South Park spoilers follow.
One of South Park's most iconic running gags was main character Kenny McCormick getting killed in almost every episode, only for him to reappear in the next as if nothing ever happened.
The joke kind of stopped in season five, as creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker revealed they had grown tired of torturing the poor, fictional lad. They then wrote him out of the show, before he returned in the season six finale
While he still gets offed occasionally, it's not something that's expected anymore.
In the long-running animation's new Post Covid special, however, the orange parka-sporting youngster died for real (again) – or an older version of him did, at least.
The hour-long event, which is available to stream on Paramount+ now, takes place decades into the future, years after Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman moved away and drifted apart.
The former pals are brought back to the titular town, though, when Stan – now an online whiskey consultant in a relationship with a holographic Alexa – receives a phone call from Kyle, who tells him that Kenny has passed away.
When they arrive back in South Park for Kenny's funeral, Stan, Kyle and Cartman – whose newfound Judaism irks Kyle, given that he'd regularly spout antisemitic comments when they were in elementary school – discover that Kenny had grown up to become a rich and famous scientist, and that he was killed while investigating the origin of coronavirus.
Kenny's clues suggest to the boys (well, men) that Stan's father Randy and his farm had something to do with COVID-19, and that they'd be able to find the proof if they "thought like kids again".
Later, Randy reluctantly confesses to having started the pandemic by having sex with a pangolin in China, and when he goes off on a rant and mentions that he used to smuggle marijuana seeds up his butt in the nursing home, Stan is struck with a thought: Kenny hid his data up his own butt.
At the morgue, Stan, Kyle and Cartman retrieve the flash drive and bring it to the school's lab, where they and a bunch of their other friends watch Kenny's final video.
In it, he explains that he was trying to perfect time travel and how a colleague of his found out that everyone's terrible fates were down to the fact that his "argumentative, combative, pessimistic a**hole" best friends allowed the pandemic to drive them apart.
He then states that a malfunction in their tech zapped him into another era, and when he reappeared, he was infected with a deadly COVID variant.
The special ended with Stan and Kyle vowing to finish Kenny's work and figure out time travel, so that they can fix the future and their friendship. Cartman also agrees to help, but slips out of the lab to his family, where he admits he does not want the future fixed and flees with them.
Elsewhere, Randy finds a single marijuana plant growing in the burned fields of Tegridy Farms, and swears to protect the last bit of "tegridy" that remains.
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