Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

South Park takes on the smartphone age in another great Halloween episode

Illustration for article titled South Park takes on the smartphone age in another great Halloween episode
Image: Comedy Central

Throughout its run, South Park has reliably delivered entertaining Halloween episodes. From Randy Marsh gradually going insane, Shining style, in “A Nightmare On Face Time,” to the absurdity of “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery,” to last year’s excellent “Sons A Witches,” pretty much any Halloween-themed episode has been funny and inventive. That tradition certainly held true for “The Scoots,” which is the second-consecutive excellent episode of season 22, and a sign that this could prove to be the show’s best campaign since season 18.


“The Scoots” focuses on the recent phenomenon of e-scooters, which wreaked havoc in San Francisco earlier this year, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. No one knows why they showed up in South Park, either, but when the boys find them, they don’t question it, because they figure that if they rent them during Halloween, they’ll be able to trick-or-treat faster than anyone else. There’s just one problem: Everybody else has already thought of this idea, and naturally, everyone finds out when Cartman can’t keep a secret. With everyone having a scooter to get around, Halloween looks to be an all-out Battle Royale for candy. The only one left in the lurch is Kenny, who is too poor to afford the smartphone needed to rent a scooter. As such, no one wants to trick-or-treat with him. Kenny’s poverty has been played for laughs in the past, but here, it leads to a genuinely crushing moment. Who wouldn’t feel bad for a kid who has no one to trick-or-treat with? One of the most emotional moments in the show’s history came at the end of season 19's “The City Part Of Town,” where Kenny uses the money he earns working at City Wok to buy a doll for his little sister. There were certainly shades of that here.

Kenny finds an unlikely ally an Mr. Mackey, who questions where the scooters came from, and tries his best to get rid of them. Here, we get homages to both The Birds and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, as Mackey tries to get rid of all the scooters, but they all somehow not only return, but have found their way into his own bedroom. Mackey getting randomly angry about something has been played for laughs before, most memorably in “The Mystery Of The Urinal Deuce.” In this episode, though, he’s a bit more sympathetic, as the viewer is naturally led to share his concern about where these scooters came from, and what could possibly be done about them. When Kenny appears at Mackey’s door seeking actual counseling, they hatch a plan to render the scooters useless by dismantling the cellphone tower. The alliance between Kenny and Mackey works surprisingly well, even giving us a genuinely sweet moment when Mackey tells Kenny he thinks he would make a good counselor.

As this is going on, the town has found out about the kids’ plan to trick-or-treat using e-scooters, and are trying to get everyone prepared. Naturally, their solution is for…everyone to buy $6000 worth of candy. The idiocy of the adults is a frequently hilarious part of this show, particularly in episodes such as “Child Abduction Is Not Funny,” and “Something Wal-Mart This Way Comes.” Here, they don’t even try to fight the real problem, and just try to throw as much candy at it as possible. Even the Marshes aren’t safe, as the scooters have the capability to make it all the way out to Tegridy Farms. In a scene recalling the Black Friday trilogy, the citizens of South Park are about to be torn to pieces by candy-hungry children flying around on scooters. Just as everyone is about to run out of candy, Kenny and Mackey’s plan works, and the kids are forced to trick-or-treat like normal human beings, with Kenny once again being able to join his friends, and be their equal.

I’ll be honest; I get weary of critiques of the Smartphone age, because most of the points being made are pretty obvious, and they don’t tell us anything we aren’t already aware of. Yes, we’re on our phones all the time. Yes, that can have a dehumanizing effect. It’s not a terribly original point. So, why does “The Scoots” still manage to work so well? Because it focuses on comedy and characterization more than message. Yes, this episode wants to make a point about the degree to which our phones control our lives, but it mostly just wants to tell a story about a kid being left out on Halloween, and a counselor being tortured by seemingly magic scooters. The jokes are at the forefront, and the message actually resonates more because of the lighter touch.

With the one-two punch of this episode and “Tegridy Farms,” South Park is hitting the halfway point on a solid winning streak, and giving us ample reason to be excited for the second-half. After the meandering of “The Problem With A Poo,” the last two episodes have had sharp humor, and a notably lighter touch in making their points. Here’s to hoping the sure-footed vibe can continue for the stretch run, and South Park can deliver one of its best seasons since the show’s early-to-mid 2000s peak.


Stray Observations:

  • Near the end, we see a billboard advertising Mr. Hankey’s now-canceled Christmas show, seemingly letting us know that yes, the show will be returning to that plot later on.
  • I love how Cartman is a little crueler to Kenny for being poor than Stan and Kyle. After reaching new levels of evil last season, he hasn’t really been much better or worse than anyone else this time around. This seems to be the show’s way of letting us know that yes, he’s still the biggest asshole in town.
  • I live in a relatively small suburb of Buffalo. Lyft and Uber just got here last year. Good to know I have this to look forward to…
  • Pretty much every thing Mackey says is hilarious, but I got a particular laugh out of “I just hope the future isn’t scootin’.” Only time will tell.
  • What’s your favorite South Park Halloween ep? As much as I enjoyed this, mine is probably still “ A Nightmare On Face Time.” Randy is just so great in that one.