lil nas x, punkie johnson, bowen yang, kate mckinnon, anya taylor-joy

SNL Delivers a Joyously Queer and Heartfelt Season Finale

Anya Taylor-Joy hosts the best episode of season 46.

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After what feels like the longest 16 months of our lives, Saturday Night Live wraps up season 46 with the strongest episode of the year. Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy hosted the finale, which was jampacked with heartfelt moments, iconic musical performances, and strong sketches. It’s been a rocky season for SNL that saw cast members performing in the throes of a global pandemic, amid a heated presidential election and an attempted insurrection on the Capitol. While the show stumbled in its political coverage (and suffered through Jim Carrey’s misfire of a Joe Biden impression), Biden’s win freed the cast (and all of us) from the nonstop Trump coverage that was too disturbing and awful to mock. After all, how do you parody a man who is already a joke?

Thankfully, with Trump deplatformed and vaccines readily available, viewers and the cast can look forward to a summer of normalcy, parties, and hugging our friends again. The episode eschewed the traditional cold open for heartfelt and funny messages from the cast as they looked back on this dumpster fire of a year.

Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, and Kenan Thompson took center stage in the cold open, which naturally led to speculation that it would be the quartet’s final season with the show. No official announcements have been made yet, but both Cecily Strong and Pete Davidson delivered Weekend Update segments that felt like farewells.

This feeling of joyful relief permeated the entire episode, giving every sketch a loose, last day of school vibe. With June just around the corner, SNL delivered a new LGBTQ anthem with “Pride Month Song”, featuring openly gay cast members Kate McKinnon, Bowen Yang, and Punkie Johnson celebrating both the excitement and exhaustion of Pride. The hilariously authentic sketch tapped into those universal truths about Pride that queer folks know so well: the relationship drama, the messiness, the heat, and the problematic corporatization of the once radical event.

Musical guest Lil Nas X popped in to sing about how Marsha P. Johnson and Harvey Milk made it possible for queers to “shake your filth.” And of course, what Pride would be complete without a heated discourse about theory? I predict that Bowen Yang yelling “Sis, I read theory!” will be the GIF of the summer. After decades of stereotypical and tired gay jokes, it’s refreshing to watch a sketch written and performed by queer folks.

In addition to his appearance in “Pride Month Song”, Lil Nas X delivered two stunning musical performances showcasing the Black queer experience. His “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” performance displayed a confident and unapologetic sexuality that will surely have conservatives clutching their pearls, even before his pants split while dancing on a pole. Like Madonna, David Bowie, and Prince before him, Lil Nas X is pushing the boundaries of gender and sexuality. I’m so excited to see what he does next.

The episode was packed with solid sketches, and Taylor-Joy was an enthusiastic and delightful presence throughout the night. But the most memorable moment easily goes to veteran performer Cecily Strong, who trotted out her Jeanine Pirro impression for another dizzy wine-sloshing performance of the Fox News blowhard. Strong always kills on Update, and her Pirro is perfection. In addition to spilling wine all over Colin Jost, Strong launched into Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” while climbing into a tub of wine. If this really is Cecily’s last episode, then that was quite a swan song.

What did you think of the season finale? Let us know in the comments!

(image: screencap/NBC)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.