While likely everyone will run out to see host Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend, Saturday Night Live knew very well that not everyone would be watching this week’s episode. Airing opposite the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight, SNL’s competition was stiff, and the show openly addressed that fact with the night’s cold open.
Almost like a microcosm of the entire night, the “pirated feed” of the fight that opened the show worked in fits and starts, some of its bizarre jokes hitting the audience with weird but funny punchlines while others completely missed the target and fell flat.
That’s not necessarily the fault of Johansson, who seemed game to do whatever the episode asked of her, but rarely did it ask all that much. She either played relatively minor roles or characters who could have used a few more passes in the writers’ room.
Several of the night’s sketches could also have used some more work, many either reused recurring ideas that have long outstayed their welcome (GIrlfriends Talk Show) or others that lacked much ingenious execution (Virgin Air’s robotic attendants). There were bright spots, but they were few and far between, especially with a host whose previous stints have been much more memorable.
In fact, the show’s best use of Johansson came from using a character you can see her playing right now in theaters, which leads us to the night’s…
In a world dominated by male superheroes, Black Widow shines in almost all of her Marvel movie appearances. But even still, with no Widow movie in sight and only one female-fronted Marvel film on the docket, SNL sought to correct that. Enter Black Widow: Age of Me—from the writers of 27 Dresses, naturally. A romantic comedy following Widow’s love affair with a domesticated (but still homicidal) Ultron, the sketch pokes fun at both the rom-com formula and the absolute dearth of female superhero films.
Was the announcer crawl that opened the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight a little long? Yes. Did some of the sketch’s jokes completely bomb? For sure. And was Jay Pharoah basically given nothing to do? Yup. But it’s hard not to love Aidy Bryant as a racially confused Pacquiao, the two fighters’ hilariously thrown jabs, and Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber popping up in the crowd.
The Museum Tour was not just a painfully unfunny few minutes of the show, it was a confounding entry in an already rocky night. What was the point of this sketch? To have Kenan Thompson continually reference the Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCartney song “FourFiveSeconds” for some reason? So Taran Killam could wear a distracting wig that became the sketch’s most interesting character? I don’t know, but I’d rather we forget this sketch ever happened.
Best Musical Moment
You may have noticed a couple of pieces published on EW around the release of Furious 7, many of which I contributed to. So the night’s top musical moment is not a tough choice for me, despite how little it featured musical guest Wiz Khalifa. But Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” is difficult not to love for Furious 7 fans (and, by the box office results, there are certainly a few out there).
The night’s biggest strength was that it was actually willing to tackle a few touchy subjects, even if it never really delved deep into each one. That didn’t stop the viewing of the Baltimore Orioles game without an audience from being hilarious. Largely thanks to Killam and Thompson’s wordplay, the two announcers continually painted themselves into verbal corners that were unintentionally racist, insensistive, or just horribly phrased. The sketch again proved the night’s inability to properly use Johansson’s presence, but I could have listened to Killam and Thompson fumble their way through game coverage for another 20 minutes.
Taran Killam would win tonight for the sheer number of sketches he appeared in (I was stunned he didn’t have a Weekend Update character). But from his Orioles announcer to the weird faces he made during Johansson’s monologue, to what I assume was meant to be a GBF-version of Thor, Killam rarely disappointed. For another example, take his role as Blazer, a racist cop who is proud of his horrible behavior and uploads footage of it to YouTube in a sketch that smartly takes its time to reveal its purpose.
McKinnon wasn’t given much to do, other than pulling out her great Ruth Bader Ginsburg impression, but she chimed in with two great impressions, Bieber and Hozier, in the show’s first few sketches.
I suppose Johansson’s character during “Right Side of the Bed” was her New Joisey-accented character for the night, but it was disappointing not to see her recurring character Lexi pop up instead.
Speaking of Killam’s constant presence, the show also frequently paired him up with Thompson, the two of them appearing in no fewer than three segments opposite each other and then a few other times as part of ensemble casts. They’ve been paired before, but rarely has it happened so consistently in one episode that I can remember.
Weekend Update, again, passed by with few truly memorable jokes, though Jost’s bit about having to do a Bruce Jenner joke but being unable to, while Michael Che chimed in from off-camera, was one of the segment’s smartest moments.
Also, Sam and Gilly from Game of Thrones are apparently the show’s traditionally hottest couple now. As long as you take out all relationships where someone involved has died or the couple is related, of course.