Key & Peele Review: "The 420 Special" (5.09)

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<i>Key & Peele</i> Review: "The 420 Special" (5.09)

This week’s program is bananas. Strong from start to finish, Key & Peele proves that it hasn’t lost a bit of momentum throughout its five season run. This week’s structure is slightly different, and, instead of offering four or five disparate sketches, we’re given a kind of concept episode. That concept is centered on one Neil deGrasse Tyson (played by Peele) who makes several appearances throughout the show. There’s also another look at those beloved valet guys, and, in a magical realism tinged car sequence, we watch that vintage ride glow green and fly off into the sky. All in all, it is a great installment of this insanely wonderful show.


Jordan Peele puts those impressive impression chops to work again, this time assuming the role of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. There are three installments of this sketch throughout the episode, and each plays like a domestic themed (and totally outrageous) episode of Cosmos. Here, when NDT addresses the camera in his signature fashion, it’s loaded with ulterior motive. He’s giving us all a lesson in physics, as per usual. Only now, it’s dually serving as a way to calm his wife’s frustration with him. It’s as if Tyson’s entire life is an educational film being shot before an audience. He’s always finding the relationship between mundane life and science, and he’s perpetually speaking at a camera…and, you know, seguing into a scientific explanation to evade his wife’s momentary hostility. My favorite of the three comes toward the middle of the program, and opens with Tyson lying in bed. He’s reading a magazine with himself on the cover, and wearing planet-adorned boxers. As for which detail is funnier, well, that’s a total toss-up.

Best Line: “…which would mean that your curtains and little Sputnik’s pee-pee could be as distant from one another as we are from the furthest galaxy.”


This is my favorite sketch the episode. That’s in large part to the inane reliability, which is so understated that I’ll surely have trouble putting it into words. Here, Key plays Mr. Wise, a new hire meeting his supervisor Winslow Thachet (Peele) about a legal assistant job. Thachet meanders around his nice office, as bosses do, talking about the position. Mr. Wise, on the other hand, sits in front of the desk, hypnotized by a beautiful jar of marbles. The candy-like appearance of the colorful jar sets off a childlike reflex in Wise, and his preoccupation is completely justified. Here we have a feeling of something being so close, yet so out of reach; the perfect storm of circumstance, desire and suppression of primal instinct. Aren’t we, as humans, drawn to such pretty things? Complementing this theme is a plethora of incredibly choice details, from Key’s fantastic portrayal of Mr. Wise’s submission to unexpectedly hilarious dialog (Thachet’s “How’s that?” comes to mind). That said, the moments when Wise is visibly drawn to the jar take the cake. The Danny Elfman-like score is perfect, particularly when matched with the decidedly different camera perspective. When the sketch’s twist is revealed, well, of course those marbles play an intricate role in a pretty cruel test. This sketch is so good.

Best Line:
“Like, what would it feel like if there were kinda a whole ton of marbles in my face?”
“Well, don’t do that. Just. Just don’t do that.”


Is that Birdman speaking out of Jordan Peele’s ass? If you thought the marble sketch was a dip into the completely bizarre, this one will give you a run for your money. Here, Peele plays the douchey patron of a suit shop, and Key is the man fitting him. Whenever Key nears the customer’s below-the-belt area, a voice of warning calls out, claiming that the “end is near.” It seems prophetic at first, before culminating in, well, a fart. The final frame shows a young monk, with a third eye, standing in front of a solid backdrop. He says at the camera: “Change is coming.” As seen here, Key & Peele’s tendency to dip into the absurd makes for some incredibly original and unpretentious content. It always feels completely genuine, like the outcome of a bunch of witty writers brainstorming what-ifs and why nots? in a conference room. You just don’t see this kind of stuff on television, and I will miss it so, so, so much.

Best Line: “There is a guy in there!”


Twice in one season! This week, Game of Thrones nabs the attention of the beloved valet team. This offers plenty of opportunity for our titular characters to butcher names, reveal spoilers, and, of course, showcase some choice physical comedy. The latter facet of these vignettes is what excites me most about them. Key and Peele time their material to a tee. I can only imagine how many rehearsals this sketch took to get just right, although you’d never know it. Point blank: these bits look incredibly fun to make. The proverbial cherry on top is relatable dialog for any Game of Thrones fan. It’s just beautiful.

Best Line: “The Dinkles is my jam, my jelly, and my peanut butter and my peanuts.” Truer words never spoken.


This sketch offers a playful subversion of horror tropes, to the particular tune of When A Stranger Calls. And that’s just in the first thirty seconds. After that, it turns in to a face-off between two men, and it’s anyone’s guess where it will end up. A telemarketer trying to push “Vegas packages” plays hard to get. He hangs up mid-call and answers the phone with expletives. It’s later revealed as a scheme to frustrate potential customers into making a purchase. The tactic totally works here. The recipient of the call (Key) is cordial at first, but eventually morphs into an incredibly angry person—and purchaser of not one, but five Vegas packages! The way the tension builds in this scene is perfect, making that third act reveal (it’s a call script!) all the better.

Best Line: “What the fuck do you want?”


This week, we learn that Jordan Peele wants to get Key high, Peele may or may not be on acid, Bill Nye is a total dog, and…nothing is real. Aside from the episode’s final, LSD-influenced moment, this week’s car sequences serve mainly as filler. They succeed in connecting the action, but offer few special stand-alone moments that give us further insight into our main players.