Key & Peele are back for a fifth season, loaded with the promise of making your Wednesday night a heck of a lot funnier. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
RHINOS OPENER—HOLY PRODUCTION VALUES!
The Rhinos are back, yet again! Here, a lighthearted pre-game pep talk takes a turn for the—whaaaaat! Chest bumps turn into cause for wielding samurai swords, setting traps, and blowing up locker rooms from the comfort of a plush town car. And it’s totally absurd. I love this program’s commitment to turning tropes from mainstream cinema into something uniquely comical, and with top-notch genre design, too.
Here, for example, Key & Peele take the most recognizable facets of both sports dramas and tense thrillers—the game day euphoria, tonal music, and a sepia-colored locker room—creating a Frankenstein of a sketch. It’s held together by the hilarity of juxtaposition; that is, the constant exchange of admiring words between teammates. Uplifting sentiments like “This is our destiny!” spoken by a knife-clenching Key is completely illogical, but K&P’s all-in values make it a complete success. Pretty solid for the first sketch at bat.
Best (Line) in Show: “Play this game like it’s the last game of our life.”
ANGER TRANSLATOR: OBAMA/LUTHER VERSUS CLINTON/SAVANNAH
Here Key & Peele present their trademark sketch on honesty in politics. Hillary Clinton’s own anger translator debuts in this scene (Savannah), which is pretty timely given the increasing chatter around the 2016 presidential election. There are tons of opportunities for the characters to play out the imagined, not-so-nice banter that the two political powerhouses might share, and, despite the sketch being one that’s often recycled, the joke definitely still has some zing.
I like the principle of this bit, and always appreciate a Luther drop-in, but this sketch probably won’t be the one that you revisit on YouTube a week or two down the road. Nonetheless, I’m excited about the potential of more political bits. I hate to think that Luther’s days are numbered (or, mostly, that Peele will have to retire his Barack Obama impression) but that sadness is lessened by the endless possibilities that should present themselves with the burgeoning 2016 election. More of this stuff, please!
Best (Line) in Show: “F-ck you, dream stealer!”—Savannah
SEATMATES FROM HELL: “WE GON’ GIVE THEM THE RAINBOW CONNECTION”
Oh man. Pity the poor guy sitting next to two crazoids in a packed airplane (also: that guy who blasted dubstep for the entire duration of your red-eye from LAX to JFK—no so bad!).
This sketch is easily one of the episode’s most memorable (and instantly shareable). Peele, who rocks a pretty far-out eyebrow design, and Key, donning some seriously large chompers, play two eccentric tough guys eager to take down a terrorist or two…if they have to…mid-flight. The duo drills an unsuspecting seatmate with a series of half-decipherable questions and vague suggestions, eventually revealing the arsenal they’ve brought onboard. Their hilariously garbled words are a riot, with their physical-isms being equally captivating. Key’s toothy character awkwardly licking a handgun was easily my favorite two seconds of the entire episode (someone make that a GIF, stat!). The poignancy of this sketch is also notable, with its zany take on the national fear of terrorist threats.
I gotta say, I could stand to see more from these particular characters. If they’re like this on an airplane, I want to see what they’d be up to on solid ground.
Best (Line) in Show: “…Because with great power comes great responsatrilitis.”
FEMINIST PIRATES: “WE DON’T SAY BOOTY, UNLESS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT GOLD!”
For starters, I like the musical spin of this sketch (again with the genre exploration!), even if its message is a bit on the nose.
Here, a pirate band performs for a congregation of fellow seafarers onboard a classic, wooden pirate ship. Not exactly what comes to mind when your average Joe (or Jane) describes a feminist crowd. However, that’s exactly what we have here. Key’s lyrical offering of “There once was a girl from Leeds, who I heard was good on her knees,” turns into a message on fulfilling your lady’s coital desires (“Always take care of your lady fare, because they deserve as much attention down there!”). It’s a great bit from the K&P writer’s room. Content and timing make for some hilarious moments, like when a man is promptly taken-out after mentioning a “slug with tits to here.” The revelation that a female captain helms the ship ends the sketch with a satisfying aha!
Best (Line) in Show: “We don’t say booty, unless we’re talking about gold; We don’t look at chests, unless treasure they hold!”
RACIST COP DRAMA: ART IMITATES LIFE
Extraordinarily poignant and self-aware, the final sketch shows Key as a white cop who repeatedly murders innocent, black passerbys. His reason? He wrongfully assumes that each man is armed. It doesn’t sound like the stuff of comedy, but it enhances the overwhelming senselessness of related tragedies and twists them into something soundly absurd. When Key’s cop fires the first shot, killing a man holding a popsicle, it’s already ridiculous. But the story escalates, highlighting a myriad of double standards and lack of consequence that has footing in real life. The officer ultimately shoots a black police chief (Peele), but not before kindly excusing a heavily armed white man from the scene.
It sounds hefty, and it is. Although you could choose to watch it without context as a classic, slapstick affair, its relation to recent headlines gives it a powerful, painful overtone. This sketch will stick around with you.
Best (Line) in Show: “Ah! Big Fuzzy gun!”
One: We still have the in-car sequences connecting the sketches, and they remain frequently delightful, often referential, and occasionally clunky. Topics covered include the namesake of farts, being caressed by a drunken stranger on a train, and musings on the objectification of women.
Two: Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about Key & Peele’s extended fourth season, which featured a hefty order of twenty-two episodes. After season four ended just eleven sessions in, it appears that order was ultimately split into two distinctive installments.
Guest Stars: Rebecca Romijn, Malcolm Barrett, Kate Burton, Stephnie Weir