The cold open
In a nod to the last sequence from the finale of The Sopranos, Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump is sitting in a diner and plays Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" on the tabletop jukebox before cronies like Kate McKinnon's Rudy Giuliani, Ben Stiller's Michael Cohen, and Mikey Day's Donald Trump Jr. join him. Just as the coterie of ne'er do wells start incriminating themselves, Robert De Niro's Robert Mueller shows up and gives Trump the old Meet the Parents got-my-eyes-on-you bit. The open fades to black like the infamously uncertain ending of The Sopranos episode, but the whole crew return to launch the show. This was a fun bit of theatre (whose song licensing issues have made it tricky to watch online at the moment).
Tina Fey took questions from "the audience," which was dotted with celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Rock, Robert De Niro, Fred Armisen, Anne Hathaway, Donald Glover and Tracy Morgan. Beyond the wattage, this was well-written and funny, particularly the exchange between Fey and Armisen about how old cast members need to stop stealing camera time from current ones.
Royal Wedding Reception
A camera ramble, Mikey Day played Prince Harry hosting some kind of live feed to his own reception. Involving many cast members, Harry simply introduced us to different people at his reception, many of whom were odd, some of whom were famous, but none of this admirably topical piece (the wedding only occurred hours before this broadcast) was all that amusing.
This awkward sexual tension bit between Alex Moffatt's Joe Scarborough and Kate McKinnon's Mika Brzezinski, who are the primary hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, has been done before on the show and so the premise was a bit tired. Tina Fey as Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, explaining her role in the infamous Trump Tower meeting, was very funny though.
An amusing remote about Fey insisting upon a role in the Broadway production of Mean Girls. The joke is that she's highly unqualified to be a cast member, which is funny enough and made the Lin-Manuel Miranda cameo, like all Lin-Manuel Miranda cameos, at least a little unnecessary.
The Queen returned to perform an explosive new song and a Playboy Carti collab that didn't do her any favours. With an elaborate set consisting of a Chinese Paifang and many dancers dressed in traditional Chinese garments, Minaj brought "Chun-Li," named after a character in the video game Street Fighter, to life. She was captivating and menacing and the gritty beat and martial arts motifs had a heavy Wu-Tang Clan vibe.
Ceding the stage to Playboy Carti so he could amp the crowd up for "Poke it Out," Minaj eventually turned up but couldn't quite salvage the vibe. The power of her first performance felt like a distant memory, as Carti, in his mumble-rap mode, hopped around the stage, didn't have her charisma and the song itself was negligible. Some fans even pointed out that Nicki seemed to shake him off at one point.
Of note: Minaj also appeared in a remote sketch that was inexplicably cut for time, even though its silly Haim-like musical revenge plot was stronger and more elaborate than at least a few things that made it to air.
Colin Jost commemorated the first anniversary of the Mueller investigation with some cutting jokes, while Michael Che compared his new appreciation for the FBI to hoping to see Rachel Dolezal getting kicked out of a Starbucks.
Alex Moffatt and Mikey Day reprised their amazingly ridiculous impressions of Eric and Donald Trump Jr., respectively. It's Moffatt's take on Eric, suffering from arrested development, that really makes this thing fly and it has never missed. Che had a great bit about the discrepancy between black and white marijuana arrests in NYC, saying that, to address the diversity issues in prisons, #oscarssowhite should be replaced by #prisonstooblack.
After Kenan Thompson's desk bit as Bishop Michael Curry, a requisite nod to the day's Royal Wedding, Che and Jost ended the final Update of the season by telling a series of jokes they were purportedly prevented from doing in the past by standards and practices and yeah, they were all a bit too hot for TV. But then they ended up on TV anyway, so who knows?
This was quite a genius idea. Those Dateline "To Catch a Predator" segments are lampooned with Fey playing the host and Beck Bennett playing a would-be pervert. But when Fey "messes up" a line, it becomes a series of re-takes, as though the real-time gotcha show was staged, which was a great take. It was super funny.
The Ghost of Sarah Palin
Fey brought back her celebrated Sarah Palin impression to sing a song about the fleeting fame of the rogue's gallery of Trump acolytes. John Goodman showed up as Rex Tillerson again, and Armisen reprised his note-perfect Trump biographer, Michael Wolff; this was an amusing way of addressing all of these morons and how they'll be regarded by history.
Fey and the excellent Melissa Villaseñor played a mother-daughter duo in a high school talent show. There were a few layers to this, as Villaseñor played an angst-y, hormonal teen who loves metal, while Fey's overcompensating mother, also a teacher at the school, insists they sing "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" together. Kenan Thompson played the put-upon principal and had some funny lines, admitting that he and the mom are having an affair. This was surprisingly good.
Poking fun at her roots a bit, Fey likely had a hand in crafting this remote connecting Dick Wolf's oeuvre of fire and police department shows with a dramatic exploration of the Chicago improv community. Maybe a bit inside for casual comedy fans, it was a nuanced and well-acted bit of satire about the struggles of young comedians hoping to make a name for themselves and how weird improv groups are when you look at them objectively.
Thanks to Tina Fey, @NICKIMINAJ, Playboi Carti, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen), Robert De Niro, @chrisrock, Fred Armisen, Anne Hathaway, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jerry Seinfeld, Donald Glover, @RealTracyMorgan and everyone that watched tonight! Goodnight! #SNLFinale pic.twitter.com/UOXUYAmvu2— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) May 20, 2018