Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
As much as this season of South Park has felt like a return to form for the series, there are still episodes that miss the mark. We saw it with the premiere, and we saw it again this week with Hummels & Heroin. This episode took a promising concept and failed to exploit it to its fullest.
It’s frustrating, because there’s a lot South Park could do with the subject of the US opioid epidemic. Here you have one of the greatest public health crises in the country’s history, one perpetrated by greedy pharmaceutical corporations, opportunistic drug cartels and money-hungry quack doctors. Surely a show like South Park would have a lot to say about the situation and the trail of ruined lives these corporations are leaving in their wake. But this episode never felt like it had much interesting to say about the subject. At best, Hummels & Heroin feels like a halfhearted retread of Season 16’s Cash for Gold, which offered a brilliant, scathing look at the never-ending cycle of exploitation that is home shopping networks and cash for gold pawn shops. That episode’s Jewelry Polka sequence still haunts me years later. It’s a shame this episode couldn’t reach similar heights.