Even in a year as unpredictable as 2020, South Park reminds us it’s one of the few things from the pre-COVID world that remains unchanged. Tonight’s hour-long special event is everything fans of the series could want/expect: 60 minutes of South Park going full South Park to address several things that have transpired since March 16th. The special covers everything from Trump’s uselessness to staying on Disney’s corporate neck to police violence. I have to say I felt like “The Pandemic Special” was a familiar distraction from a year that has been anything but ordinary.
It’s not at all surprising that Randy and his Tegridy Farms shenanigans are one of the main plot drivers. If Randy doesn’t do anything else, he will blend some of his best weed strains and call it a special. But it’s never that simple for Randy, who learns early on in the episode that he had a crucial role in the outbreak of COVID-19; it’s Contagion à la South Park. His involvement is precisely what one would expect from Randy, and involves a trip to China with Mickey Mouse and some bestiality, because why the hell not. That’s right, Randy had sex with a bat, but that’s not what created COVID-19. Oh no, what created COVID-19 had to do with Randy having sex with an animal that 2020 couldn’t even have predicted. I was more surprised at the random animal choice than I was about Randy inadvertently causing a pandemic because of his sexual exploits with Mickey Mouse in China. True to fashion, Randy does everything but take responsibility for his actions. He makes matters worse and does so with his DNA again; but this time, he mixes it with his pandemic special and sets free the animal needed for the vaccine.
The special wasn’t just about the exchange of bodily fluids. If fans were hoping South Park would poke fun at the hell that is Zoom meetings or the controversy surrounding wearing a mask or not, they won’t be disappointed. I appreciated the scene involving Mr. Mackey trying to conduct a Zoom meeting with all South Park parents about reopening the schools. The choice to reopen the school leads to the second episode plot driver, which involved how Eric Cartman and crew deal with going back. Eric is, of course, entirely against going back to school for all the usual reasons. He sings a catchy song about social distancing that anyone who has been finding ways to enjoy the new normal will appreciate. Stan, on the other hand, is having increasing difficulty adjusting but is reluctant to admit it until things get completely out of control. (I definitely made a mental note to check on any Stans I might know in real life.)
The special takes the opportunity to use the kids going back to school to touch on other deadly matters that have been going on right alongside the pandemic this year. Because the South Park police department has been defunded, the officers are in need of work, and end up replacing teachers in schools. The kids are locked down after Token is shot, and the police blame it on COVID-19 related reasons. The lockdown subsequently causes a cascade of problems and the final unraveling of Stan’s resolve, which opens the door for his monologue for everyone who believes that forcing everything to go back to normal will indeed make it go back to normal.
As you’ve probably guessed, everything doesn’t go back to normal. Things only get worse, but it’s all sadly believable. For instance, after the town descends into complete chaos because the kids broke out of quarantine, the police, who are now teachers, finally receive proper funding from the state but as police officers. There is also how actively unhelpful the president of the United States has been since the pandemic started, for reasons that work in his favor. President Garrison completely ignores everyone’s pleas for help, and when he finally does leave the Oval Office, it’s to destroy whatever hope there was for scientists to create a vaccine. Surprisingly, however, it takes almost 50 minutes before any mention of the panic buying of toilet paper—something I admittedly thought we’d see in the first 10 minutes, but it’s there, so I’ll take it. After all, it wouldn’t be a true pandemic special if there were no mention of toilet paper-gate.
While things were far from normal for the residents of South Park in this hour-long special, the show stays true to form, offering a surprising source of consistency. The world is in complete chaos, which couldn’t be any more on-brand for South Park.
- I’m surprised they didn’t cram in any celebrity appearances into this episode, because there were plenty of opportunities to do so.
- It was revealed at the end of the episode that Sharon does smoke weed, and I wonder how that will be addressed in future episodes.