Winter is coming… this spring, but the winds of winter stopped by Studio 8H as Peter Dinklage hosted the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. And though he brought (SNL players portraying) George R. R. Martin, Daenerys Targaryen, and Dany’s dragons along with him, the episode unfortunately started off on an oddly sporadic note before it eventually found its footing for a string of fun, if ultimately forgettable, sketches. Except for “Space Pants.” That will be seared in my memory for months to come.
The episode relied heavily on Dinklage’s Thrones heritage in the early going (though honestly it would have been more shocking had the episode ignored the hit HBO drama). But the monologue involving Bobby Moynihan as Martin and Kate McKinnon as Dany jumped around sporadically and ended too quickly to give much of an idea how Dinklage would perform the rest of the night.
The monologue was unfortunately sandwiched in between two lackluster sketches, including an opening about a woman defending her Donald Trump support despite his treatment of women and a visit to to the 100 Acre Wood as Pooh Bear’s cousin stops by. (Sadly, in a world following John Oliver’s Trump segments and Trevor Noah’s recurring segment “Don’t forget: Donald Trump wants to bang his daughter,” the show’s attempt to address the subject never found its voice.)
The episode struck a better balance as the night went on, when even mediocre sketches found a moment or two to shine. (The Vacation Nightmares” sketch never quite works, but McKinnon and Aidy Bryant failing to properly fill their roles as two surly, imposing Danish criminals are a delight.) And as Dinklage seemed game for just about anything, the wackier concepts mined the night’s biggest laughs, including in some of the night’s most memorable sketches like…
Naked & Afraid: Celebrity Edition
Almost every reality show has to dip into the celebrity well eventually, and SNL gave us a taste of what Naked & Afraid: Celebrity Edition might look like as Dinklage and Leslie Jones went off into the forest to survive. And boy, do things get traumatic fast… for Dinklage at least. Neither celebrity has particular trouble surviving the elements, as the greatest challenge to lasting 21 days in the wilderness becomes Dinklage fending off Jones every time she hits on him. (If only Jones had been paired with Colin Jost, the footage might have been too dirty to air.) Jones’ commitment is a joy to watch as always, and Dinklage similarly is game for anything as he avoids splinters and quite direct sexual advances.
A Deadly Honeymoon
There are few things as joyous in the last few years of SNL than Taran Killam’s knack for pantomiming in the background. (See “The Merryville Brothers” for more.) And Killam does not disappoint as the dead, floating employee of an underwater hotel who adds some unneeded drama to a couple’s honeymoon. Dinklage’s hotel manager is an amusingly boisterous but relatively superfluous aspect, as Killam’s fake corpse takes the spotlight while messing with the visiting couple from beyond the grave.
Dining at a Glorious Restaurant
Dinklage’s episode ended in a sketch about underwear with skid marks in it caused by “loose logs,” but the funnier sketch that played it blue last night goes to the restaurant glory hole sketch. A local New York couple takes their visiting friends from Columbus, Ohio to a restaurant that formerly housed an underground sex parlor. The place has adopted that history with waiters greeting guests through glory holes, while finding no end to long loaves of bread and corn dogs to offer its patrons. The punchline is one-note, but Aidy Bryant and Dinklage intensely chowing down on everything from pumpernickel bread to a cob of corn is a hilarious sight to see.
Kenan Thompson’s returning David Ortiz offered probably the more cohesively funny guest on Weekend Update, but Pete Davidson’s twist on the Hulk Hogan and Gawker lawsuit made for an amusing entry in his stand-up lite routines. Rather than actually focus much on the trial, he brings it all around to be about his, Michael Che, and Colin Jost’s penis sizes in a wonderfully awkward few moments. It’s not Update’s best, but it’s always nice whenever Che and Jost are forced to react and bounce off someone else’s jokes. It loosens them up in a way that would be great to see more often.
Behind the Scenes of Game of Thrones
SNL’s comedic take on Game of Thrones this year (at least, until something dramatic happens on the HBO drama itself, of course) works thanks to Bobby Moynihan’s commitment to being a motion capture performer who doesn’t quite know his place. The sketch otherwise falls a little flat, giving the other actors involved very little in the way of jokes. Moynihan whispering “of Thrones” from behind a fake dragon wing and spitting out water is intermittently great, but the best moments are fewer and farther between than they should be, particularly for a sketch of this length.
Are you happy to have Gwen Stefani back on the scene, kicking off the next phase of her solo career? Well then, there are two fine musical performances from Stefani for you to enjoy (including one below). But it’s tough not to at least acknowledge Space Pants — which, based on Dinklage’s performance, should more accurately be titled SPACE. PANTS. The sketch in which the guest (alongside a brief cameo from Stefani) performed the original, Devo-esque ditty played its cards early, but Dinklage’s commitment to the ludicrous nature of the song, as well as the fact that I woke up this morning humming “Space pants!” to no one makes for a sketch that’s tough to forget.