andrew garfield snl may 2014

At last--a genuinely great episode of "Saturday Night Live." Bolstered by the measured goofiness of Andrew Garfield, this episode was inspired and consistent. There was nothing experimental or wild, but it was SNL doing what it does best and hitting all of its marks.

Emma Stone--Garfield's co-star in "The Amazing Spiderman 2" and his girlfriend in life--was around for the host monologue and made a lovely addition for the "Spiderman Kiss" sketch, in which the pair couldn't figure out what normal kissing looked like. Musical guest Chris Martin of Coldplay made a fun assist at the end. 

The cold open this week took its shot at Donald Sterling. Bobby Moynihan gave a worthy (almost unsettlingly creepy) performance as the sneering, wrinkled, unapologetic Clippers owner. Though it ended with a cheery "LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT," the conclusion of the short was that money is power and Sterling can buy off his consequences. A hard hit like this marks "Saturday Night Live" as a great force of satire. 

The best sketch of the evening was "The Beygency"--a fun pun that turned into a hilarious digital short about Beyonce's power over America. When a man criticizes her latest album, he becomes a fugitive. In honor of the resurgence of 24, Keifer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub made a well-timed cameo. The sketch was well-written, played, cut—and concluded, something that has never been SNL’s strong suit.  

"The Beygency" fell among a happy pile of great skits this week--a slight but hilarious bit called "Wing," which used a 1990s TV family drama aesthetic. Another sketch with a random premise (Oliver Twist!), shone because of Cecily Strong's performance as a down-on-her-luck jerk with a reality-TV-style bravado. And "Celebrity Family Feud" featured some deft quick impressions, particularly Kate McKinnon as Shakira.

Although Andrew Garfield's jocular energy helped to carry the show, Taran Killam should get separate congratulations for his carrying a big handful of different roles throughout this episode. He doled out some subtle one-liners as the director of "Spiderman," a secret agent in "the Beygency," and as the NBA commissioner. His impression of Russell Crowe, intoning recitative from "Les Miserables," was top notch.

This well-rounded episode is SNL at its best and confirmation that this "rebuilding" year is finishing up in style.