As long as it was sticking a fork in its 42nd season, “Saturday Night Live” also declared an end to something else: the Trump Administration.
Flashing back to the poignant moment in November when the show observed both the defeat of Hilary Clinton and the death of Leonard Cohen by opening an episode when Kate McKinnon as Clinton covering “Hallelujah,” tonight’s season finale instead had Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) at the piano covering the melancholic hit.
In time he was joined by a cavalcade of cast members in their Trump-related roles: McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway, Beck Bennett as Mike Pence, Mikey Day and Alex Moffat as Trump’s sons, Aidy Bryant as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Grim Reaper who represents Steve Bannon, Cecily Strong as Melania Trump and past host Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump. At the line “I told the truth but didn’t come to fool ya,” McKinnon as “alternative facts” promoter Conway grimaced and revealed she had her fingers crossed.
(Conspicuously absent from the group: Melissa McCarthy in her Sean Spicer suit.)
“I’m not giving up because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Baldwin said after the final note. “But I can’t speak for these people.”
With that administration in the rear-view mirror, “SNL” moved on to promoting the next one, led by two widely admired actors and frequent “SNL” hosts: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Tom Hanks. On hand to welcome Johnson to the Five-Timers Club (along with Baldwin), Hanks agreed to be the former wrestler’s running mate. “I would get the minority vote,” Johnson said, “because everyone assumes I’m, well, whatever they are!”
Though no one said as much on the air, this was said to be the final “SNL” for cast veterans Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer. Though some ensemble members are sent off with elaborate tributes — witness Jimmy Fallon in 2004 or Kristen Wiig in 2012 — there was no such pageantry for these two. But each was granted more than the usual screen time. Both were regularly seen with Weekend Update characters, and Moynihan brought back his biggest, Drunk Uncle, for his first appearance in more than two years, rejoicing at Trump’s election and slurring, “Ghostbusters should be men!”
Interestingly, Bayer’s Update farewell wasn’t as her long-running fixtures Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy or the earnest child actor Laura Parsons, but as a character she just debuted two weeks ago: meteorologist Dawn Lazarus, who uses the sing-songy inflections typical of TV news while speaking utter gibberish.
Both also appeared in the night’s final sketch, one with sort of a valedictory theme, as high school students performing lame satirical skits at a senior awards night. But they shared the stage with Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney, and the scene was a pretty routine gagfest with no overtones of profundity.
Other thoughts on the season finale:
• After seven years of keeping her composure on the air, Bayer seemed to lose it while playing an 1948 actress who keeps wrecking movie takes with her flatulence. (Longtime viewers will recall the same premise executed by January Jones on her disastrous hosting debut in 2009.)
• The return of Johnson’s wrestling character Koko gave Moynihan another moment in the spotlight as the subject of Koko’s far-too-personal trash talk involving infertility, digestive issues and pirated webcam footage.
• In another character comeback, Tom Hanks reprised the beloved David S. Pumpkins as one of the featured artists on an overcrowded rap track.
• Some social media backlash ensued when Johnson’s mad scientist presented his entry in contest to make the most evil invention: a child-molesting robot that offended even his fellow villains. The device was never seen in action, but the premise alone was enough to disgust many vocal viewers.