Benedict Cumberbatch and Arcade Fire Were All-Time Greats on 'Saturday Night Live'

May 7, 2022

Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

BY Vish KhannaPublished May 8, 2022

In a very satisfying and consistent episode, Benedict Cumberbatch proved why he's an all-time great host and Arcade Fire put on a hell of a show twice. Here's everything that happened on Saturday Night Live this week.

The cold open

Unusually, a host appeared in the cold open this week, as Benedict Cumberbatch participated in a funny sketch about how decisions about abortion made in the year 1235 could not possibly be still relevant in 2022. Playing British lawmakers in the 11th century, Cumberbatch was in conversation about the matter with characters played by Andrew Dismukes and James Austin Johnson, when a woman played by Cecily Strong questioned their logic. Shortly thereafter, Kate McKinnon played a soothsayer who foresaw America's current predicament regarding overturning Roe v. Wade, and then this logic play wrapped itself up ably enough.

The monologue

The gifted Benedict Cumberbatch appeared onstage and made jokes about how all the writers wanted him to do Doctor Strange sketches, even though he was an Oscar-nominated actor who was recently "beat by Will Smith." Cumberbatch went on to devote his monologue to Mother's Day material, expressing humourous sentiments to his mother, his wife, and to all the mothers out there, all of which was charming and sweet.

Mother's Day Presents

At a family gathering, Aidy Bryant played a mom opening Mother's Day presents, which are all increasingly strange, harsh versions of those novelty slogan signs. With Cumberbatch as Bryant's husband, and her children played by Mikey Day, Chloe Fineman and Andrew Dismukes, somehow these four people provided her with like 80, very specific signs, some of which were funny.

Blue Bunny Ice Cream

At a focus group for an ice cream company, tensions flare when two of the four participants, played by Cumberbatch and Heidi Gardner, seem to have some kind of dark history or alignment together. Instead of just offering some opinions about the ice cream, like Kenan Thompson and Melissa Villaseñor's characters did, they spun wistful, rural tales of sadness, suggesting one flavour tasted like "a widower's pain." With star turns by Gardner and Cumberbatch, this was well done.

Perfect Mom

In this remote piece, Chloe Fineman played a grounded teen who can't believe her mother, played by Cecily Strong, never got up to trouble when she was younger. Via a series of flashbacks, we learned that Strong was a wild hellcat and, despite her claims, she did not always get along with her own mother, played by Kate McKinnon. A kind of fun but graphically explicit parental hypocrisy bit, Cumberbatch also helped make this a success.

Warden's pet

Man, in this old-time-y prison sketch, Cumberbatch was particularly funny, turning some work songs into revelations about how in the warden's pocket he was, as an informant who snitched on his fellow prisoners. Great supporting work here by Chris Redd, Kenan Thompson and especially Alex Moffatt during this very funny sketch.

Arcade Fire

If the narrative that WE marks a return to Arcade Fire's anthemic pop roots needed to be proven, one only need view their upbeat and optimistic performance of "Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)." With instruments emblazoned with the pro-Roe v. Wade slogan, "Call Your Mom 1973," (the year the legislation was enacted), the band delivered a song with festive doot doots, and props like air dancers blowing up, dancing, and deflating, this was some pure posi-rock.

With a different, multi-level stage set-up, the band conjured an early 2000s indie rock feel (the one they essentially invented) for "Lightning I," before the camera work took a turn and Arcade Fire exploded into a triumphant blast of symphonic punk for "Lighting II," which felt like a Fucked Up suite move.

In a rare occurrence, the band was called upon to play during the closing credits, which led to a brief comedy of errors.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost began with some dark abortion jokes, comparing the Supreme Court to angry Facebook posters. Michael Che's take on this issue was to make a series of self-effacing misogynistic and sex jokes, while Jost chose to root for Vladimir Putin's cancer.

Kate McKinnon appeared as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to voice unhinged ideas about what women could do with their unwanted children after they "do their nine," because she helped begin the process of overturning Roe v. Wade. McKinnon was amazing in this.

Che made good Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Jackie Robinson jokes before Jost made some childish ones about a British politician watching porn. All told, this was a brisk and funny Update.

Landsdowne House

In England in 1914, Cecily Strong's Amelia could not handle the news that her brother, played by Alex Moffatt, had enlisted in the war. Cumberbatch played their father and desperately tried to get her to make proper use of their fainting couch, but it was a fool errand's, as her repeated fainting created tremendous destruction and a painful mess for the family butler, played by Mikey Day. Funny, physical comedy here.

The ReKhline

In this remote ad, a class full of students is being told about how there's only one way to use a toilet, when an intruder, played by Cumberbatch, revealed Kohler's new model, the ReKhline, which was what you might imagine it was. Even here, Cumberbatch was just so great; he's rather wonderful in such silly things.

Reflection Denied

When the animatronic Chuck E. Cheese band stopped working, a 1980s pop duo called Reflection Denied serenaded families with their sensual synth stuff. Played by Cumberbatch and Bowen Yang, the Pet Shop Boys-like band were not exactly family-friendly with their song, "Pizza Pie," which was amusing and, again, showed off yet another Benedict benefit, as the actor hit a note-perfect falsetto and got fully into the bit. This was funny.

The Understudy

In this funny remote, Chloe Fineman explained how she was the show's understudy, filling in for various cast members if they called in sick to work. A showcase for Fineman's remarkable abilities as an impressionist, this got better as it went along, with game cast members in on each conjuring in a fun way.

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