Saturday Night Live, Sunday Night or Later: Episode 21


General Overview:
“I do some TV, my mom and I move to the Upper East Side, and suddenly I’m in the movies. Oh, I was in all those ‘90s movies: ‘American Pie,’ ‘American Pie 2,’ ‘American Pie and the Multiverse of Madness,’ et cetera. Oh, and cult favorite: ‘But I’m a Cheerleader.’ So things are going great and then, ‘Knock knock.’ ‘Who’s there?’ ‘Multiple arrests and drug addiction.’”
—Natasha Lyonne, 5/21/22

With rumors that at least four long-time cast members were likely to leave the show after this season, I knew this episode would be a bittersweet send-off. But I don’t think I ever could have been prepared for the strange cocktail of emotions it would throw at me.

The episode had a formal goodbye for three of its leaving cast members (Kyle Mooney didn’t get his own for some reason), and each of them was incredibly heartfelt. But this episode also had wild shenanigans right after those moments that were kind of an emotional whiplash after such a tender moment that left me feeling disappointed and unsatisfied.

In addition to the send-offs, there were other moments of genuine warmth that pulled at my heartstrings. Lyonne’s monologue, for one, was a fairly typical love-letter to New York City and the show, but the way she described the dramatic arcs of her career with the biggest smile gave me a deep and personal insight into a person whose name I had barely heard before that Saturday.

Even as a junior, “After High School’s” prom flashback and the descriptions of what everyone in the narrator’s class would become after graduating made for an emotional watch. But after it primed me for a sweet and semi-serious sketch, it took away the charm of listening to the various stories by focusing on the chaotic mess that the character “Rachel Finnster” became.

This cheapening of an otherwise-genuine moment served as an unfortunate theme of the episode. I wanted emotional closure, as the actors the show has made me love made their glorious exits, but the show didn’t give me that privilege. Instead, it threw me bland and passable sketches like “Mr. Dooley” and “Summer Gig” that felt like filler.

The one that angered me the most (remember, my emotions have been drawn out by this point in the night so they were more malleable) was the last sketch: “Women’s Commercial.” Featuring Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon, two leaving cast members, as the leads, its mediocrity upset me so much because Bryant and McKinnon’s earlier sentimental send-offs were sort of inadvertently spoiled a little by this being their true last sketch.

I know that’s possibly the pettiest reason to dislike something, but if you’ve learned one thing about me from these reviews it’s that I appreciate good uses of symbolism, and I don’t appreciate when others don’t seem to respect the symbols they inadvertently create in their works.

However, to be uncharacteristically fair, these sketches and the others weren’t all that bad; they just felt disappointing in an episode that I had such high hopes for and that set such a high bar from its opening sketch.

Best Sketch:
“Final Encounter Cold Open.” I’m breaking my unspoken “no cold opens in the ‘best sketch’ section” rule because there is nothing else I could have put here. This was a hilarious last hurrah of one of Kate McKinnon’s best recurring sketches that had Aidy Bryant almost crying at the beginning, and it had both McKinnon and me almost crying at the end as she said her goodbyes to the show she’d been on for ten years. I have no notes.

Best Quote:
“I always kind of felt like an alien on this planet anyway. Well Earth, I love you. Thanks for letting me stay a while. And live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”—Kate McKinnon

Overall Score: 7/10
SNL won’t be the same without the actors who won’t be there for season 48, and I’m glad that hidden somewhere within this splatter-painted episode there is a beautiful moment for every one of them.