Saturday Night Live: Anya Taylor-Joy & Lil Nas X

May 22, 2021

BY Vish KhannaPublished May 23, 2021

Reflective and surprisingly emotional, the season 46 finale of Saturday Night Live was quite a feat, steered well by host Anya Taylor-Joy and musical guest Lil Nas X. It also suggested we might be losing some beloved cast members this summer. Here's everything that happened on SNL this week.

The cold open

All of the cast members appeared together for "What I Remember About this Year," which included a run through of the show's and the world's high and lowlights. Appearing first and to a great ovation, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson were all tearful, which either indicated they were simply overwhelmed with emotion at the end of a surreal season or maybe suggested they might know something about cast changes we don't yet. Chris Rock made a cameo, recalling what times were like when he hosted the season opener, which was funny. Overall, this was a nice and fun way to include the entire cast as themselves in a cold open, and suggested SNL has a real family vibe these days.

The monologue

The Queen's Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy introduced the season finale and revealed that this was the first show of the season to feature a full, in-studio audience. Riffing on her show, she made a few good chess and drug jokes before introducing the show proper, in her native Spanish, all of which was airy yet amusing.

Hollywood Squares

Uh oh, we were taken back to 1998 for a game of Hollywood Squares, which was filled with a retroactive rogue's gallery of stars, including incarcerated comedian Bill Cosby, racist ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, Subway spokesman and pedophile Jared Fogle, cancelled broadcaster and sexual harasser Matt Lauer, and disgraced actor Kevin Spacey. The joke here was that all footage of such figures in a nostalgic rebroadcast, had to be scrapped, barely making for a show, which was pretty good.

Gun Dad Meme Sketch

In this remote, the writers imagined the horrific postscript to that viral prom photo featuring a couple and the young woman's father, who was holding a rifle. As you might imagine, things go terribly awry when the fun gunplay goes sideways, which led to some funny stuff by Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Andrew Dismukes, Heidi Gardner and Taylor-Joy.


Up in heaven, teams of designers revealed their prototypes for human man and human woman, which would then be presented to God. We met them as the groups of men and women meet to discuss the human man model. This was a pretty unique way of doing a bit on how weird human bodies are, and it was also timeless enough that we can likely expect to see it in future sketch compilations.

It's Pride Again

In this remote, Bowen Yang, Kate McKinnon, Punkie Johnson, Taylor-Joy, and Lil Nas X celebrated the return of Pride Month in June. Unfortunately, the celebrations were bogged down in political righteousness, judgy-ness, mild depression and other interpersonal stressors. A bit of a fun rollercoaster, this one.

Celtic Woman

Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Taylor-Joy, and Kate McKinnon appeared as a touring quartet of Gaelic performers. Framed as an ad for the tour and featuring cast members offering quirky fan testimonials, this odd blast of Ireland was funny and endearing, almost entirely because Bryant, Strong, and McKinnon could barely keep their laughter in check during various moments of the sketch.

Lil Nas X

Propelled by a dancehall beat, Lil Nas X and a group of other shirtless men brought the heat with "MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)." With a lot of tight leather (which may have broken in a wardrobe malfunction for Lil Nas X, who held himself for the entire second half of the song), gyrating flesh, and a hellish red stage show, this was one of the most memorable visual and aural spectacles in the history of SNL musical performances.

Returning with more of a rock band formation, and everyone clothed and bathed in white, we got a melodic and quietly confident version of "SUN GOES DOWN," a soothing pop song, which simply confirmed that Lil Nas X is a superstar.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost began by celebrating America's good fortune these days, compared to September's season opener, and then went in on U.S. politicians like Matt Gaetz. Michael Che made fun of how handsy Joe Biden used to be and made fun of aspiring politician Andrew Guiliani. Che made some good fun of NYC's changing pandemic restrictions rules and the falseness of dating apps. Pete Davidson appeared to do some desk stand-up about Mental Health Awareness Month. He recounted his pandemic life and times and got a groan laugh for a joke comparing SNL to AIDS. He also made a strong case for all anti-vaxxers to move to Florida and closed by saying it was an honour "to grow up in front of all you guys," which, what, is he leaving too?

Jost made a pretty amazing joke about the new airline, Boom. After a great Braveheart joke, Jost and Che maintained their annual tradition of having the other cold read jokes that the other hadn't ever seen before. As usual, each played the race card, hoping to humiliate the other.

Normally a closer, Update tellingly ended instead with Cecily Strong appearing as Fox's Judge Jeanine Pirro, ranting her Republican talking points and repeatedly dousing Jost with her glass of red wine. In character still, Strong ended the segment singing "My Way," which was rather brilliant and, again, seemed to confirm this would be Strong's final episode as a cast member.

Enid & Astrid's Brawr Barn

Aidy Bryant and Taylor-Joy appeared as older New Yawk women, promoting a boutique for very large-breasted women. After Heidi Gardner appeared and was fully groped by Enid, Beck Bennett showed up as Enid's surly husband to explain the manufacturing process. A kind of risqué dinner theatre bit, this was good, mostly physical comedy.

Roommates in the City NYU Panel

Aidy Bryant and Taylor-Joy played NYU students leading a livestream Q&A for an HBO show called Roommates in the City. While they love Pete Davidson's Max and throw him softballs, they throw high heat at all of the POC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized actors on the panel, which was all rather hilarious for its harsh absurdity. Special recognition to Bowen Yang for being the funniest angry person on TV right now.

The Movies

Looking a bit like Dr. Evil, Beck Bennett appeared as Vin Diesel to urge everyone to return to AMC movie theatres to experience the movies. He outlined all of the weird and frustrating things we used to endure when we went to movie theatre, which, despite its simple conceit, was riotously funny thanks to Bennett's commitment and line readings.

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