Gal Gadot showed off enough wit in her famously improvised scene in Wonder Woman to demonstrate why she would be a great Saturday Night Live host. While showing plenty of comedic timing elsewhere in the movie, her long scene with Chris Pine aboard a small boat served as the true showstopper in a film filled with huge heroics and larger-than-life battles.
Oddly enough, most of this week's sketches featured Gadot isolated from the rest of the cast, which minimized her chances to truly gel onscreen with the show's cast. This didn't hurt the overall quality of the show, which barely featured any true comedic duds. But it did seem at times as if she were in one show while the rest of the cast was in another. She more than acquitted herself as host (some too-obvious cue-card readings aside), but this wasn't a show that showed off the ensemble so much as a few figures within it.
That being said, most of these sketches still really worked. Picking just three was difficult. But here are the ones people will be talking about until next week's episode.
Comedy is an art, but I'm willing to believe there's a science to determine exactly how long a sketch can hold its cards before revealing its true nature. It's a fine line, and sometimes SNL fails miserably at it. But this sketch executed the perfect form of release from the tension that it built over its first 60 seconds. Nothing about the sketch was overtly funny by design until then. It was all about the mystery: Why were these people on a date? Why was the waitstaff treating them so poorly? What was the POINT of this sketch? The audience was uncomfortable and on edge.
The reveal that Kenan Thompson was playing O.J. Simpson provided pure comedic catharsis, creating a momentum that carried through the rest of the segment. Every single beat worked: from the plastic knife, to Simpson's constant deflections of why everyone in the audience knew him, right down to the frantic calls from Gadot's girlfriend once she realized who Gadot was with…everything straight up soared. But it wouldn't have worked without that initially awkward minute. That's the sign of a sketch that knows it has something good in its back pocket, and didn't mind making the audience wait for it.
Weekend Update On The Las Vegas Shooting
We're only two episodes into this season, so it's unfair to draw any conclusions at this point. But after a politically-intensive 42nd season, the trend thus far has been to keep current events in the cold open and "Weekend Update." That's hardly new for the show: In fact, that's pretty much business as usual for SNL. The shootings in Las Vegas got somber reflection in Jason Aldean's cold open performance of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," but received harsher, angrier treatment in the first portion of "Update."
Colin Jost and Michael Che are dangerously close to figuring out how to make "Update" their own, and while it's taken longer than many would have expected or enjoyed, the first two iterations this season have seen them firing on all cylinders. The first three minutes of this week's "Update" featured a sustained, two-handed plea for gun control that allowed each man to approach the issue from his own perspective.
Jost's ironic approach (the Chik-Fil-A text alerts) combined with Che's exhausted disgust (his inventive "buy-back" program) works incredibly well in tandem, serving to augment the other to produce a sum greater than the individual parts. When "Update" isn't a series of jokes but a thematically linked segment, this version of the SNL institution is at its best.
Weekend Update: Pete Davidson On Mental Health
I'm not usually a fan of double-dipping into "Update" when creating this list, but this was such a triumphant return for Pete Davidson that I have to forgo my normal (read: arbitrary) rules. What could have been a somber, self-indulgent piece instead demonstrated why SNL has put so much faith in him over the years.
Davidson's self-effacing, personal brand of comedy has always made him stand out during his tenure. Here, he's able to confront the elephant in the room (his recent diagnosis of borderline personality disorder) while somehow turning it into a way to address his lack of airtime on the show in recent months. Usually, it's Leslie Jones making Colin Jost feel awkward, but here Davidson does a fine job with simultaneously asking for understanding while simultaneously trying to exploit his diagnosis for more sketch time.
There's a specificity to the way Davidson delivers jokes that isn't immediately evident: His slacker person suggests a person who isn't trying at all, but his mind is so sharp that he in fact uses that misconception to his advantage. He brings a unique energy to the show, and it was awesome to see it on display this week.