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South Park: "Coon vs. Coon and Friends"

Illustration for article titled iSouth Park/i: Coon vs. Coon and Friends
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Last week I compared “Mysterion Rises” to the slow-build exposition dump that often sets up a superhero movie—the “training with Ra’s ah Ghul” montage, if you will, before Batman finally gets down to business in Gotham City—and said that, hopefully, all the good stuff would be in the final act of what had turned out to be a “Coon And Friends” trilogy. I’d say “Coon Vs. Coon And Friends” delivered on that promise. It was both fleeter and funnier, it wasted less time on padded-out tangents, and it satisfactorily resolved the question of Kenny’s immortality (while also managing to give it a ridiculous twist that made said question seem like a tangent of its own). And it featured the ancient high priest of the Great Old Ones squeezing Justin Bieber until his amber waves of brains popped out. You certainly can’t say they didn’t stick the landing.

First up, as to that immortality thing: So it turns out that explaining Kenny’s inability to die as a superpower was not an attempt to retcon the South Park “mythology,” which apparently now exists. Instead, as we saw at the very end of this episode, it’s just another side of the story we already learned in “Cartman Joins NAMBLA”—that is that every time Kenny dies, he reappears in his mother’s womb and takes the wild, fallopian ride anew, after which his parents place him in yet another orange parka and immediately put him back to bed. (But why do his parents have so many new orange parkas at the ready? Given their dire financial state, couldn’t that money be more judiciously applied???? Oh, forget it. You worry too much. Maybe you should find a nice girl, yes?) Also, the reason this whole cursed circle of life continues to happen is that his parents attended the Cult Of Cthulhu meetings in the first place, which is certainly a high price to pay for free beer.


And to what end was Kenny created, and how exactly does his existence relate to Cthulhu’s? Well, that wasn’t really spelled out. (Although, according to the goth kids’ reading of the Necronomicon, the cultists have long tried to bring the Old Ones into our world—illustrated by an etching of a baby, from which you could probably infer, if you wanted to, that Kenny is the result of one of those rituals.) Instead of talking us through that, however, we got a last-minute, Jor-El-like extraterrestrial voicemail from the past explaining that Mintberry Crunch—whose true, Superman-like identity is as an alien boy named “Gokzyra” or something I’m not going to worry about spelling correctly—was the real superhero all along, so never mind.

Still, even without a handholding epilogue to Kenny's story, the fact that this relatively recent “Mysterion” legend bothered tying into what was basically a throwaway joke tossed onto the end of an episode made over 10 years ago—well, that was most impressive. (Of course, it still doesn’t explain why Kenny spent most of South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut wandering the afterlife, or that subsequent season he spent being really and truly dead. But then, whenever you notice something like that, a wizard did it.) And although the entire “Coon And Friends” saga could be seen as just a fantastical diversion, even amidst the many fantastical diversions South Park takes with seemingly every episode, the truly unexpected thing about this whole “Mysterion” business is that lends a lingering pathos to Kenny, one that even applies retroactively.


Once upon a time, back around the season where they did away with Kenny for almost an entire year, Trey Parker said in an interview that he was truly sick of the character—and after several seasons of the show being overwhelmed by the popularity of “Oh my God, they killed Kenny” and being forced to work his death into every single episode, who could blame him? But oddly, what began as a cheap joke has become to some (as pointed out last week) a satirical illustration of mortality and spiritual rebirth—one with philosophical roots in Heidegger and Freud, if you go looking for that sort of thing.

After this episode, that illustration is now several shades darker. Look at the scenes where Kenny grouses, “Try to remember this time” and blows his brains out in front of his skeptical friends, or ends the episode doing the same because he’s “tired” and wants to go to bed. Kind of haunting, really. Ditto knowing that Kenny really and truly feels pain every time he dies—as when he throws himself on the stalagmites in the corpse-city of R’lyeh to save his friends, and he lies there choking and screaming. Forget learning last week that Kenny dresses up as a superhero in order to menace his own parents into taking better care of him, which had its own surprisingly sympathetic undercurrent. The question is now: The next time you see Kenny splattered across a highway for a chuckle, will you feel it a little deeper? Will your waves of laughter have a somber undertow? Will they?


Okay, maybe not. But still, pretty heady stuff for something that started out as a stock gag.

Anyway, other than finding out Bradley “Mintberry Crunch” Biggle is a superhero alien—and, perhaps more importantly, the adopted younger brother of goth girl Henrietta—“Coon Vs. Coon And Friends” was, as I said, short on “revelations” and origin stories and mostly long on action and funny bits and all the better for it. Like the scenes of Cartman and his new consort Cthulhu acting like high priests of Great Old Assholes, casting his former friends into R’lyeh and fighting for “good and justice”—such as destroying synagogues and Whole Foods (“No more organic crap for America!”), massacring everyone at Burning Man and a Justin Bieber concert, and, of course, selling T-shirts for $14.95. I’m always of the opinion that the worse Cartman is, the funnier South Park is, and it doesn’t get much worse than that. Although, $14.95 is pretty reasonable for a T-shirt these days.


And as I said, while the final battle between Cthulhu and Mintberry Crunch—with the latter spraying berries and mint leaves in Cthulhu’s tentacled face—seemed like sort of a (pun groaningly intended) raspberry dismissal to the notion of wrapping up what was beginning to seem like an unusually meaningful storyline for Kenny, it was much more the sort of escalating ridiculous shit, only-in-comics denouement this whole “Coon And Friends” thing deserved. It was also much funnier, and isn’t that what we’re here for, really?

Stray observations:

  • “So why didn’t this get an ‘A’?” Well, I hate the show, obviously, because I just don’t “get it,” I am a liberal hipster douchebag, or I find it impossible to laugh through my giant plaid-covered neckbeard or whatever. But also because I think “A” grades should go to near-perfect standalone episodes. So even though “Coon Vs. Coon And Friends” was as well-executed an ending as one could probably hope for here, it doesn’t really qualify according to those standards. Sorry. Keep calm and carry on.
  • Cartman’s “cute kitten” routine was borrowed from Chuck Jones’ old Merrie Melodies cartoon “Feed The Kitty.” I get references sometimes.
  • Really, really loved Kyle’s response to Cartman’s “LeBron James Technique”: “You should fuck off, that’s what you should do.” Never let it be said that a rhetorical question has no answer.
  • A couple of callbacks hiding in the Coon comic book, including Cartman’s Dog The Bounty Hunter-like exhortation to “Go with Christ!” and the ad for Incredible Living Sea-People. And this wasn’t a callback, but I really liked that drawing of Cartman sitting pensively on the shoulders of the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Cartman singing “Faith” needs to be a ringtone.
  • For a split second there, I thought we were in store for an ersatz parody of “Double Rainbow." I very much liked that we were not.
  • I’m more of a Batman guy, but a cursory Google search tells me that Superman did team up with Lex Luthor at least once—in the Superman: The Animated Series episode “Brave New Metropolis,” which takes place in an alternate dimension where Lois Lane is dead and Superman works with Luthor to turn the city into a police state. Who wants to write the first angry e-mail???
  • “Fuck you, I have powers, you fat bitch!”—the subtext of every superhero fantasy, ever
  • Is there any way to watch Judge Judy other than “heroically”?
  • “He promised everything would change if we worshiped him, but we’re still sitting here smoking cigarettes like before. It’s like Obama all over again.”
  • Next week is the season finale. Hopefully, Cartman and Butters will be out of their cage and away from their poop bucket by then, and we can all do something new. Together, of course.

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