South Park: “Members Only” Season 20 Episode 8 Review

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In the most ironic way, South Park might’ve gotten the short end of the stick in reacting to the election. As the first scripted series to really get a chance to have its say, last week’s “Oh, Jeez” captured the knee-jerk reaction many people had to Donald Trump’s surprise victory, all while trying to make this unexpected twist work with the narrative they were already preparing. But in the past week, SNL, John Oliver, and others got to have their say with more time to actually react. In a way, all the jokes have been made already, so opening “Members Only” with an obvious, though no less relevant, comparison between Trump and Darth Vader felt a little trite. It was amusing to see Trump’s signature hair lowered onto Mr. Garrison’s head just as the helmet is lowered onto Anakin Skywalker’s in Empire Strikes Back, yet also wholly obvious.

For the most part afterward, “Members Only” seems to get the season back on its feet, ditching a few character motivations in the process. Garrison goes around town bragging about his win and just generally being an asshole, thanking PC Principal for the ideas he brought about that secured his victory. It’s fascinating that this character South Park only brought on last season to poke fun at PC culture now resembles a way of thinking that alienated enough of the country, to the point where the ostracized people being put down by the “woke” rallied to elect a man like Trump. It’s a testament to this show’s perception of our culture that it already had all the pieces in place to make this point even when the unexpected happens. Zombie-Garrison from last week is gone, and now that he’s elected, it’s weird that he’s accepting of it, even bragging about it, when just two episodes ago he was begging the American people not to vote for him. But they did, and that’s reality. South Park has to lean on reality to make its episodes the most entertaining they can possibly be, so ditching Garrison’s campaign of sabotage might be best for now, even if it doesn’t make sense.

The President-Elect is later brought to the Pentagon to be made aware of an international crisis Denmark is preparing to unleash on the world. As the threat of all emails being leaked brings the entire world into a second Cold War, it’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying to see the show’s Trump surrogate in this situation. It’s a sobering moment that shows the dangers of our reality for the next four to eight years.

For that reason, Cartman and Heidi’s escape to Mars seems that much more appealing. That said, Butters joining in really didn’t make much sense. Like Mr. Garrison suddenly being okay with being president, member berries or not, this abrupt change in character motivations didn’t do well to serve the overall season arc.

But now the member berries are partying in the White House gleefully naming off every Star Wars character, creature, and ship they can think of. One thing the election last week proved is that the fear of evolution is definitely present in some parts of the country. The member berries turned out to be a perfect metaphor for that no matter what surprises our crazy country threw at this show. Now, with two episodes left, it’s time to wrap things up and try to make season 20 into a cohesive whole. Good luck Matt and Trey! Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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