Longtime fans, including myself, “stan” Stan and the South Park gang for always proving a point. Unfortunately ‘Dead Kids,’ the season 22 premiere, fell short in its damning statement about society’s ignorance towards school shootings.
The episode, which aired on Wednesday, Sept. 26, begins with the students struggling with a fractions lesson in class when bullets spray throughout the school. While a SWAT team scrambles to secure the area, the class proceeds unbothered.
The shootings continue daily, and Stan’s mom Sharon is the only person concerned. She desperately tries to make others react, while her husband, Randy, chalks up her concern to her period or menopause. Her peers follow suit and are more concerned about her hormones than the students’ safety.
Meanwhile, Cartman goes on an action-movie mission to figure out if Token is lying about seeing “Black Panther.” He casually dodges bullets spraying in the hallways to get to the bottom of the issue.
The episode jumps break-neck speed between Sharon’s “hysteria,” bullets spraying in the hallway, Cartman bothering Token and Randy reeling over Sharon’s period.
What went wrong
Typically, controversial “South Park” scenes are a set up for a strong political message at the wrap-up. ‘Dead Kids’ on the other hand, missed its chance to fully commit.
The subplots made a strong point about how jaded people are to gun violence. Unfortunately, they overshadowed the episode and dampened the overall impact.
It needs a sensitive material warning.
Frequent shooting scenes are uncomfortable and a very possible trigger for students who were victims of school shootings.
It’s wonderful that “South Park” tries to make a statement about ignorance to fans, but the show should remember some fans may be victims. People watch “South Park” expecting grisly scenes, but victims of gun violence at least deserve a trigger warning for this episode.
The writer’s hearts are in the right place…
There are moments in the show that clearly drive home the message. Sharon, in particular, shines with several hard-hitting monologues throughout.
“I want you to be ANGRY! Every day we hear about another school shooting,” she yells to a jaded crowd. “It USED to be a big deal! I WANT it to be a big deal again!”
But the ending needed work.
The episode falls flat with a disappointing ending reminiscent of a rushed essay closing before deadlines.
Spoiler alert: Sharon accepts that she is probably just hormonal, and that’s the end of the episode. Seriously.
The “South Park” creators began with a strong point but fell short following through. “South Park” should be wary not to fall in line with shows like “13 Reasons Why,” where shock value and sheer quantity of plot drowns out the intended message.
The issue could be writer fatigue. Like “Family Guy,” another long-running cartoon, newer episodes seem like the writers shoved too many pop culture references in a single episode, hoping something would stick.
Like a bodybuilder with sloppy form from following the same routine, “South Park” might benefit from a hiatus. The writers can reformulate and come back with a better action plan for tackling tough issues like they used to.
“South Park” usually nails societal criticism, but ‘Dead Kids’ fell short of the hard-hitting content “South Park” is capable of.