By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood May 18, 2014 at 2:35PM
SNL's always-game, beloved former cast member Andy Samberg returned to the show for its 39th season finale. He attempted to beat Bill Hader’s impression record by rapidly hitting 24 impressions in a row during his monologue. They were so-so, but Samberg's bushy-tailed confidence kept it entertaining. Hader returned to reclaim his number, with Martin Short arriving to give him congratulatory flowers. It befits a SNL season finale for former cast-members and notable guests to return--to wave, cameo, assist, and smile along. This episode saw drop-bys from Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Pharrell, and Maya Rudolph.
Rudolph was particularly fantastic, especially in reprising her Beyonce for SNL's explanation of the sordid Solange Knowles vs. Jay-Z elevator fight. SNL provided an innocent interpretation of events (Solange saved Jay-Z from a spider!). This was a welcome, maybe too safe strategy. Stomaching violent ruptures in the lives of our celebrity idols is difficult--and a cute lie about bugs is a cheap way to gloss over things. Enough on that though, because Rudolph's Beyonce was glorious. Her intonations, her flung out hip, the perpetually fan-blown hair was all perfect--and just heightened the excitement for her new variety show.
My personal favorite sketch of the evening was a jaunty summer camp skit, with Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon as two 10-year-old imps. Samberg came on briefly as the cool 14-year-old. It was slight, but lovely.
Samberg did what he did best for SNL: music sketches. He is proving himself as an actor on “Brooklyn 99,” but his musical digital shorts were his shining moments in his SNL run. Samberg’s obligatory “flirtatious” skit--"HUGS"--was adorable and featured a very cute Pharrell. The best of his digital shorts last night was a dig on electronic music called "When Will the Bass Drop” (second only to the incomparable Key & Peele sketch). And this one featured a great, quick “Raiders of the Lost Arc” reference.
Samberg’s leadership brought an entirely satisfactory, funny ending to the season. As in this season’s best episode (Andrew Garfield as the host), there was nothing particularly daring, experimental or novel--but this new cast is shaping up well and delivering consistent laughs. Hurry back, season 40!