Last night’s episode will never be remembered for its host Ben Affleck, who received little fanfare for his fifth hosting stint on the show, which combined with the fact that it was the season finale, likely made us more forgiving of Affleck as host. In his monologue, he brought out his wife, Jennifer Garner, and they awkwardly joked about his awkward Oscar acceptance speech earlier this year. It was, at best, a charming failure.
His first sketch, an Argo send up, was nearly as charmingly bumbling, and the only reason to even watch is for a hilarious self-effacing joke Affleck made.
It was followed by one of the better parody commercials of the season for Xanax: For Summer Gay Weddings.
Affleck is kind of like that hot waitperson who is both enthusiastic about his job, and embarrassed to be there, and for whatever reason, that mix elicits a kind of amiable sympathy, as was the case in this depression skit, a watchable misfire.
What made Ben Affleck the perfect host for the season finale, however, was his graciousness, and the fact that he was totally cool to give up the spotlight to two long-time departing cast members, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, who — along with Jason Sudeikis, who is also rumored to be leaving — dominated the night’s sketches (ironically, Bill Hader’s very first appearance on “SNL” was in an episode hosted by Affleck).
Hader would get his farewell sketch on “Weekend Update” as Stefon, which was absolutely terrific, and featured the return of Amy Poehler doing another “Really?!” segment with Meyers. It felt like something of a goodbye for Meyers, too, although I understand he will return next winter, ahead of his new gig on “Late Night.”
Stefon’s wedding has EVERYTHING.
Armisen also got a big farewell, a sweet song he performed with Bill Hader, Aimee and Michael Penn, his “Portlandia” co-star, Carrie Brownstein, and several other familiar faces.
Kanye West did a fantastic job of trying to detract attention away from Hader and Armisen, however, with two new songs called “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves.” I have no idea what to say about the performances.
But beyond Ben Affleck’s gracious hosting gig, Stefon’s farewell, Fred Armisen’s song, and Kanye West’s numbers, in the end, the night may be best remembered for a single line by Cecily Strong. “Whole hand in.” It was probably the single funniest line of the entire season, in a sketch that somehow gets better each time she and Vanessa Bayer trot it out.
Overall, it was a great episode, not for what it did, but for what it represented. So long, Fred Armisen. So long, Stefon (and Bill Hader)! If you get a chance, find the entire episode on Hulu later just to see Hader and Armisen’s goofy, emotional waves during the cast farewell (and Sudeikis, like last year’s finale, looked pissed again).