May 23, 2021 | 11:18 in the morning and
Editor’s note: Throughout the season, Jesse Hassenger reviewed SNL for The Outcome. He will be back now with some thoughts at the end of the show. You can visit the other pieces HERE.
It’s a strange time to Saturday Night Live, and the show recognized that was ahead of the season at the end of its Season 46. As part of the show’s ongoing appearance what to do for the cold opening Now that they don’t target President Trump every week, the final sketch of the opening season is both self-explanatory and sentimental. For the former, the cast showed last year-plus pandemic comedy, making semi-point jokes about the indifference of returning to a live show until the fall, before vaccines are ready, and about unequal consequences. (Finally, a reason for Elon Musk-as-Wario’s silly sketch: It, frankly, makes for a ridiculous an image of Cecily Strong’s throwing of a supposedly most package of clips with only an hourly, slow motion.There were also moments where cast members clearly spoke from their heart about their experiences.
SNL particularly experimenting with these moments of sincerity over the past five years or so, and while it wasn’t that common in the 2000s, it still has letters that are both new and uncomfortable. The grateful, reflective nature of the opening is as if it’s saying goodbye for one or more of the show’s longest-serving members. In fact, as the cold weather unfolded in various small cast groups, Kate McKinnon (completing his ninth overall season and 10th overall), Strong Cecily and Aidy Bryant (both in their ninth season), and Kenan Thompson (ending his surprising 17th season) standing together. McKinnon struggled to hold back the tears. It felt like the end of an era.
Until nothing, then done, then nothing. The last, managed by Anya Taylor-Joy, in many respects a relatively normal, if above average, period of SNL. There’s a bad sketch-too early in the show, also showing a strange confidence in a Hollywood Squares that is backed by a bit of reliance on the constant cutaways of texting a screen to explain absence of removed celebrities, rather than host and cast members. There are, however, a couple of powerful filmed pieces: Beck Bennett playing one of his specialists, the father whose despair turns desperate and dark, in a prom-photo sketch , and a Pride Month music video featuring Bowen Yang as well musical guest Lil Nas X. And there were some fun silly sketches that were achieved in the last half hour of the show. It’s all nature of the better decent Trump period SNL Made that spring, freed from the burden of the political buzz and allowed to bow only to the wants of a large cast.
The finale is also a traditional outing where it’s still impossible to know for sure if it will serve as a farewell to any of the aforementioned longtime cast members – or anyone else. Before the show started, Melissa Villaseñor caused a bit of a stir on social media when she suggested she leave the show, then turned around. Afterwards, at one of his Weekend Update sales marks, Pete Davidson made a lack of self-respect about his mental health, and closed in by thanking the audience for watching him grow up. (This is his seventh season on the show, and he started at age 20.) Is he planning to leave, or is he just covering his bases if he makes a later decision? Shortly afterwards, in a plum spot, Cecily Strong closed out the last Weekend Update of the year with her disturbing impression Jeanine Piro, which included her singing “My Way” and jumping on a giant wine box. It felt even more like a curtain call for one of the show’s best performers – and close to the unofficial class, no -nonsense delivery that had previously been shown on the show.
As long as the cast member will run on SNL becoming more common in the 2000s, the show began recognizing origins: Did Ferrell get a full testimonial farewell part in 2002; Jimmy Fallon ran through an honorary “Summer Nights” in 2004; Kristen Wiig had a somewhat embarrassing last dance in 2012. Even if not every cast member’s farewell is clear, it really feels like maybe Thompson or McKinnon will get a class shout out. However, none of them showed up on stage; while Aidy Bryant doesn’t have a Strong-style fanfare, she’s in the front and center for many sketches. Bryant used any cleaning up in the final stages to push a fake local ad for an unauthorized unsexy bra store that matched his deceptive, perfectly observable sense of comics.
Maybe McKinnon or Thompson aren’t interested in farewell moves, big or small – or maybe they’re not yet sure what to bring in the fall. (I would bet money-maybe not big money-that Thompson could return, even if he assumes more of a part-time Adjunct Cast Member position to continue.) Others SNL Fans have always longed for the kind of widespread home release that would result in a new cast, and it makes sense if the show loses five or six trusted players who have been appearing for nearly a decade. At the same time, that’s not the way the performance has been in 25 years-and yet, the total-reboot method has become exaggerated. Season 21, which features Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, and Cheri Oteri, retains five cast members from the disastrous Season 20. Nearly half of the “new cast” is already on the show. By 2021, five cast members could drop out of the current cast, and it could be a strong fifteen people, including many players approaching the decade mark.
That’s all to say that instead of an important occasion announcing a sea change in the show, we got a fun stage with Anya Taylor-Joy who was happy to do Celtic dancing and dance. fix a lot of bras. The well-planned open opening prepares the audience for an emotional catharsis, after which leaves fans of the show hanging, perhaps moved by McKinnon’s tears or Strong’s sadness, but not sure about the future. Something about the lack of immediate closure feels the same SNL, and true to life. “Back to normal” doesn’t feel normal, and normal isn’t always as good. Seasons are always easier to mark in review than this season. There was a time, someone said goodbye tonight. We will only know who it is after the fact.