“I’m not blind.”
“Oh, thank God, I’m not a mortician.”
“And I’m not dead, but please don’t stop on my account.”
This is the triple punchline from one of Key & Peele’s most self-indulgent—and downright hysterical—sketches this week, about an (apparently) blind man attempting to identify a dead body in a morgue. It’s a gag that’s cleverly constructed and instantly memorable, and contains the tried-and-true elements of a classic long-form joke. This sketch occurs late in the game, but it serves as good example of how the episode was a knockout, aided by this week’s horror genre influence.
An assortment of genre-inspired sketches were counterbalanced last night with vignettes that were rooted in reality. There’s a scene that follows two friends as they leave a theater, fresh from seeing a scary movie. Their words are betrayed by their actions, with neither friend admitting the psychological effects of the film they’ve just watched, but both demonstrating a very obvious, albeit nonchalant, fear (such as jumping in unison over gathered water, while referencing a “demonic” puddle from the movie).
In a later sketch, Key plays a surgeon who has just completed a successful heart transplant. When discussing the procedure with his patient, who is still lying on the operating table, he mentions a political topic: “This is an instance of Obamacare literally saving a life.” Instantly, the patient’s demeanor changes. He tears the heart out of his body (because he doesn’t want Big Government in there) and promptly dies. It’s a clever sketch that highlights the brazen partisanism of Affordable Health Care Act discussions, but it’s easy to imagine a particular political demographic finding the bit soap box-y—although I’m not too sure that Key and Peele should care.
That said, the episode’s greatest moments take place in cinematic spoofs of the horror and thriller genres. The mood is established in the very first sketch, as we watch a nighttime conversation unfold between two friends. It starts innocently enough. A door bell rings and Sue, the homeowner, answers it. Outside is a friend, who has spontaneously decided to stop by. Sue invites her in, using an array of casual invitations, but her friend plays coy. Finally, Sue offers a formal invite, unaware of the twist ahead of her: that her friend is a vampire, and she’s just made a very terrible mistake. It’s a successful stinger that sets the right tone, all the while demonstrating Key’s knack for indulgent expression, Peele’s subtle hilarities, and, over all, reinforcing the episode’s Halloween theme.
A latter vignette takes cues from classic, suspenseful cinema. It follows Carlo, a murderer, who taunts a disoriented detective (Key) as he struggles to find Carlo in a house of mirrors. Thanks to dumb luck, the detective finally stumbles upon him—but Carlo won’t surrender. “Detective, you assume it’s the real me standing in front of you, but maybe that’s just what I want you to think…” he says, wincing each time the detective’s gun is aimed at him. From there, the tension subsides, and we’re left watching a dead end conversation that’s filled with hilariously bizarre dialogue. All in all, the writing os stellar, the costumes are wonderful, and the funhouse location offers particularly stunning visuals.
Another sketch shows a trio of young men (including guest star Kumail Nanjiani) congregating in a dingy apartment to smoke marijuana. Waiting there is a nearly incapacitated stranger (Peele), who gives the world’s worst pitch for a drug he’s presumably high on. It has a list of hilarious street names (“Long Island Brain Slice”, among them), but offers no redeeming quality. “You realize the face of God is somewhere inside your body, but you can’t find it and it hates you,” the pitchman says. Regardless, Key’s character is game. After applying the drug—which involves an incision to the eyeball—he desperately asks when the high kicks in. Peele’s character remarks a cold punchline in response: “How should I know? I don’t take drugs.” A title card instantly shows over a freeze-frame image of Peele, rendering the entire scene a public service announcement. It’s an incredible lampoon of dramatic anti-drug commercials, and one of the show’s best moments.
A previously-released sketch that features Orange is the New Black actress Lauren Lapkus as a Make-A-Wish Foundation associate is another highlight of the episode. Peele plays Liam, a sadistic and twisted terminally ill child, while Key acts as Dr. Gupta, his pediatrician. When asked for his wish, Liam responds with a chilling “I wish to drown a man. In the bathtub. To hold him down while the last breath escapes his body.” It only gets more chilling from there, with the sketch, overall, inspiring equal parts laughter and terror.
Key and Peele have demonstrated their affinity for horror in the past, with ample, hilarious allusions to the genre in past installments. They’ve previously shown us zombies, vampires, and one over-eager party patron dressed as Michael Jackson. Season four’s Halloween episode is certainly up to that standard, offering an enjoyable half-hour that runs at a steady pace and never drops the ball.