Daddy Pedro Pascal hosts a near perfect episode

‘The Last of Us’ star nails the gig. Ego Nwodim has a career highlight thanks to an extra, extra well-done steak. 'SNL' is clicking right now.

Daddy Pedro Pascal hosts a near perfect episode
Heidi Gardner, Pedro Pascal, Chloe Fineman and Kenan Thompson during Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Was this a perfect episode of Saturday Night Live? Did Pedro Pascal, in his first time hosting the show, just deliver possibly the best episode of Season 48?

The Last of Us star brought a ton of charisma to the episode, which SNL’s cast and writers matched with a fantastic variety of sketches. I honestly can’t find a weak spot in this episode. The pre-tapes were great, the sketches were great, the entire cast got into the mix. (Almost. Looks like Andrew Dismukes got the week off?)

SNL is clicking right now. The Aubrey Plaza episode, while a bit disjointed, showed ambition. We saw (almost) the full cast get involved last week with Michael B. Jordan. And now SNL put everything together for Pascal.

While I miss Cecily Strong, it’s been inspiring to watch the show FINALLY turn to castmembers like Heidi Gardner and Ego Nwodim these past few episodes, giving them chances to show why they’re on SNL. It’s also been fun to see Kenan Thompson, ever the SNL workhorse, paired up with rookie members of the cast.

Cold Open

Spy Balloon

There was no way SNL would open with anything other than the Chinese spy balloon. Especially after it was shot down earlier on Saturday.

“You got me,” Bowen Yang as the balloon remarks when Chloe Fineman’s take on Katy Tur sends to him. “Congrats, you shot a balloon.”

Yang has quickly mastered the art of playing acutely annoyed inanimate objects on SNL. His take on the iceberg that hit the Titanic — sorry, the iceberg that the Titanic hit — is an all-time SNL sketch.

“I can’t believe I’m Joe’s Osama.”

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The Monologue

Pascal’s monologue was quick and without any of the usual gimmicks SNL uses during this segment. Pascal didn’t sing a song or take us on a tour of the SNL offices. He told a few brief stories and got the show on its way.

Sketch of the Week

I’m going to cheat this week. Instead of one sketch of the week, I’m highlighting three. Hey, just like there not being any rule that says a dog can’t play basketball, there’s no rule saying I can’t make three sketches the sketch of the week.

HBO Mario Kart Trailer

Folks, can we trade the Chris Pratt Mario movie for this version? Pascal as Mario? Mikey Day as Luigi? Yang as Yoshi, who’s now bisexual?

Once again, SNL’s postproduction, costume and special effects teams knocked this one out of the park. I’m not sure about Thompson’s take on Bowser, but the rest of the visuals in this sketch are perfect.

“It makes me feel big. I need to feel big.”

Waking Up

It’s not often you see a host — especially a first-time host — make an established castmember break. I’m sure it’s happened before, but I can’t recall when it has.

Pascal made Gardner break in this sketch.

Thanks to his “L.A. mush-mouth thing,” Pascal wore Gardner down and caused her to crack as this sketch kept going. He even needed a moment to collect himself before moving on.

Lisa from Temecula

Is this the greatest sketch of Nwodim’s SNL career?

I don’t know why it was tacked on the end of the episode, following another restaurant sketch, but it’s one of the standouts from this episode.

Nwodim’s commitment to the bit, refusing to break no matter how absurd or messy the sketch got. Her timing when she asked Devon Walker’s manager if he was checking in on them because they’re Black. (Broke Yang in the process too.) All of it amazing.

The Rest

The Big Hollywood Quiz

OK, onto the rest of the episode. The show followed the monologue with a quiz show sketch where the gimmick was revealed to be that no one actually watches current movies or TV shows, especially if they’re on a streaming service like Apple TV+.

I didn’t know there was a show called Ginny & Georgia, much less that it’s the most popular show on Netflix.

Fancam Assembly

I’m much too old to be hip to the Gen Z speak featured in this sketch, but I do know that the Internet loves to see Pascal as a “daddy.” I think Entertainment Tonight’s Ash Crossan is to blame for this one, thanks to the years’ of work that she’s put into red carpet and convention interviews with Pascal, repeatedly bringing up that he’s a “daddy.”

I’ve been saying all season long that Molly Kearney reminded me of Chris Farley. Watching them play a lunch lady only enforces that.

Wing Pit

If the SNL sketch “Taco Town” and the recurring “Underground Festival” sketches had a baby, it would be “Wing Pit.”

As the size of the restaurant’s deals got bigger and bigger, the threat of violence that came with them grew too until Gardner and the sketch’s narrator were offering a 600-wing deal called the Tray of Tears, the Hard Slurry Chicken Smoothie and the boast that “we own the police.”

May Chirax, the god of chickens, have mercy on our souls.

Weekend Update: Punxsutawney Phil on Seeing His Shadow

This is probably my favorite sketch from rookie Michael Longfellow. His take on Punxsutawney Phil is a perfect blend of exasperated and conspiratorial.

Weekend Update: Milly Pounds and Shirty on the British Monarchy

This might’ve been the weakest part of the episode. James Austin Johnson and Walker debuted British rapper characters who highlight very specific things in their raps (they’re apparently allergic to dairy).

I did appreciate Milly Pounds and Shirty noting that British raps would have the sounds of little tiny knives sounds instead of guns.

Protective Mom

Gotta love SNL not even bothering to hide Pascal’s facial hair as he played the protective mother of Marcello Hernandez’s character as she met her son’s new girlfriend.

Life lesson from this sketch: Never bring vegan sliders.

Italian Waiters

“I’m not the Babadook” is a very funny thing for anyone to emphatically insist, especially when it’s a Sarah Sherman character at the end of her nerves.

  • Sarah Paulson (“Fancam Assembly”)

Who's Next?

Woody Harrelson hosts SNL on Feb. 25 with Jack White the musical guest.

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