that it is, but it’ll still catch up to you, and no matter how much you trust the voices of reason, they have skin in the game, too, and will gladly backstab you in the garden as soon as they get the chance. And they'll laugh about it the whole time.

Happy Holidays!

Stray Observations

  • Another custom title sequence throws a bone (SEE WHAT I DID THERE!) to you fans of the wiener song.
  • The moment I realized there was going to be a “Red Robin Wedding,” my Grinchy geek heart grew three sizes.
  • I can’t help but love the self-referential way Princess Kenny dies… and resurrects.
  • Poor Butters and George R. R. Martin’s obsession with wieners of all kinds.
  • “Now if you excuse me, my lady, I need to take a shit.”
  • Of Bill Gates’ tattoos, my favorite was MS-DOS across his torso.
Filed Under: TV, South Park

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