So less than a year since her departure, Kristen Wiig made her triumphant return to Saturday Night Live last night to retread all the characters you knew and loved. But most importantly she stayed out of the way when she needed to let the new, very strong female cast shine.
Last night's cold open was some godawful thing where they took the week's three biggest stories: the Cleveland kidnapping, the Jodi Arias trial, and the Benghazi hearings and rolled them all into one. I admittedly showed up late, but from what I could tell it was awful. Awful, awful, awful. This is what my notes for the cold open say: "Let's just pretend that didn't happen."
So in the interest of moving on, let's get to Wiig's monologue. They combined two of their favorite opening monologue tropes into one last night: the spontaneous breaking out into song and the backstage tour. The whole crux of the joke was that she hasn't been gone for that long (11 months and 30 days, as she points out). But she totally still remembers where everything is. (No, she doesn't.) Jason Sudeikis played a big part in the beginning of the routine, and he looked game enough despite those weird jealousy rumors that came out after last year's goodbye show. But the highlight of the whole arrangement was the verrrrrrry pregnant Maya Rudolph who made out with Jonah Hill in a closet and then busted some moves for the big finale. Seriously, you can see the baby kicking in this GIF from The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff.
The very next sketch was a pre-recorded commercial parody for Mother's Day flowers. This was probably the strongest sketch of the night. It's unfortunate that the high moment came so early. But it's also important that most people see this for what it was: a torch-passing moment from Wiig to Kate MacKinnon as the strongest female cast member on the show. It's no surprise to anyone who watches regularly that MacKinnon is taking on this role. She gets the most airtime and the strongest material, despite Nasim Pedrad and Cecily Strong biting at her heels at every moment. But MacKinnon is the clear heavyweight in the bunch. Channeling equal parts Wiig and Ana Gasteyer, MacKinnon carries the comedic weight in this sketch while Wiig takes a backseat role. All the laughs come from the current cast member in the sketch. That's not something that happend a lot in the rest of the episode so at least they did it when it counts.
Because our next stop was a retread of The Californians. I'll confess to liking the weirdness of these sketches normally, but this one dragged on for so long. It went on forever and never stopped. Again, from my notes: "ohmythisisstillgoing."
I guess I enjoyed "Aw, Nuts! Mom's A Ghost!" more than most. It's odd that they did a sketch partially inspired by The Grudge in 2013, as if they had the script laying around and decided to finally do it because Wiig always thought it had potential. But Cecily Strong gets to shine here, which may have been my favorite part. She nails the Disney Channel youth thing perfectly.
The next three sketches were the Kristen Wiig retread half-hour, so let's go through them like a list. First up, we have Eunice Maharelle:
Then it was Garth and Kat on Weekend Update:
And Target Lady got way too much booking time:
I'll give points here because they never do big mess sketches anymore, and the acupuncture sketch may have been the biggest one I've ever seen. Aidy Bryant and Kristen Wiig are servicing Jason Sudeikis but his back keeps spurting out blood. You can see where this is going. Once the sketch reaches its logical conclusion (a geyser of blood erupting from his back) everyone is absolutely covered. Sometimes simple concepts work. It's OK to keep it simple, guys.
And we're going to close it with this sixth graders and cougars sketch because it was the highlight of the back half of the show. Tim Robinson is the quickly becoming one of the unheralded greats on the cast. He only gets significant airtime after weekend update, it seems, but everything he does is great. This sketch was delightfully weird and I loved every minute of it.
So that was a thing that happened. Wiig got her "hey, wasn't I great when I did all these characters regularly?" moments while sharing strong sketches with the women who are, you know, still on the show. Next week we get Ben Affleck for the season finale. Did you know he's joining the Five Timer's Club? We doubt he'll get half the fanfare Justin did earlier this season.