Well, it finally happened. After seven weeks of misfires and mediocrity South Park found its footing again in last night’s episode, “Black Friday.” To say this season has been a rough one is an understatement. Recent seasons have not been perfect but they still have more good episodes than bad. “Black Friday” broke the current streak of less than stellar stories with this Game of Thrones spoof that hardly meandered in direction and certainly didn’t disappoint in comedy.
For the first time this season, we are ahead on a rather topical if limited subject. The war between the soon to be released X Box One and PS4 has begun. Black Friday is upon South Park but unlike previous years the stakes are higher as the South Park Mall is set to offer 80 percent off all merchandise. Security has been ramped up with new recruits including Randy Marsh who is volunteering for the holiday season. Meanwhile, the boys are prepping for this massive sale bringing together an army to up the chances of obtaining one of these new consoles at a low price. Things become split when the choice of Xbox versus Playstation occurs causing an internal riff between the boys.
I’ve never read a single book of Game of Thrones nor watched an episode of the HBO adaptation but I am fully aware of a lot of the jokes that this episode spoofs. The thematic nature of that show combined with the larger than life notion of Black Friday works very well here. It’s the worst time of year to shop and sadly in some instances the deadliest so why not up the ante here? A spoof of GoT is a few years too late for South Park but wrapping it into a plot of epic proportions is genius. The news cast interviews with various Mall patrons was amazing especially the family who lost a daughter the year before and vow revenge in such a calm demeanor. Everyone dresses in similar fashion to how they did in “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers” including Cartman who basically uses his Gandalf outfit here. Nothing though compares to Kenny as Lady McCormack which had me hollowing at his feminine body language.
This story much like “Guitar Queer-0” back in Season 11 finds a way to balance out the inclusion of both Randy and the boys into one storyline. The moral quandaries aren’t much here but the simplicity of them combined with how dramatic they are interpreted work well. Randy’s storyline is once again very over the top but quite entertaining. When his ulterior motive for volunteering comes out it makes perfect sense. There is one moment in this story that shows how great timing and the overall artistry of the show when Cartman and Kenny are walking through a garden talking about conspiring against their army only to realize this is in the back yard of an old man’s house.
It’s a great commentary on consumerism if you couldn’t figure that out. People need things at low, low prices but no one can tell you why , beyond a surface answer, as the boys do here. Touch pad controllers, ability to pre-order a game, and things of this nature are so minimal yet make all the difference to people who obsess over it. Treating Black Friday in the same way people treat the Iron Throne on GoT is brilliant and it shows how great South Park is when an idea is on the money, literally here. Considering how the quality of this season has been, this was old school South Park at its finest. There was also room for a lot of great throwaway gags like the inclusion of the Goth kids (much more fitting than the poor standalone story they got a few weeks ago) and Cartman’s disdain towards the Star Treks kids were all pitch perfect. The “Stop Touching Me, Elmo!” doll was an eye roller mainly because it’s outdated and a little too crass for its own good. This happens from time to time but better it be a short one off joke than something that overstays its welcome.
Everything pretty much works all around and judging by the cliffhanger I assume this continues into next week as well. That can be a bit tricky as multi-part stories have shown in the past. On one end you can get something as brilliant as Imaginationland but then get something as long and dull as the Coon arc. “Black Friday” was flat out wonderful and there is no other way to say it as both a fan and a reviewer. South Park may be having a rough year but this is a prime example of the show knowing what it’s doing without having to push too hard on the comedy and commentary buttons.