Since South Park embraced serial storytelling back in season 18, there’s been quite a bit of intrigue in seeing how the season finale could bring everything (or almost everything) together. Whether it’s Randy Marsh’s turn as Lorde coinciding with Cartman’s YouTube fame, or Cartman’s toxic relationship with Heidi intertwining with Garrison/Trump’s efforts to bomb Canada, the show has proven quite adept at having seemingly unrelated arcs converge in a meaningful way. “Bike Parade” was no different, as Season 22's finale sees last week’s Amazon takeover come quite close to doing our favorite quite little mountain town in, only to be thwarted by the undeniable Tegridy of Randy Marsh’s weed business.
Just when Tegridy Farms is about to close, Randy suddenly has a new influx of business from people who need to get high to relieve the stress that comes from not getting their Amazon packages. Suddenly, he’s doing better than ever, with the only problem being that he doesn’t have the means to get weed out to everyone (not with the Andersons violating the law by giving out unlimited supplies). To solve the problem, Randy and Towelie travel through town selling weed to the people via the e-scooters that terrorized everyone on Halloween earlier in the season. Trey and Matt have developed a great knack for re-integrating abandoned storylines into the overall arc, and this was another strong example. It makes perfect sense, and as the episode builds up, we see the weed reach more and more of the townspeople, setting us up for the final resolution.
While this is going on, however, the town is getting desperate, with Amazon appearing unstoppable. Steven continues scabbing at the plant, and now, he has to train the horrific mall creatures from last week’s episode (seriously, those characters really fucking startle me) to work at the factory. It’s not pretty, but the work is getting done. Soon, however, several other laid-off workers join Steven, because they either can’t resist their own urges for stuff, or they feel the need to give in to their children’s desires. Like last week, it makes the point that the consumer has become so desperate to consume as much as possible that they no longer care about the dignity of the workers. Beyond that though, it shows us a world where workers don’t care enough about their own dignity to fight for their basic rights. Not when their Prime status is at stake.
This brings us back to the story of Josh, the mangled Amazon worker who must be kept alive in a box, or else his entrails will spill out, killing him instantly. As the strike gains momentum, he becomes a prominent Marxist speaker, decrying the decadence of capitalism and quickly developing a following. Bezos recognizes the threat, and immediately wipes him out in what might be the most disturbing South Park scene that doesn’t involve a bowl of Mr. And Mrs. Tenorman Chili. Bezos tells the kids that the box contains parts for the bike parade, and they quickly tear the box to pieces with every bit of Josh exploding out. Usually, South Park’s villains—especially the non-Cartman ones—tend to just be ridiculous, extra-douchey parodies of themselves. Here, Bezos is portrayed as a sociopath of the highest order, who will spare no one in his quest for total domination. Just to bring this point home a little more, when Kenny abandons the boys’ bike-parade plans and becomes a socialist with his father, Bezos calmly says “Alexa, kill Kenny.”
The Amazon-ification of everything has left everyone devoid of Christmas cheer, and Santa briefly returns to save the day, but when he finds out that his good friend Mr. Hankey was exiled over problematic tweets, he becomes enraged, and tells the town to “have fun suckin’ Jeff Bezos’s dick, ya buncha cunts!” It was a bit on the nose, but after spending the whole season wondering if they’d at least mention the Mr. Hankey story again, this was a satisfying callback. Indeed, the boys try to rely on PC outrage to get the bike parade canceled, but thanks to Amazon’s dominance, there’s no little shops for them to get supplies for protest signs. When they try to march into the mayor’s office to plead their case anyway, they find that Bezos has taken her place. Here, things are at their bleakest.
Just when Steven Stotch is about to sell his soul one last time so that Butters can be fulfilled by stuff, Towelie shows up with his most important weed delivery yet. This sets us up for the townspeople’s final confrontation with Bezos, where they all agree that they’re not going to work for him anymore. Why? Because they’re all stoned out of their mind, and that allows them to unify against him. During “Buddha Box,” I mentioned that while it had some great moments, I would have liked to have seen it comment more on how anxiety actually does affect people. While I didn’t get the Cartman/Tweek showdown I was hoping for, I would argue this ending makes that point without explicitly saying it. What do we see a lot of in the last two episodes? Stress, which is basically Anxiety’s cousin. Stephen yells at Butters because he’s stressed. Cartman yells about shooting up the school because of the stress of Kenny abandoning the bike parade. Stephen sacrifices his dignity because of his anxiety over letting his son down. Amazon’s takeover is caused by the town’s collective fear. They abandon their core principles because the convenience of Amazon is always there to relieve stress. But what can cure stress and anxiety faster than all the Amazon packages in the world? A nice hit off a joint, of course. With the entire town high, they break free of Amazon’s grasp. If “Buddha Box” initially went too far in saying that anxiety wasn’t real, the last two episodes made up for it by subtly showing how it really can hurt people.
Of course, having Tegridy Weed save the day leaves us with one issue: the big corporation is thwarted by…well…the rise of another big corporation. Last week, I mentioned that “Something Walmart This Way Comes” ended by showing that big corporations are unstoppable because when you destroy one, another will inevitably take its place. This episode essentially ends the same way, but with the resolution being that it’s okay because everyone is stoned out of their gourd, and at least that asshole Bezos is out of town. It’s not the most satisfying ending, and Trey and Matt even lampshade that by joking that in real life, Tegridy Farms would likely be selling on Amazon. That being said, I don’t hold this against the episode too much because the last two shows are still a far more direct, detailed critique of American capitalism then I ever would have expected from this show. They clearly make the case that the best way for the people to fight off the worst excesses of modern capitalism is to dial down their desire for stuff, and value the dignity of the worker more (i.e. boycott Amazon) than their material desires. But since that’s unlikely to ever happen, hey, there’s always weed.
Season 22 will go down as yet another successful South Park season, and probably their strongest output since season 18. Trey and Matt were once again able to handle multiple story arcs taking on multiple current events, and having their plots intertwine seamlessly. Throughout the season, the show made the jokes about rooting for its own cancellation, but really, season 22 was proof positive that despite being one of the longest-running shows around, South Park still hasn’t lost its fastball, and continues to be one of the most cheerfully irreverent shows on television.
Season Grade: B+
- “Are you all high?” “No, why would you think that?” “Because I’m over here.” That was probably the hardest belly-laugh of the season.
- When Butters shows his elaborate bike display to the girls who were fawning over Larry, he literally peacocks, as the bike reveals a peacock design. This was so perfect. I’m kinda surprised South Park never did an episode mocking Pick-Up Artist culture in, like, 2009. There’s no shortage of material to draw from there.
- Greatly enjoyed the new version of “Colorado Farm” that ends the season. Maybe things aren’t perfect, but at least the citizens of South Park aren’t suckin’ on Bezosian dicks!
- How come we didn’t get a “you bastards!” after Alexa killed Kenny? Because it happened off-screen?
- Am I the only one who briefly thought the Cartman really was going to shoot up the school, and that that would be the final conflict?