There is always a certain amount of joy that comes with reviewing a new season of South Park. For the most part it’s because it’s the easiest show to dissect its intent both comically and commentary-wise. The pop culture melee that each season takes in a timely fashion is always quite astounding but you never know what’s next or what turn it will take. It’s been almost a full year since Season 16 was capped off with the wonderful “Obama Wins” and in that time so much has happened that the absence of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s greatest creations has been felt. So finally we get “Let Go, Let Gov” and despite some rather entertaining laughs and interesting plotting it’s not the freshest idea the show has concocted leaving the viewer a bit let down.
What is surprising is the lack of timeliness in the pop culture cues taken here. Sure, Eric Snowden is relatively fresh but still not fresh in the sense of how the show handles an episode with only 6 days to make it. Even the amazing call back to the Alec Baldwin homophobic rants is still 6 months too late in comparison so timeliness isn’t helping here leading the viewer to figure out the path long before the episode ends. Cartman being used as a pathway of critiquing the NSA scandal is well orchestrated if only for the message within; that people are so concerned about the government spying on them yet keep all their vital and private information out in plain sight. It starts out great with Cartman’s open phone chats and constantly referring to them as “private conversations” despite it (Side Note: I would pay good money to see a puppet show of 1984.)
The episode falls short for awhile mainly around Butters and his plot involving the DMV. It feels unique strictly to Butters but it doesn’t hold many laughs and the stereotypical Jahova Witness helpers are rather insulting and dull. Once Cartman joins the NSA the plot picks back up for a bit especially when all the NSA workers keep reporting of mundane security checks through email and twitter. The pay off of Santa being the reason the NSA knows where everyone is is clever but rather a throw away idea in the end. Unlike past plot twists (crab people, I’m looking at you) it doesn’t deliver a big laugh and ultimately doesn’t mean much. The moral is written throughout the episode and by the time you reach it you can easily cut out the last few minutes of the episode. Even the news report of all the public service organizations being shut down for child molestation felt forced and unwarranted.
The thing that really hurts this episode isn’t just the timely aspect of the plot but the overall lack of comedy which mainly comes down to a series of one liners. The Alec Baldwin running gag did work rather well and compared to some running gags it isn’t run into the ground as badly as one would think mainly because they freshen it up every time and release it at unexpected points. Despite this the jokes and the plot don’t balance themselves out well and we are left with a rather limp episode.
For the first time in a long time South Park comes off overly preachy and sadly “Let Go, Let Gov” suffers for it. While some of the observations are very wise and poignant as they tend to be on this show it doesn’t bring a large collection of laughs or reason behind it. This isn’t a cause for alarm about the quality of the show. South Park always works best when it’s topical and on a strict deadline so with 9 episodes left this season, we will no doubt have much to laugh and talk about.
All Images Credit: Comedy Central