In one of the finale’s interstitial car sequences, Keegan-Michael Key asks his costar about their very first sketch. “I think it was ‘Bitch’,” Peele says, before going on to playfully cement their duo’s place in entertainment history. “Pure classic. It’s us, then, like, Dallas, then The Twilight Zone.” But damn if there isn’t something to that. In five short years, this sketch program has crafted a large following, permeated popular culture with made-up phrases, sent many a clip to the viral core of the internet, and caught the eye of one President Barack Obama. While no new content will be coming from the Key & Peele camp for a little while, these characters will continue to make their rounds, shared on social media or mentioned among friends, when the time feels right.
So this is it folks, the end of the run. Hell if it doesn’t go out on a high note. The final two episodes were released together last night, offering plenty of opportunity for us to relish in a few of our favorite characters one last time. There are also a slew of new concepts for viewers to interact with, as well as the previously released “Negrotown” bit that is among the absolute finest offerings the series has ever given us. It also features a pretty choice blooper reel, which is intensely nostalgic, particularly given where it falls in this week’s line up. It all reinforces that big life lesson: everything must come to an end. Man, if it isn’t hard to say goodbye to this show.
So, without further ado, a final review:
WHEN YOUR FRIENDS DON’T PICK UP ON YOUR CUES
Bluffing: maybe don’t do it. This week’s opening shows the pretty horrendous aftermath of a face-saving bluff. Peele’s character is embarrassed when another guy bumps into him purposefully in a crowded nightclub, and responds with a call to action that he’s physically incapable of following through with. By his side is a friend (played by Key) who can’t pick up S.O.S. signals very obviously being sent his way. This isn’t the episode’s pinnacle, of course, but it accomplishes exactly what the first sketch up to bat should do: establishing the pace and tone of the remaining episode. It’s impossible to not enjoy watching our titular characters’ quick and zany back-and-forth banter.
“Well maybe it’s a type of telekinesis that’s a mutant power that you didn’t realize you had until the moment in star—
“Oh, oh, I got it, I see, I see. So you want me to hold you back.”
THE PUPPET MASTER IS BACK!
Is everyone else as captivated by Meegan as I am? Do you find yourself sitting behind your television screen and forgetting, for nearly half the run of the sketch, that Meegan is in fact Jordan Peele and Jordan Peele must be one of the acting gods because seriously she seems so damn real? No? That’s just me? All questions aside, this Andre vs. Meegan bit is one of my favorites to date. In a departure from the usual tune of this totally detestable couple, Meegan does not lose a jacket this go around. She does, however, get dumped. She then uses her wretched knack for mind control and top-notch manipulation skills to make Andre the usual putty in her hands. It’s so good, from the most overt aspects—these killer characters, both played to a tee by Key and Peele—to the atmospheric music pulled straight from a Lifetime movie. Love it!
Best Line: “You’re a controlling manipulative person, everybody says it.”
“I don’t think I am…”
“Yes you are, Andre. Yes, you motherfucking are.”
THE MORTY JEBSEN SHOW
Well, this is a zany one. A playful riff on Larry King Live, here, elderly talk show host Morty Jebsen (Key) manages to make a fool out of his guest Young Bidniss (Peele) after asking personal questions. I love the two-sided nature of this story. On surface level, it’s an easy joke about wild cultural personalities and talking heads, but, a little deeper, it says a lot about our celebrity-worship culture. Jebsen is prying and patronizing; his guest is childish, and his meltdown is inevitable. And yet the cameras keep rolling. It’s a little bleak, no? Of course, these guys dress it up with jokes and visual punches, threaded (quite literally) by a pesky microphone cable that is lost in Young Bidniss’ fancy clothes. This makes for some incredible moments, like the recurrence of over-eager production assistant Louis, Bidness waddling off set with his pants around his ankles, and Jebsen lending a hand to his guest in need (further cementing the adult/child dynamic). This is hilarious, point blank.
Best Line: “Have a seat here. Put your fanny here.”
“Don’t say fanny!”
CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST GUY!!!
This is amazing. So, so amazing. If you remember the last time we saw this tan-suit clad business guy, you’ll remember his knack of over-thinking simple luxuries (continental breakfast, anyone?), as well as his habit of ending up in horror film tropes. Here, after getting bumped up to economy seating on a flight, we see that trademark euphoria. Then, at the end, we get the signature twist. This go around, it is more classic Twilight Zone (monster on the wing of a plane) than The Shining (man in decades-old picture), but the pay-off is equally satisfying. This is one of those sketches that seem like a sure bet for classic Key & Peele round-ups down the line. And, man, what a creepy ending. Admittedly, I was a little disturbed by the visual twist, even as our character accepts it as another day in the life. Why can’t we all have that constantly sunny outlook?
Best Line: “Economy plus—mm!—for the discerning passenger.” That wink!!!
THIS GUY IS DEFINITELY A NAZI
Peele plays a man visiting his friend’s new house. There, he finds his friend with a German Shepard named Adolph, donning a Hitler-esque mustache, and displaying a swastika flag on his wall. It is, by all accounts, totally incriminating stuff. Although his friend has a litany of excuses—the mustache is not for Hitler to own, Adolph is named for Harpo Marx, the flag is a Producers prop—there’s no denying his suspicious sentiments. The friend tries to pitch an anti-comedy people offensive to his counterpart. It’s unsuccessful, of course, because—hello!—this guy is a total Nazi. This is one of those vignettes that keeps you guessing until the end. I had no idea where it would head next, nor if the suspicion that Key’s character was indeed a piece of shit would materialize. All around, it’s a solid bit with a political edge, and completely fun to watch.
Best Line: “The swastika? This is a vintage comedy prop from the movie The Producers, okay? You saw The Producers? The musical inside the musical? Mel Brooks? Then they did a remake that had Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in it? Nathan Lane was in the cut! Nathan Lane was in the cut.”
RAY PARKER JR.’S BEST HITS
This is an incredible spoof on those public access television CD package infomercials. Peele is Ray Parker Jr., an entertainer best known for the Ghostbusters theme, which is as crucial to the cultural tapestry of the 1980s as almost any other piece of music. Here, the K&P writers have a bit of fun with a few what ifs? What if Ray Parker Jr. was commissioned for several other movie themes, or, conversely, just made ‘em anyway, without permission? What if all of those themes, regardless of the film tone, feature over-the-top synth and brassy, playful vocals? This bit is hilarious, right down to its tiniest details, such as a lower thirds exclaiming that “’Ghostbusters’ is not included” in this extensive box set. Peele is incredible as Ray Parker Jr, too, although that comes as little surprise. His animated delivery shines throughout the entire bit, up until the very end, when Parker Jr.’s lack of expression indicates a major personality shift. This is such a fun bit that plays upon the viewer’s understanding and familiarity of pop culture. I absolutely love it.
Best Line: “Now there’s a whole lot kinky, bet that room is stinky! Fifty Shades of Grey—haha—Alright, white people!”
Vince (Peele) is facing all sorts of tragedy: low business earnings, the death of his mother, his father being on life support. Regardless, he can’t stop saying “These nuts” in every response, much to the dismay of his straight-man coworker (Key). It is a total front—an easy way to mask emotion—and Vince eventually admits that. That revelation considered, it remains a zany sketch through-and-through. The brand of discordant humor that Key & Peele handles with perfection is full-throttle here. The performances, the soundtrack, and the heightened drama all play into this completely bizarre bit that embodies everything great about Key & Peele. Topping it all off is the ending: Vince’s father’s final words are shared for his hospital bed. The are: “I love…these nuts on your chin.” So weird, but so, so good.
“Your mother is dead, and your father is on life support.”
“These nuts are supporting life on your chin!”
OH MY GOD, SHE’S BEATIFUL!
This is one of my favorite skits from the episode. Key plays a man nonchalantly going about his business when a beautiful woman randomly passes out on the nearby sidewalk. He calls 9-1-1, and the female operator (Peele) tries to direct a love-blinded Key through the emergency. So much is at play in this fairly quick sketch. For starters, it features some of the most intricate production design of the entire season thus far, with its over-the-top graphics, quick flashes, and swirly crossfades from scene to scene. The electric soundtrack is the perfect backdrop for the on-screen dialog, and the performances—naturally—are stellar. Peele kills as the female emergency responder, operating with an understated familiarity and well-crafted character personality. All around, it’s a taut sketch with a fascinating premise, and a highlight of the finale.
“Do you know how to give mouth to mouth resuscitation?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Okay, I need you to administer that now.”
“Okay, okay…No, I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. It’s disrespectful. I have to be respectful for her.”
“Sir, this is the only time it’s okay to put your mouth on an unconscious woman. Do it.”
NEGROTOWN: IT’S A MOTHERFUCKING BLACK PLAYGROUND
Negrotown is wildly ambitious, incredibly poignant, and a complete triumph. With its rich color palate of reds, blues and yellows, decidedly 1950s Americana design, and painfully relevant inspiration, Key & Peele sets the scene for an alternative world, “a black utopia,” where black Americans can live without the oppressive forces of heteronormative culture. How we end up here is telling. A black man is picked up by a police officer for no justifiable reason. The man hits his head on the police car door as he’s roughly shoved inside it, and he falls to the ground. A voice from behind offers to “take it from here,” and, before we know it, we’re transported to Negrotown by the homeless man in the alley we’ve seen just moments before. Negrotown is a place where cabs stop for all residents, people can safely wear hoodies without being killed, and tokenism does not exist. And for all of its funny quips (“Negrotown? What, like Atlanta?) there is an undeniable truth at the heart of this sketch. For that, look no further than the unforgettable ending, which brings us back to the cold exterior that introduced the sketch. The man picked up by the police officer comes-to after being knocked unconscious. “I thought I was going to Negrotown?” He asks. The cop reaffirms this, blatantly establishing that the “real” Negrotown here is the prison system. Damn. This is a masterpiece, plain and simple, and an explosive way to end the series.
“In Negrotown, you live long and well
there’s no disease, no sickle cell.
No stupid ass white folks touching your hair
or stealing your culture and claiming it’s theirs.
Hanging out in a group doesn’t make you a gang
not every word you say is considered slang.
No one trying to get in on the latest trend
by making you their token black friend.”
INTERSTITIAL CAR SEQUENCES
The last glimpses of our titular characters, from behind the wheel of that vintage car, are bittersweet. Some of the interactions are wholly surface level and typical of these interspersed sequences. There are musings on sex talk and the weirdness of being referred to as “Daddy” by lovers, and a genuinely hilarious observation of Phish fans. Peele referring to sex as “tossing a little something in there” is also pretty damn funny, especially considering the reaction it gets from his costar. There’s also more serious discussion as Key and Peele discuss the possible results if black culture was dominant (this sets up Negrotown, which instantly establishes the theme that’s to come).
And, as promised, we’re also told just where Keegan-Michael and Jordan are headed as they continue to drive through the barren desert. In the final moments of the finale, they pull off the road and stop the car. Then comes to the reveal: “I said biiiiiiiitch!” It’s a killer callback to the very first sketch of the program, and nice final wink at the viewer
Then, the final moments sink in. The theme plays, the car continues down the road, but this time, we won’t follow it. When that final title card appears on screen, the sad fact is heard loud and clear. This is the end, guys.