WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for South Park's Season 23 premiere episode, "Mexican Joker."
South Park's Eric Cartman is one of the most vile characters to ever appear on television. The full list of all of the terrible things he's done is far too long to list here. We've seen him do everything from turning Scott Tenorman into an unwitting cannibal, not to mention the numerous times he's tried to enact genocide, political wars, and also take over the world.
Over the last couple seasons, though, Cartman has been softened, becoming more politically correct and losing some of his villainous ways. However, in the Season 23 premiere, "Mexican Joker," he goes from being a hero and champion of the planet to once again, a downright disgusting villain.
Cartman kicks off the episode following the footsteps of Greta Thunberg, the teenage Swedish climate change advocate who made headlines for her appearance at the United Nations. In this episode, series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are right on the ball by having Cartman echo Thunberg's message.
He spends the opening half of the episode despondent and wondering why no one is heeding his call to save Earth. Even though he's just mimicking Greta, his concern appears to be genuine, reflecting the tact with which South Park makes its sociopolitical statements in between moments of crude humor. However, that changes when Cartman makes a sudden heel turn after discovering key information about I.C.E.
After realizing how easy it is to phone in a tip to I.C.E., Cartman goes after a familiar enemy in Kyle. He's often waged war on Kyle for being a Jew and lucky for him, I.C.E. doesn't even do their background checks, splitting the Broflovski family apart and throwing Kyle into a center.
Since nothing rings as sweetly as revenge on Kyle for Cartman, this heel turn isn't exactly surprising. Cartman teams up with I.C.E. to wreak havoc just to make his nemesis pay, but it backfires when he also gets thrown in. Cartman feels betrayed because he was enjoying the plight of Kyle and the immigrant children who were being held in custody.
However, after being plopped into the same cell as Kyle, he begins to understands the indignity being suffered and apologizes. He sees the connection between how these cells resemble kind of internment blocks and concentration camps where Kyle's family was once held.
All he can offer, though, at this point is a simple "Pops. My bad!" for the prank gone awry, while still remaining bitter over how he too was thrown in by his friends at school after he annoyed them.Even though Cartman gets his deserved comeuppance, it's hard to savor, since Kyle and so many other children are still being held in the detention center.
Sadly, it seems there's no slowing down now that the Mexican Joker has emerged. This presence of this terrorist means the imprisoned kids are going to be treated worse, blamed for his crimes, and all Kyle can do is try to use Cartman and the other children to somehow find a way out. The sad thing is, no matter what, Cartman just can't be trusted because he'll do anything to wallow in Kyle's misery, even if it means the other children are collateral damage.
Starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park Season 23 currently airs at 10 pm ET/PT on Comedy Central.