Overall, the episode, hosted by Natasha Lyonne, was a throwback to a time when longtime SNL cast members used to receive proper sendoffs in the season finale capping their runs. The last big one came during the 2012 season finale, with host and musical guest Mick Jagger. It said goodbye to Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig who had completed seven-year tenures. The episode famously ended with Jagger leading a dancing sendoff for Wiig to the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow” and “Ruby Tuesday.”
McKinnon, Bryant, Davidson and Mooney are leading members of the SNL generation that succeeded Sudeikis, Samberg and Wiig. McKinnon has been on the show for 11 seasons, Bryant for 10, Mooney for 9, Davidson for 8. In addition to the quartet, there are several other very popular cast members who have been on the show for eight seasons or more, including Michael Che, Colin Jost, Cecily Strong as well as SNL institution Kenan Thompson.
The pandemic likely delayed the overdue cast turnover, with only veteran Beck Bennett leaving last summer and the show’s troupe ballooning to a record 21 members this season. With McKinnon, Bryant, Davidson and Mooney’s exits, the generational change on the show has been set in motion.
The SNL Season 47 finale set the tone for the farewell with the Cold Open, which revisited one of the show’s most popular recurring sketches of the last decade, “Close Encounter,” which has included Kate McKinnon in one of her most popular characters on the show, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant. It ended with McKinnon’s character, Miss Rafferty, boarding a space ship to leave Earth permanently.
“Well, Earth. I love you, thanks for letting me stay awhile,” McKinnon, as Rafferty said, fighting tears, before adding, “Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night Live.”
Weekend Update featured both Pete Davidson and Bryant.
Not surprisingly Davidson, who first made his mark on SNL with his segments on Weekend Update, returned to the fake newscast for his final appearance as a cast member. He ended it with a heartfelt message of gratitude to the show and its boss, Lorne Michaels.
“I appreciate Saturday Night Live always having my back,” he said. “Thank you, Larne, for never giving up on me or judging me, even when everyone else was and for believing in me and allowing me to have a place that I could call home, with memories that will last a lifetime. So thank you guys.”
In another Weekend Update skit, Bryant and Bowen Yang reprised their flamboyant Trend Forecasters characters. The bit ended with Bryant announcing that “My best guys kissing me” is in, leading to Yang and Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che giving her a kiss and a shoutout, along with a coquet of flowers.
Mooney, who got to reprise one of his most popular characters, Baby Yoda, last week, was not acknowledged in his final full sketch, a 9 to 5 parody, which also featured SNL alum Fred Armisen. But it ended with Mooney and Armisen’s character making a dramatic exit by jumping off the window and were last seen flying down an office building.
In the night’s final skit, McKinnon and Bryant, who have done a slew of zany commercial sketches, including the popular HomeGoods holiday spot and an Apple Picking ad, delivered one last collaboration, an ad for Gray Adult Pigtails. Appropriately, it featured a cameo by Mooney. (You can watch departing cast members’ final sketches as well as their last curtain call below.)
While the entire finale served as a sendoff for the four departing cast members, there was no mention of their exit during the traditional curtain call which featured a Mooney giving an emotional McKinnon a hug.
The high-profile cast departures came after Michaels recently admitted that he was expecting this year to be a “year of change” for the show. It’s not a surprise given that this season featured 21 stars and eight cast members that were entering their eighth season and beyond.
Davidson has been on SNL since 2014 as one of its youngest ever cast members. He has become one of the show’s breakout stars in recent years, co-writing and starring in The King of Staten Island and co-creating and starring in Bupkis, which recently landed a straight-to-series order at Peacock. The latter is exec produced by Lorne Michaels, who Davidson will continue to have a relationship with.
He has largely been absent this season, appearing in only a handful of episodes as he films features including The Home.
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McKinnon has been on the show since 2012 and was promoted to repertory player in season 39 in 2013, becoming one of the show’s MVPs and winning two Emmys.
There had been persistent rumors over the last few years that she may be leaving, but she has stayed on, albeit not as regularly as she’d been in the past. McKinnon recently took some time off the show to film Tiger King scripted series Joe vs. Carole for Peacock, where she played Carole Baskin.
Bryant joined the show in 2012 and was upped in her second season. She has played characters such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Ted Cruz. Similarly, she has come and gone recently, starring in three seasons of the Michaels-exec produced Shrill for Hulu.
Mooney, meanwhile, who recently played Johnny Depp in last week’s episode, has been with the show since 2013 and was upped to repertory player at the start of the 41st season.
Here are McKinnon, Bryant, Davidson and Mooney’s last SNL skits:
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) May 22, 2022
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) May 22, 2022