Spoiler alert: We’re about to break down the many twists and turns of South Park: Joining the Panderverse, now streaming on Paramount+. Haven’t watched yet? You’ve been warned.
Every kid frets about monsters hiding in their closet from time to time, but only Eric Cartman specifically worries that Disney executives are lurking in the corners of his bedroom, waiting to replace him and all of his friends with “diverse women complaining about the patriarchy.”
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Cartman’s extremely on-brand concern serves as the launching pad for South Park: Joining the Panderverse, the series’ latest Paramount+ special, which finds the iconically intolerant fourth grader directing his ire towards Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
Who is Kennedy, you ask? She became president of Lucasfilm when Disney acquired the company in 2012. Under her leadership, we’ve gotten the new Star Wars sequel trilogy and its various side films; the fifth Indiana Jones movie (Dial of Destiny); and a handful of Star Wars TV series, including Andor and The Mandalorian. She considers herself to be a champion of diversity, both on and off screen, and believes in “having casts that represent the world today,” a sentiment that certainly wouldn’t sit well with a racist, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynistic child like Cartman.
Cartman theorizes that his recurring nightmares, in which he and his friends are portrayed as racially and sexually diverse women, aren’t dreams at all; he’s actually seeing into an alternate universe. No one takes him seriously — least of all Kyle, who finds the multiverse to be an overused plot device — until a portal suddenly opens, swapping white-male Cartman and Black-female Cartman.
So, who or what is responsible for tearing this rift between worlds? That would be the Pander Stone, an ancient piece of A.I. technology that has enabled Disney to remake the same movies over and over, pandering to more audiences with each release. “Isn’t it possible that we here at Disney pandered so much that we’ve opened a doorway into the Panderverse?” one executive asks CEO Bob Iger.
And something truly unspeakable has indeed emerged from that doorway — a twisted version of Kennedy, basically just Cartman in a wig, that’s only capable of giving one note: “Put a chick in it and make it lame and gay!” Whether she’s weighing in on the live-action Bambi reboot or describing how she’d like her linguini prepared at Spago, it’s always… that one note.
Meanwhile, a broken oven door at Tegridy Farms presents a teachable moment for Randy, who thinks that “kids today” don’t know how to do anything because of their reliance on A.I. and phones. But Randy’s idea of “fixing” the door is just using his phone to call a handyman, which proves that he doesn’t know how to do anything either. Pretty soon, “Nobody knows how to do s–t anymore!” is a major talking point on the evening news.
As the handymen of South Park become space-exploring billionaires, Randy leads the town’s disgruntled white-collar community in finding someone (anyone!) to blame for their know-nothingness. They initially point their fingers at the years they wasted going to college — you know, when they could have been learning how to actually do stuff — but they happily redirect their anger towards Kennedy when Iger and the other Disney executives come to town.
In the end, the real Cartman and Kennedy forge a reluctant alliance and swap mutual apologies — her for lazily mishandling properties that he once cherished, and him for calling her the c-word in tens of thousands of hate letters over the years — which reopens the portal and returns everyone to their proper reality. As for Randy, he proves he learned absolutely nothing from this experience by using the portal to simply collect more handymen from other realities. Because God forbid he just, you know, learns a new skill.
While South Park‘s previous specials for Paramount+ (2021’s Post Covid and 2022’s The Streaming Wars) were each two-parters, it feels like creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have opted to wrap Joining the Panderverse‘s story in a single installment. The final scene does take viewers to Universe 5429F, where the Kennedy-Cartman hybrid is seen waking from a nightmare of her own, but nothing indicates that there’s more to this specific story. At most, we anticipate that the handymen Randy collected from other universes will casually reappear, either in another special or in a future season.
Did you enjoy your journey into the Panderverse? Do you also want a full studio recording of “Butters” singing “Loo Loo Loo”? And more importantly, which of Randy’s many combinations of shirts and pants do you think looked best? Grade the special below, then drop a comment with your full review.
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