Sunday, November 04, 2007

"How do all these eight year old kids keep breaking into the Pentagon?:" South Park, Season 11

Front loaded seems like such an easy criticism to hurl at a “trilogy,” but that is really the only adjective that fits. The Imagination Land Trilogy unfortunately all but ran out of steam before its end. Closing one of the largest spectacles South Park has ever conducted, episode III lacked a significant amount of freshness, and, instead, rehashed most of the previous jokes and plot threads with little to no (significant) plot advancement. Apparently, there just wasn’t that much story left to tell.

Sure, we got the conclusion. We got a glorious battle between the good and evil imaginary characters, ala Helm’s Deep; we got a resolution for Cartman and Kyle’s ball sucking war (Kyle had to watch his smiling, imaginary self suck imaginary Cartman’s balls); we got Butter’s becoming the savior of Imagination Land, using his imagination to summon all the fallen heroes to come back and win the war; we got Al Gore (brandishing his Nobel Peace Prize around his neck and a cape, no less) telling everyone that he was right about Manbearpig. However, surprisingly, there wasn’t really anything of note here to close the event. There’s climax and there’s conclusion; South Park seemed to skip the climax this time around.

The story started out with both focus and grandness. It possessed a strong sense of itself and a will to go the distance in regards to its own ludicrous plot mechanics. By the end, however, the story was simply spread to thin. Retreads had to be employed in order to fill in the holes. The result induced chuckles instead of laughs. This is largely disappointing seeing as the first chapter, and most of the second, provided some of the biggest laughs the show had produced in years. While there are certainly laughs in episode III, they are largely due to recognition of plot lines and rely heavily on the success of jokes in the previous chapters.

There is a tacked on bit at the end debating the need for imaginary characters in particular; how the strength of imagination and, ultimately, the things that we believe in can be more important than the real things in this world. Trey seems to contest, however, that, while imagination is a wonderful thing, we often seem beholden to our ideas and ideals about life to detrimental degrees. This is where the problem comes in, illustrated through out the preceding trilogy. It is an even-handed argument, like most South Park “messages” are, but it seemed a tad rushed in light of the smallness of the statement matched with the largeness of the trilogy.

This trilogy wasn’t a failure. Ultimately, it’s one of the better realizations of an idea that Trey has had in the show’s run. Did they “jump the shark?” I honestly don’t know. I don’t usually look at shows in that regard. However, if I did…South Park probably “jumped” many “sharks” in the last several years alone. What do they give a fuck? Season 11, as a whole, has been one of the funniest and most original seasons in the show’s run. While this particular episode seemed to lack utter perfection, you have to realize that South Park cannot be viewed in such a way. I mean, at one point, Cartman dressed himself up as the Pope in order to receive his ball sucking victory. What a beautiful mess.

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