There was a sense that we were in for a solid episode in season finale of "South Park"'s 15th season right out of the gate, when the latest installment opened with a "Cops"-style show, "White Trash Trouble," in which Kenny's parents were arrested while he and his siblings are sent to foster care. The joke, of course, being that "Cops" is almost exclusively centered on white trash getting hauled off to jail.
“The Poor Kid” casts a fierce side-eye at the foster home experience, following Kenny’s journey after his parents are caught and sent to prison for being white trash – oh, and that meth lab in their backyard. Cartman finds the whole thing utterly hilarious, until Butters does some research and discovers that Kenny's vacancy means Cartman is now the poorest kid at school.
Mortified, Eric demands answers from his mother, who works two jobs as it is and thinks (rightfully) that they don’t live such a poor life. A wildfire of insecurity ensues, and our fat little antagonist goes the 8 Mile route at school and lets loose a barrage of self-inflicted momma jokes to beat everyone – especially Kyle (who he's convinced will seize the opportunity to maximize his nemesis’ humiliation) – to the punch. The only problem? Nobody gives a damn.
Desperate to be anything but the poor kid at school, Cartman makes a fake meth lab and rats out his mom, which gets him sent to foster care as well. There's just one catch: he's sent to the same sh*tty "agnostic home" that Kenny was sent to, where they drink only Dr. Pepper (it’s not quite root beer – not quite Coke) and only do things as neutrally and with as much non-committal energy as possible.
All of this happens after a trip to the "Soft Room," aka a spot at the police station kids are taken to in order to ease the transition between home with family and a new life with total strangers. Naturally, the Soft Room is adorned with pictures of horrifyingly disturbing clowns – the perfect calming agent for any kid, right? If that doesn't do the trick, there's always the tubby, bespectacled social worker with more wildly off-color Penn State jokes than every late-night host put together.
No, really. It's common knowledge that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone will tinker with the show's design and topic structure often until the very last minute, and so it was only a matter of logic to deduce that such a fertile field for dark & disturbing humor would find its home on the most darkly disturbing animated show to ever air (and that's a compliment). The sickening pedophilia that reportedly took place at Penn, as well as the indefensible enabling of the horrors therein, was relentlessly skewered during the show – nearly to the point of beating a dead horse. But really, how far is too far? Parker & Stone seem well within their lampooning grounds with this one, without trying to put a larger sociopolitical statement on an issue in which there is very little grey area.
The state of misery among the children at the agnostic family home brings about the return of Mysterion, who reassures Kenny’s despondent little sister (now why would that be? Hmm?), and even intervenes when she's attacked at the school for poor people. This leads the little girl to call Mysterion her "guardian angel."
The agnostics catch wind of this, and with the idea of angels flying in the face of their staunch neutrality, they punish the children by hanging them from the wall in the basement and spraying them with Dr. Pepper. The Penn-joking case worker finds out what's going on and removes the kids from the home, but more for the fact that the only beverage they serve is Dr. Pepper than the actual torturing of the kids. Add a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon – the difference between normal people and a starring role on "White Trash Trouble" – a few more Penn State jokes, and you've got a tidy little conclusion to a story far superior to last week's.
The episode concludes with everything returning pretty much to normal, Kenny and Cartman back at school with their friends…. and a giant ostrich monster that rips the roof off the school and eats Kenny. Solid old-school Kenny death finish. Bravo.
South Park has just been renewed through 2016, so fans will get at least five more years of the series. Until next spring, you stay classy South Park.
CraveOnline Rating: 8 out of 10