That was my immediate thought after watching Wednesday night’s midseason finale of South Park, titled “You’re Getting Old.” Never before — not even when Cartman fed Scott Tenorman’s parents to him — have I been so completely and utterly depressed by an episode of South Park. It felt like creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were speaking their emotions through the show, and what they had to say wasn’t good.
Take, for instance, Stan’s sudden affliction of cynicism. Suddenly, he realizes, the things he liked before seemed like “sh*t.” In fact, everything does to him, from the sun in the sky to the movie trailer for Mr. Popper’s Penguins — even the Police’s album Synchronicity (fun fact: my favorite album of all time) sounds like literal bowel movements. Stan’s lost his innocence with his tenth birthday, and it’s a sad event. His friends give up on him because he threatens (or just annoys) their rose-colored view of the world. In the end, Stan’s left alone, lying in his bad, depressed. That’s how the episode ends! It certainly doesn’t seem like a good omen for the mindset of Parker and Stone in regard to the show. But that isn’t the most disgruntling part.
Randy and Sharon, Stan’s parents, decide that Randy’s antics are too repetitive, and that Randy is trying too hard to recapture glory he may have never had. “It’s like the same story keeps happening every week, only it keeps getting more and more ridiculous,” she says. If that isn’t an indicator that Parker and Stone are unhappy with doing South Park, I don’t know what is.
“I’ve been unhappy for a while now,” Randy replies.
It’s time to call out the emergency horns, because it seems to me like Parker and Stone are abandoning ship. With this being only the midseason finale, the show seems to have two choices: it could follow this episode up with a counterpoint that illustrates why they still enjoy doing the show, and have the show continue on beyond season 15.
Or, there’s the much more likely option that this is the sign of the beginning of the end. Parker and Stone’s contract with Comedy Central reportedly runs out after seven more episodes of the show. Then there’s the fact that they’ve achieved success outside of South Park, with their new hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.
Doesn’t it seem more likely that this is their hint to viewers that we’re reaching the final stretch of South Park? I’m sure they’ll deliver us a rousing series finale if that’s the case, but I just don’t know if I’m willing to say goodbye to Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman. Or Butters — least of all Butters.