The show opened with Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton playing somber chords on the piano...
... I recognize the chords — there's no secret — it's "Hallelujah." They're combining the election story with the story of the death of Leonard Cohen. How's that going to work?
"Oh, she's doing this in earnest," Meade says, and he turns out to be right. Kate McKinnon sang the song in a somber tone, an earnest expression of sadness about the election (and perhaps also about the death of Leonard Cohen). No Alec-Baldwin-as-Donald-Trump ever bursts in. She completes the song, then turns to us and says, earnestly, her eyes glistening with tears, "I'm not giving up and neither should you."
The rest of the show was under-written and flat. I'm sure they knew that, since in one segment, they resorted to the gimmick of going meta, stopping a sketch mid-scene and switching to the actors analyzing what went wrong with the sketch, and the meta part was also under-written and flat.
The host was Dave Chappelle, who was making a big comeback. His opening monologue seemed be the result of a decision to just let him go on however he wanted for as long as he wanted. Many of his lines were garbled, and nearly all of it was some sort of racial analysis of what just happened in the election, with the main idea being that black people have always known that white people are racist. The most memorable joke was that he's staying in a Trump hotel and he likes it because: "Housekeeper comes in in the morning and cleans my room and I'm just 'Hey, good morning, housekeeper!' grab a handful of pussy, say, you know, 'Boss said it was okay.'"
There were some humiliating, cringe-inducing sketches. 2 were based on pathetic couples getting sex — "Last Call with Dave Chappelle" and "Love and Leslie" — and one was about a grown man (Chappelle) breastfeeding on his mother (Leslie Jones). There was a long, unfunny impersonation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There was a passable sketch about young white people watching the election returns with their black friend, played by Chappelle, who, I'm thinking, the show's decisionmakers deemed insufficiently energetically funny, since midway through the sketch, Chris Rock shows up to play the role of the white people's other black friend. There was an elaborately produced "Walking Dead" segment that gave Chappelle a chance to bring back a lot of characters that some people may remember from his old TV show. I don't know "Walking Dead" and I didn't watch much of the old Chappelle TV show, so I found this segment very hard to watch. It was one black man forcing a group of black men down on their knees and threatening them with violence. When the violence finally comes — at 3:23 — it gets surreal, and you might enjoy this part if you can endure the n-word and decapitation.
The severed head does some comical things. At 4:10 it talks about the nation "beginning to heal, through laughing again": "Because even though our country feels irrevocably severed like a man from his head, let my example prove that we should continue to move forward." The head asks us "to see ourselves in one another," and the special effects put this talking head in various places, including on the body of Donald Trump ("I am every man") and Hillary Clinton ("I am every woman").
The severed head was the best thing on the show. But then, I like optimism and surrealism. Mostly, I think the show just couldn't get it together to digest the news enough to make it into comedy. It was a real test of comic skill, nerve, and endurance, and they didn't have what it took. I guess it would have been easy to celebrate a Hillary victory, to gloat and mock, but they got their comeuppance, and it showed.