Grandpa Mick and Good-bye to Kristen Wiig: The SNL Season Finale

Last weekend, the topic of the short-lived but supposedly really great (11 Emmy nominations! Conversational endorsements!) Buffalo Bill came up. I haven’t seen Buffalo Bill, and there was no time to fix that between when it drifted across the table of La Scala salads and when I hopped Griffith Park and took it to the 5 freeway where I drove “forever,” but there were only 26 episodes, so I’ll probably get around to it next weekend when I have no SNL episode to recap for you. Apparently, canceling Buffalo Bill was Brandon Tartikoff’s biggest professional regret: It showed up at the party, dazzled everybody, ate some appetizers, and breezed out the door in a cloud of little question marks asking what could have been. The gripe about Saturday Night Live is usually just the opposite — a once-beloved sketch stops by for a martini, then leaves and comes back five minutes later, just real quick, to grab its coat. Door closes, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. But wait! Then it stumbles back inside, apologizing, because it just wanted to tell you one more thing that it forgot to mention earlier. You shoo it away. At midnight it returns because it wants to know if anybody’s got any cocaine. At two in the morning it wants to sleep on your sofa, and it keeps repeating the same story, except now it’s drooling and smells like the subway and you just want to beam it to the moon and import some other entertaining alien in its place. Still, a few weeks after you’ve Febrezed its odor off of your futon, you remember it with fond nostalgia (well, not always). The sketches and cast members of every golden period of SNL have to get dumped into the Lorne Michaels recycling bin eventually, but when the door shuts for good there’s a creepy feeling of uncertainty that hangs in the air, empty Solo cups of butts and booze.

Mick Jagger still looks, sounds, and struts just like Mick Jagger. He’s the quintessential tiger-blood-swilling rooster mascot of nostalgia: Even closing in on 70 years old, his cool hasn’t worn off. He’s fathered seven people and grandfathered four, but Grandpa still gets downright stanky with Arcade Fire and Dave Grohl. Was Mick Jagger a great host? Was this a great Saturday Night Live finale? I don’t have the answers! When I was watching it on Sunday evening, the weird gravitas of Kristen Wiig’s (and, maybe, Andy Samberg’s and Jason Sudeikis’s too) reported departure created an ominous eclipse that lasted 90 minutes and felt like everyone was standing in the doorway with their coats in their hands. Tiny hands included, as Jon Hamm showed up to guest star as the Italian prey of deformed and predatory Dooneese of the Finger Lakes. Look: I know that the Lawrence Welk sketches don’t vibe with everybody, but even though time has not improved this weird idea, I love this sketch more than almost any other. Hamm sucking the tiny doll arm of a woman who had just gone “numero due” in a gondola satisfied me like when “Teenage Dream” comes on the radio static-free on an evening drive. I wouldn’t have paid money for it, and I don’t want to talk about it, but it just felt right.

Jagger’s skintight-jeans opening monologue, a FAQ segment that he plowed through snappily, was straightforward and — while not necessarily hilarious (Ruby Tuesday’s jalapeño popper jokes, etc.) — contained a good amount of comic energy. It would be better not to speak of “Secret Word.” Jagger’s flamboyant but closeted action star character, Chaz Bragman, and Wiig’s diaphanously caped Mindy Elise Grayson, were forced to eat serving after serving of the same dead joke that this sketch drags back to the nest every time. Spoiler: Everybody says the secret word, time stands still, smart people make the decision to use the bathroom at this point in the show. Now we can throw a bomb into this hidey-hole and run away to the greener hillsides of the Mick Jagger impressions sketch, singing cheerfully because we’re free, free of the shackles of “Secret Word.” In this segment, a shy and bespectacled Jagger watches Fred Armisen and Bobby Moynihan perform Rolling Stones songs at an insurance convention’s karaoke party, brutally impersonating him as he chews the scenery (but in a charming way!) and reminds me of the driver in this haunting ditty. You know, the guy who’s not Fred. Jagger, as a host, makes big choices. He talks slowly and sits up straight like Lane Pryce’s glam rock dad, and hey, hats off to that.

The 101st digital short, “Lazy Sunday 2,” was a bold attempt at a sequel to something that was perfect the first time around. Do you remember when you first saw “Lazy Sunday”? I can’t even talk about it because it diminishes the experience. I watched this thing like 50,000 times in one day. I took out loans to buy stock in Magnolia Bakery, C.S. Lewis, and Matthew Perry. It was disgusting how much my brain humped this video, so of course I didn’t really ever want to see “Lazy Sunday 2,” but it managed to address that original with subtle bittersweetness (the Magnolia line is too long, McAdams loves Channing now), plus it contained the line “the plating is cray / I detect sage butter,” so it was probably the best-case scenario for another spin around the old neighborhood block. The “Sunday Night Blues” are real: You feel nostalgic for a weekend that is still technically in progress, become so filled with dread about leaving it behind that you can’t even enjoy the last sip (Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire sang “The Last Time” together — we get it, it’s OVER, it’s ENDING, people are LEAVING, we KNOW).

Jagger explored his stodgy, knightlier side as a JPMorgan analyst in a lukewarm “Politics Nation” sketch (the one chuckle came from Kenan’s Al Sharpton addressing him as J.P. Morgan, then, upon correction, asking to be called A.L. Sharpton) and as a believable Brentwood-style Californian in a reprisal of “The Californians” (Nigel Lythgoe lives in L.A., after all, and this is what I imagine he’s like when So You Think You Can Dance goes on hiatus: perched on a Cali oak chair in front of a tray of California rolls, s-l-o-w-l-y dissecting the vehicular peristalsis of the 405 north). This installment of “The Californians” was not nearly as spectacular as the first, but there is still some sparkle in the mirror reflection of one coast’s impression of another — especially when Steve Martin makes a cameo —, but it won’t reach its zenith until someone figures out a way to bring in some Joan Didion and Fatburger. That’s when “The Californians” will be optioned as a real soap opera, which it probably should be anyway.

This weekend’s “Weekend Update” was better than the last, and that was due in large part to the fact that Stefon, like Mick Jagger, should have gotten old, but hasn’t (this week’s hottest club is Scampy, where you can build a bear, but not the kind you think). And speaking of Nigel Lythgoe, Jagger did some of his best work (though not the acting kind of work, the wig-wearing kind of work) as Stephen Tyler in a sketch that combined SYTYCD with outdoor festival grooving, hosted by Hader as Dave Matthews. I wish that this offering had been less high-concept and had just been Jagger as Tyler on Idol, because it’s incredible how a rock star with a certain kind of cheekbone structure can shape-shift so seamlessly. Are they all the same mythical creatures, just wearing different scarves? Off of that, Jeff Beck showed up to collaborate with Jagger on a sort of strange political jam called “Tea Party.” I don’t know that it was as good as the “19th Nervous Breakdown” / “It’s Only Rock and Roll” Foo Fighters medley, but way to jab at Mitt Romney’s unsettling SuperCuts sneak attack (“don’t ever let him cut your hair”).

The show ended with a musical send-off for Wiig (“She’s a Rainbow” / ”Ruby Tuesday” with Arcade Fire), during which she cried and danced with the rest of the cast and Lorne Michaels, saving the sincerest tears for her waltz with Bill Hader. I knew that that man was the strongest magnet in the cast. Tearing yourself away from the arms of Stefon is like amputating a limb, I bet. It was sad, and genuinely moving, to see such a strong player leave — though it was probably the right time for Wiig to depart, before her reputation had been tattooed with any more Garth and Kat or Gilly. The party’s winding down, it’s Sunday night, and it’s time to spend the summer collecting audition tapes for the new generation. Will Sudeikis return (he wasn’t featured in this episode enough to make me think he’s really leaving, but maybe that’s his style — sneak out the door without saying good-bye, walking away like an Egyptian? Has Samberg’s Nic Cage slipped through the bars of his comedic confines for good?

We’ll find out in Season 38. Maybe one of them forgot their car keys, and oh, what’s this — you still got beer in here? Is it cool if I just park it at your place and order a pizza? It can be hard to say good-bye.

Filed Under: Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Mick Jagger, SNL

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Tess Lynch is a contributing writer to Grantland.

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