Watch Dwayne Johnson Join The Five-Timers' Club And Rock Saturday Night Live
The 42nd season ends on a strong note thanks to its blindingly charming cod-fed host, and some goodbyes.
The idea of a Dwayne (yes, "The Rock") presidency is supposed to a "Ha ha, sure, that would be great" joke, and even when it's come up in actual serious news analysis, it's been kind of written off as silly, at best. But after five outings as hosts as SNL, including this week's very solid and entertaining turn in which he addresses head-on those (maybe serious?) ambitions, we can say a few things, at least. 1. He is certainly beloved, and he did not screw that up in any way with this appearance. 2. He appears to be a consummate professional, something that one might say could be lacking in today's highest spheres of power. 3. Dude looks healthy as fuck; unlike some members of current presidential administrations, he doesn't appear to be about to keel over after a bad plate of oysters. 4. He knows his lines and how to say them in the right order and not in a way that could, for instance, start a huge war in the Middle East.
But enough about politics! Despite a drag-the-president cold open (more on that in a bit) and the monologue about a Rock 2020 run, it wasn't a particularly Trump-heavy episode, and that's great; it felt more like a celebration of a winning (and highly rated) season; a goodbye to two key cast members, Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer; and a showcase for what Johnson does best: charming the pants off of you, me, and even those who are not wearing pants, with his game-for-anything, throw-himself-into-it joie de vivre. Do I love this man and wish I were his doting husband in an alternate timeline? Yes. Yes, I do.
Best Sketch Of The Night
Nothing against Dwayne Johnson, who doesn't appear in this one, but for the second week in a row, a commercial for a trendy piece of technology is the best, and most topical, piece. If you are a parent of a child of a certain age, you have already had your ears blasted off hearing about fidget spinners. The obvious sketch would have been something to do with frazzled parents and the opiate-like state these things put your kids into (brb, shopping for fidget spinners), but instead they take it in a jewelry ad direction and make it about women who are A Bit Much, Especially In Social Situations. The diamond-encrusted Cartier fidget spinner is ridiculous and oddly beautiful and I kind of want one. This is also the first of several sketches highlighting Vanessa Bayer and she plays vacant (reading The Goldfinch for two years) and hostile ("There's nobody good here") perfectly.
Most Cutting To The Bone
This one's great not only because it connects to Johnson's long-ago career as a WWE wrestler, but because it's the perfect spotlight for what Moynihan typically does best on SNL: play straight man to prop up a sketch and then taking a turn into being the mortified patsy (in this case, dancing half-naked to Katy Perry). Clever idea making hyperbolic wrestler insults deeply sad and personal, and really well executed.
Biggest Self Shout-Out #1
This probably got a huge laugh in the pitch meeting, calling back to the heartfelt Hillary Clinton "Hallelujah" tribute, but turning into an ode about the fall of the Trump presidency. Ha ha ha, yeah, that's one joke -- and this goes on for a full three minutes. The way they mitigate the length is to roll out Trump staffers gradually (with Sean Spicer conspicuously absent); at this point, just showing Steve Bannon as the Grim Reaper or the Trump sons is enough for a laugh. But as a cold open, this one's not the strongest way to start the show; good thing the rest of the episode was a lot stronger.
Biggest Self Shout-Out #2
A sketch about how rap songs often pile up guest artists until it feels like a crowd of people in a studio feels like something that Lonely Island would have done seven or eight years ago, but it works on the strength of the silly personas introduced ("Lil' Nitwit," "Pregnasty") and the triumphant return of our beloved David S. Pumpkins. If you're gonna go back to the well, this is how you do it: Tom Hanks as Pumpkins is onscreen less than 10 seconds and it's fabulous.
Biggest Self Shout-Out #3
Remember backpack fashion shows? Katy Perry wants to keep that going.
Biggest Reason To Look Forward To 2020
Who cares if they're serious or not, Dwayne Johnson and Tom Hanks are fantastic together and even if this goes on a little long, their reasoning for why they'd make a great presidential ticket is hella convincing. It also feels like a continuation of the Five-Timers' Robe bit from last week. How long before NBC starts selling these robes in the Rockefeller Center store?
Most Fashionable Superhero
At this point, it's hard to parody comic-book movies; it feels so played out and the Marvel movies in particular already do a great job of taking the piss out of their own self-importance. But SNL finds a great angle by making Dwayne Johnson as Scorpio a master tailor with impeccable styling who should probably open his own boutique instead of saving the city.
Best Showcase Of Aggro Dwayne Johnson
We didn't get a "The Rock Obama" sketch, but the next best thing was this male-enhancement drug commercial in which Johnson gets to show his more sinister, aggressive side as a builder taking a super-sketchy drug that sends him into a rage. One too many commercial parodies this week? Nope, not when they're so good.
Most Evil, For Reals
Speaking of sinister, this one's about how super-villains who trade in freeze and shrink rays aren't really doing the banality of evil work they could be. As a less flamboyant villain who has created a robot that molests children, Johnson gets my admiration for not vetoing what could have been a problematic sketch, but that manages to be very funny, very wrong, and very smart about the difference between cartoon evil and real evil.
Another good sendoff sketch (along with a reprise of meteorologist Dawn Lazarus) for Bayer, this seems to be in line with the season's mission of exploring all the ways you can build a whole sketch around fart jokes. I love the way this one ends, which is in a truly stupid way I should have been expecting.
Lesser Sendoffs For Moynihan And Bayer
The last sketch of the show was no lyrical sendoff to Kristen Wiig, but it did again show why Bayer and Moynihan were so important to SNL: they could expertly prop up looser, less polished material and make it shine. At least Bayer wasn't getting doused with water repeatedly as she was earlier in the show.
More people probably wanted to see Drunk Uncle again and they got that, too.
But the last sketch was more of a silly character/pop culture showcase, and that's fine, too.
And that's it! Thanks for hanging for another season, see you in the fall!