South Park’s season 21 finale, “Splatty Tomato,” aired on Tuesday night, and although critics were frustrated by season, the ever-provocative cartoon was still able to grab headlines for some of its concepts.
One of the main conceits of the last season has seen Mr. Garrison turn into the President of the United States only to become a means through which the writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone can have an outlet to diss Trump. Garrison is effectively South Park’s Trump, donning the same wisp of yellow hair and a pretty insufferable personality. But for the show’s last episode, the writers took their pop culture references a step beyond politics and made Trump into Pennywise, a nod to the one of this year’s most successful movies, the new horror box office record-holder It.
In the episode, Garrison/Trump is upset with his rock-bottom ratings, and in order to feel better about himself, is going around South Park eating neighborhood pets from local backyards. Furthermore, the President has also begun to stalk kids and jump out at them to ask, “Hey, how are my approval ratings?”
Some critics thought the notoriously out-there show could have gone farther. As Dan Caffey of the A.V. Club writes, “the grisliest thing we see [Garrison] do is bloodlessly slurp down a rat,” and the mind boggles at just what a show like South Park could have done if they wanted to push that specific envelope even further. After all, in this same season Garrison literally fucked the Canadian president to death, so it’s not like the show is scared of going big.
The episode also apparently tried to have a go at the recent swell of sexual assault accusations from all industries, but the attempt was unsuccessful at best. Characters PC Principal and Strong Woman have been secretly in a consensual and respectful relationship that finally is revealed to the public, but everyone who learns of the relationship immediately begins projectile vomiting. As Charles Bramesco writes for Vulture, the joke is “not nearly as funny as Parker and Stone think it is” and “nobody is arguing that love can’t begin in the workplace, only that men need to learn how to read a damn room.”
But back to the main Garrison plot. Ike, Kyle’s adopted brother from Canada (which Garrison obliterated in the previous episode) turns into a Canadian Mountie in this episode and catches the Pennywise-inspired Garrison. However, the episode ends with Garrison escaping, so the South Park writers have left some ambiguity as to whether or not he’ll still be in power come next year. Surely that’s a sly nod to whether or not the real-life President who inspired his actions will also be in power, but that is an even harder thing to predict.