This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Love It
Hallelujah – Following its first post-election episode this season, SNL chose to forego comedy for melancholy in the cold opening. But now it is time to reflect (or refract) that approach through a cracked looking glass. With leaks now pouring out of every conceivable hole, it is time for Trump and his cronies to prattle on to the tune of Leonard Cohen, striking a note of face-palmingly eternal denial.

There is a certain craze that has seemingly come out of nowhere, so it makes perfect sense that a baby adult would be pacified by it, ergo the Cartier Fidget Spinner…I am categorically in favor of any sketch that features the entire cast, and if it can be managed in merely three minutes, as with the overstuffed rap video One Voice, all the better…Dawn Lazarus is one of those characters that makes such a huge impression in her first appearance that she is brought back almost instantly on her way to a meteoric rise (too bad this is Vanessa Bayer’s last episode, then)…I am not sure if I have ever officially said this, so let me be perfectly clear: Drunk Uncle is one of the best SNL characters of all time.

Keep It

International Mad Scientist Society – We need to talk about this sketch, because it brings up a very important point. (And no, that point is not that White Castle is a great restaurant, although that is a solid product placement-based punch line.) Here we have an astute premise that I am surprised does not come up more often in entertainment. When fictional characters brand themselves evil geniuses, what they sow is generally more chaos than true depravity. So when a mad scientist wheels out a child-molesting robot (with a dash of reminding everyone that Mussolini tortured his opponents with castor oil), it is unsettling, but also undoubtedly the evilest invention proffered. The scene itself might be too disturbing to be hilarious, but it is possible that this is the sort of sketch that is ripe to be re-evaluated as a classic.

The Johnson/Hanks 2020 Monologue is surprisingly logical, or at least emotionally appeasing…Koko WatchOut and Trashyard Mutt are back for essentially the same WrestleMania Promo as the first time – the Twins twist is fine (“You’re the DeVito!”), though not as killer as the Oldboy reveal…Scorpio is a charmer, but his sketch has two comedic conceits (superhero has surprisingly keen fashion sense/superhero is too distracted by his admirers to fight crime) fighting for attention…Dwayne Johnson, much more so than Louis C.K. or Benedict Cumberbatch, is the perfect complement to Cecily Strong’s ditzy English Jemma, though the wet and wild time at Universal Studios cannot match the power of their first introduction…Xentrex is one of those fake commercials that is even faker than we realize, timing its reveals of fakeness quite keenly…Michael and Colin are having fun (Dwayne “The Scissors” Johnson), but they could definitely use the summer to replenish their tanks…Murder by Numbers is shamelessly flatulent, birthing the newest and coolest gaseous euphemism (“I made a mistake”)…I’ll say this: Beck Bennett knows how to play a threesome-obsessed Wingman.

Senior Awards NightSNL has a tradition of graduation or summer vacation-themed sketches to close out the season, particularly as a way to memorialize beloved cast members who are leaving the show. So Senior Awards Night at Millwood High School seems like a pretext to send off Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer, but their departures are never explicitly acknowledged. That may be a little weird, but I think we can still consider this a tribute. Plus, it works as a sketch on its own merits, with some wonderfully awkwardly acted pop culture parodies, though the ending is unfortunately abrupt.

Leave It
No Leave It sketches for the season finale, but let’s be careful about how thoroughly we recreate sketches that worked perfectly the first time around.

Dwayne Johnson
On a scale of Dwayne’s Johnson fourth episode to Dwayne Johnson’s fifth episode, the latest from The Rock tries to recapture the magic of his 2015 appearance, but it is a little too exact in its recreation. The original WrestleMania promo and the first meeting with Jemma were excellent pieces in one of the best episodes in recent memory, but returns tend to be diminishing. I can excuse them somewhat, on the basis of this being Bobby and Vanessa’s last show, but Johnson is at a hosting level where the writers ought to always be giving him their game-changing best.

Katy Perry
On a scale of season premiere vibes to season finale vibes, Katy Perry knows what time of year it is. Her first MG appearance back in 2010 was the Season 36 premiere, and she had the material back then, but she was a little green to totally bring it. Now she has the veteran chops to close out the year with no trouble. Her celebration with drag queens, ripped receipts, and Instant Meme Kid with Backpack (mic drop) is the sort of performance that makes me, a devoted SNL viewer, ready to jump right into summer.

Letter Grades:
Hallelujah – B+
Dwayne Johnson’s Monologue – B
Cartier Fidget Spinner – B+
Wrestlemania Promos – B-
One Voice (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Scorpio – B-
Universal Studios – B-
Xentrex – B
Katy Perry (and Backpack Kid) performs “Swish, Swish” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Dawn Lazarus – B+
Drunk Uncle – B+

Murder by Numbers – B-
International Mad Scientist Society – B
Katy Perry ft. Migos performs “Bon Appetit” – B
Devon’s Tavern – B-
Senior Awards Night – B