If you haven’t seen last night’s midseason finale of South Park, I can spoil it for you by saying the whole episode was full of crap. If you did see the episode, you get the joke, there. In all seriousness, people are suggesting that the episode, which marked Stan’s tenth birthday, in addition to a much sadder occasion, is “the beginning of the end” for the series.

The remark about the crap will make more sense if you actually watch the episode. In "You're Getting Older," Stan turns ten and upon aging up, he begins to see things differently. Music and movies he once loved all seem crappy to him now (in a very literal, South Park kind of way). Stan’s barely a tween and he’s already well on his way toward the especially-disenchanted phase of his teen years. I’m sure there will be a bounce-back for him when the series picks up for the rest of the season, despite one very big twist in his family situation, but what of the fate of the show?

There’s one very obvious moment in the episode, where it’s impossible to ignore the nearly direct reference to the ongoing format of the show, which has been on the air for a decade and a half.

“How much longer can we keep doing this?” Sharon Marsh said to Randy during an argument. “It’s like, the same shit just happens over and over. Then in a week it just all resets until it happens again. Every week it’s kind of the same story in a different way, but it just keeps getting more and more ridiculous.”

As Entertainment Weekly notes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone may be putting the series on their Murtaugh List (meaning, they’re getting “too old for this shit.”) Not only is their Broadway play The Book of Mormon up for a whopping 14 Tony nominations, but it’s also the show everyone’s talking about right now. Perhaps Parker and Stone are considering moving on with their careers. If Mormon’s success tells us anything, it’s that the duo still has much more to offer, creatively.

I was in college when South Park first premiered and back then, I didn’t miss an episode. I don’t watch it nearly as regularly anymore, however I still catch it once in a while. There’s comfort in the familiar humor and characters but more than that, the series is still funny and topical. I’d understand it if Parker and Stone wanted to move on, but if that were the case and the show came to an end, I’d hope they’d consider bringing it back for specials now and again to give us the South Park-take on current events.

It’s also entirely possible we’re all reading far too much into this, or at the very least, that this “beginning of the end” could be drawn out over the course of seasons. Perhaps the show is being set up to evolve somewhat, as the kids grow up slightly and face new challenges and a slightly more cynical outlook on the world. Or maybe this is just an attempt at optimism in the face of the inevitable.

Click here to watch the “You’re Getting Old” episode of South Park.

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