Before last week’s episode of Key & Peele, it was announced that this season—which had originally been part of season four—would be the series’ last. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have become pretty busy guys since the show began, and while it’s disappointing to have such a seemingly abrupt ending, it would be even worse if the show outstayed its welcome both creatively and entertainment-wise. Season five has been pretty solid so far—which is really Key & Peele’s baseline—but not everything has worked out. Recurring characters can be more hit or miss than before, and certain sketches either have trouble ending or bring up memories of sketches from other programs. In fact, this episode marks the return of Levi (Peele) and Cedric (Key), the Ratatouille guys, and much like that sketch, it’s one that works very well in the moment but doesn’t do much past that (and is easy to forget the moment it’s over).
Except for the production value, the majority of this episode’s opening sketch feels very much like an opening sketch from Saturday Night Live. That’s part of why Key & Peele ending so soon is probably for the best: The longer it goes on, the longer it becomes comparable to other works for its similarities, instead of its deviations, from the norm. As the politician’s “isolated incident” becomes a full-blown dick pic scandal, the sketch picks up steam on its own merits, but it’s really the little things that make it work. Just hearing Keegan say “foibles” is enough to make the sketch worth it, and Jessica St. Clair appearing in this episode is a nice one-two punch after the second season premiere of Playing House (only on USA, characters welcome). In fact, their brief interaction in this sketch is a non-“foibles”-related highlight.
Of course, the ending of the sketch is a departure from the vague Saturday Night Live undertones as it features a blurred out penis-flopping Key; but as far as starts to episodes go, it’s not one of the series’ strongest. Then again, very seldom are the sketches that are sent out to be the viral excerpts from the show the best part of the episode, and this opening sketch is a reminder of that.
The sketch of the night is the “Rapper Interrogation” sketch that inspires this episode’s title, “Killer Concept Album.” This is another sketch I’ll compare to something else, but in this instance, it’s in the best way possible:
Peele’s indifference as gangster rapper (and Ice Cube cos-player) Gun Rack and Key’s increasingly frustrated detective create an amusing contrast, one that only gets better as Peele’s “confession” rap of killing Darnell Simmons becomes more absurdly detailed. “The name of the album is ‘I Killed Darnell Simmons’!” “It’s a concept album.” It becomes more surreal (outside of the fact that Gun Rack is supposedly a multi-platinum recording artist with such lame flow) once it “ends,” with the end result being Gun Rack actually getting caught and the cassette tape confession being admissible in court.
The southern flirtation sketch is another one of Key & Peele’s male feminist sketches (though a much more subtle one), and while there’s a mild amusement that comes from Peele’s oblivious sidekick character, it’s really not that funny of a sketch. There’s almost always one small thing that makes the “worst” Key & Peele sketches at least mildly worthwhile, and here, it’s the joke of Peele misunderstanding something as simple as not speaking. Compared to this episode’s one-and-done of the world’s most pessimistic and honest detective sketch—which is even shorter than the trigger-happy white cop sketch—it’s another example of a meandering Key & Peele sketch with a disappointing (and possibly predictable) ending.
But the one constant that remains, regardless of the sketches, is the on-the-road interludes between Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. Key & Peele is consistently at its best during these brief scenes, because there’s no need for a big-time set-up of epic backdrop—it’s just two friends and performers riffing against each other and creating the most organically funny aspect of the series. Plenty of sketches within Key & Peele try to recreate and replicate this behavior (just look at the old man/Drake sketch from “A Cappella Club”), but it’s not the same. Those sketches will never be the same as Peele and Key shooting the shit about the former not being a “musclogist” or repeating “hemoglobin” until the episode ends.
These relaxed conversations bring up some really ridiculous, real-life topics, but at the same time, they can bring up some pretty good points. As Peele talks about how his love handles are the reason he can’t be an action star, there’s a realization that Key & Peele has given its stars ways to become action stars or whatever else they may want to be with its amazingly produced sketches. Watching Peele in the sketch that follows—as the retired war hero who gets back into the game*—isn’t funny because it’s ridiculous to think of Peele as an action star. It’s funny because Peele’s character is not quite sure which way to go when the General (Key) and Agent Jackson (Tricia Helfer) are doing the walk and talk. It’s funny because he simply doesn’t understand “standard” technology.
Peele: “What’s the matter, General? Everybody’s putting their hand in the laser.”
Key: “It’s not a laser, it’s a hologram.”
Peele: (with no change in accent) “Tomato, tomato.”
It’s funny because it challenges the very trope of a recluse badass who was once relevant being able to remain relevant much, much later. The sketch is a bit like an ironic Demolition Man (one that could be made today) in a way, where Sandra Bullock would end up being a double agent (or, at the very least, Sylvester Stallone’s daughter). No matter the quality of the sketches, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele manage to transform themselves accordingly, and that’s the biggest loss that will come from the end of Key & Peele.
- *Apparently this sketch only aired in the screener version and not the aired version (which had a ghost sketch). Apologies for the confusion.
- Which one of you is going to provide us all with the lyrics to Gun Rack’s single? Please know in advance that we’re grateful.
- Politician (Key): “It was the reckless act of a younger man.”
Jessica St. Clair: “A younger man?! You sent it two seconds before you stepped on stage!”
- Levi (Peele): “Lightning in a bottle, son. Blip”
Cedric (Key): “That’s crazy, son. Where’d you get that?”
Levi: “Some old Chinese man sold it to me years ago.”
Cedric: “Man, that’s some supernatural shit, man.” The sketch really is good while it lasts, but it goes on slightly too long, and it’s unfortunately very easy to forget once the episode is over.
- Peele saying “insertion” (and then abbreviating it) is scarring.
- The bad guys in that military sketch are called the “Arachnid,” probably because “Cobra” is already taken.
- Thanks again to Emily L. Stephens for stepping in for me last week. She rocks.