Key & Peele’s extended fourth season is officially at its halfway point. Despite a noticeably tamer string of episodes as of late, this week’s offering hits back with a bit more oomph. Here, Key & Peele touch on topics like terrorism and the TSA, sensational talk shows, and dysfunctional criminal gangs.
My favorite sketch from this episode takes place in a trash-strewn backyard, where Eduardo, a newly initiated gang member, has just smashed a beer bottle on his head. “Eduardo is loco!” is the phrase that prompts the action for the entire sketch, which shows Carlito (Peele) subsequently trying to reserve the “crazy” label for himself. He’ll do just about anything to gain the title, too. He throws a trashcan on his head, displays his Tilikum whale underpants, and uses a book to simulate a duck’s beak. As Key’s gang leader puts it, “It’s not that kind of loco, okay? That’s more zany or goofy.” This disconnect guides the rest of the vignette. This sketch is equal parts caricature and left-field humor (which Key & Peele handles particularly well), and the result is something that rests comfortably at the nexus of familiar and bizarre.
One of the more memorable bits from this week sarcastically suggests that TSA airport rules aren’t carried out in vain. Set in a cave somewhere in the Middle East, Key plays a terrorist leader who, for the first time, learns about the United States’ airport security measures. It’s a cartoonish depiction, with jihadists taken straight from central casting, and its central humor stems from the idea that the TSA is, in fact, a successful band of “anti-terrorist commandos.” The cheeky observational humor works at the expensive of the current state of airport security, mining topics like oddly specific liquid and blade allowances, uniforms, and the observed morale of TSA workers for jokes.
There’s a political tinge to this week’s opener as well, which shows a heated talk show program à la Fox News titled “Dramatically Opposed.” In it, two anchors engage in a heated, albeit vague, debate over Obamacare, bailouts, and the economy, all before realizing that they’re both Republicans. Depending on a viewer’s party identification, it could be off-putting, but the inherent comedy of increasingly absurd and sensational news programs is something we’ve all experienced, regardless of our placement on the political spectrum. It’s a clever premise with a pronounced punchline, and I’m a sucker for Key & Peele’s social commentary.
The Take It Or Leave It
A sketch in which a man returns to his parents’ house to announce his engagement veers off course to become a mostly tedious bit. It starts out interestingly enough, with the introduction of his loser older brother Clive, who still lives in his parents’ home. Clive’s intense jealousy is understandable—his hair is thinning, he has no girlfriend, he is presumably jobless, and his handsome brother is marrying a Price is Right model—but his outward hostility toward the rest of his family is more frustrating than funny. I did enjoy watching Key skirt around his character’s good fortune for the sake of his brother, and liked the levity of a short-lived tender moment in which Clive ponders the best man role.
Lastly, I’m still on the fence about the Meegan and Andre bit, which is the same reaction I had when they were introduced in season two. Whereas the first rendition of Meegan and her submissive boyfriend benefitted from an abstract, oddball concept (in which Key’s Andre literally follows Meegan to the end of the earth to return her jacket), this particular sketch is more in line with last season’s update on the “couple.” In season three, Andre gets jumped for sticking up for Meegan, whose nasally voice and aloof behavior make her a frustrating caricature of the mythically annoying female. Here, it’s the same joke, but somehow Meegan’s inexplicably idiotic behavior and dismissal of movie theater etiquette is made tolerable by the performances. Peele does a killer job portraying Meegan, even exhibiting a careful attention to her walk, and Key’s portrayal of Andre as the straight man boyfriend adds a juxtaposition to the fictional relationship that gives it much needed dimension.
Overall, this episode is a step up from last week’s mostly disjointed affair, but it’s not the best we’ve seen from the show. That said, if this is Key & Peele at its tamest, that’s still pretty darn commendable. I remain optimistic as we move into season four’s second half, and feel certain that the best of Key & Peele is yet to come.