Saturday Night Live with Taraji P. Henson and Mumford and Sons was great in a lot of ways. For one, Taraji was egregious and fun as a host, bringing plenty of charisma and spirit to the skits throughout the night. Most importantly, I think this is a memorable episode because we’ve got to see Kate McKinnon front in center, as she slowly and steadily becomes the breakout star of the show, the thing the cast has been lacking for a few seasons. Her opening as Hillary Clinton, while not a first for her, really solidified her role in the political satire game that SNL has always made front and center on the show. Overall, I thought she had an amazing, stand out performance for the whole show, with a lot of air time and many great moments. I like Kate’s humor a lot, and for the sake of the show, I hope she becomes the face of the show that SNL could use to break back into the mainstream foreground again, especially with the 2016 Presidential Election looming.
First things first, I really enjoyed Taraji P. Henson as the guest host for this week’s episode. She brought a certain fire and energy with her to the stage, and that really allowed her to shine in the skits she was cast in. Her opening monologue was sweet and to the point, as she sang a tune with a gospel choir about finally making a name for herself in show business, and it was fun and interesting all the while not droning on unnecessarily or veering off course. Some monologues on the show come off as ambling and trite, but her opening was fun and sensible. In her skit appearances, Taraji shined just as much as in the monologue. In the ill-conceived Court skit, Henson put on a really great performance as the lawyer questioning a 16 year old witness about sleeping with his adult teacher, and even though the skit was a pretty bad concept, and featured a creepy performance by Kenan Thomson, her mannerisms and reactions to Pete Davidson’s character were wonderful. Later on, she had one of the more memorable impressions of the episode in the “Home 2” trailer when she played a really on point Nicki Minaj. That whole skit was amazing, and she was kind of the cherry on top. She played the mother in the Janelle dance videos skit with a performance equaling that of Chris Rock’s when he played the father for that same character, and her performances in other skits like the QVC infomercial and the Cinema Classics were pretty much flawless as well. The whole episode was great, and a lot of that was thanks to the host being so energetic and entertaining throughout the night.
While Taraji P. Henson was a wonderful host, this night really seemed to be all about Kate McKinnon. Kate was front and center throughout the show, starting with the cold open, and it really felt like she was the star of the show, something that we haven’t seen from SNL in so very long. It really all starts with her impersonation of Hillary Clinton in the open, as her Hillary character planned to make her candidacy announcement. Kate’s Hillary is about as perfect of a political character as the show has seen since 2012. I know I was a little lukewarm to her performance the first time we saw it, but for some reason it all just kind of clicked well this time. Her Hillary character is brash and ruthless, it’s both funny and horribly satirical at the same time, and while it seemed a bit off-putting in its debut, Kate’s performance has officially won me over. With Hillary appearing to be a real central figure in the 2016 presidential election, the prowess of this character could easily carry the show for the next two seasons, which will make Kate even more important to the show than she already is. Additionally, we saw Kate perform as Jane Lynch in one of the new, favorite recurring game show sketches of the modern age, “Hollywood Game Night.” Not only does this skit always give the cast a great chance to perform some great character impressions, but Kate so often shines in her Jane Lynch host character, far outshining any SNL game show host character since Will Ferrell’s infamous Alex Trebek. Yes, she is that good in this sketch, and it’s a joy to watch her take the lead on a sketch and carry it. Also, while a very small moment, my favorite point in any sketch of the night also featured Kate, alongside Pete Davidson in the “Home 2” sketch, when they portrayed alternative-rap group Die Antwoord. It was such a random pop culture bit to throw into any sketch, one that I bet a lot of the audience didn’t know, but it was hilariously executed by all parties. All in all, Kate rocked the show this week, proving herself as a potential breakout star of SNL for years to come.
This was another good episode of Saturday Night Live, with great performances from Taraji P. Henson and Kate McKinnon leading the way. It’s great seeing a cast member step up and take the limelight for the first time in a while, and I think the writers realize that with the political elections of 2016 becoming a central media issue they have a real opportunity to gain back some momentum with great impersonations like Kate’s Hillary Clinton character. She could easily carry the show with that character for the next couple years, and that has to make the creative minds behind SNL really happy. SNL will not be live again until early May, with Scarlett Johansson hosting, so we’ll have to wait a few weeks for another show unfortunately. Still, the last couple weeks have seen a really solid coming together for this show, it hasn’t been the most memorable season the show has ever had, but week by week it has been good entertainment, at least of late, and that’s good enough for me. Let’s hope they finish out the season strong!