There are two possible scenarios that could have led to this Halloween-themed Key & Peele. The first is that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele had a bunch of sketches in their reserves that dealt generally with spooky themes, so they decided to patch this episode together. The second is that they specifically sought out to write Halloween sketches and do this episode up right. Both are pretty damn impressive. This episode is really, really funny, making fun of Halloween tropes and once again utilizing the awesome cinematography that has come to define this season. There’s not only mockery of the holiday itself, but also of the people who go to great lengths to celebrate it, and they manage to get in a few jabs at fantastical targets of all stripes. All the more evidence that this is one of the best shows on TV right now. Sitcoms, schmitcoms: If we see a resurgence in televised sketch comedy, we can thank Key and Peele.
The format of Key & Peele works if you’re watching the disparate sketches or if you’re catching an entire episode. There are those interstitial segments, of course, this season that have been directly addressing the material that came before or after. This episode is one of the better examples of letting Key and Peele geek out as themselves, and finding a way to tie it to the theme. Peele recounts a story of seeing Paranormal Activity with a group of 75 Latino family members—90 percent of whom were children. Then, once they realized there were demons in the movie, the entire family stood up and walked out, about halfway through the film. Key gamely plays along by walking across the stage as a little kid, letting Peele bat him away.
If you’re watching the show as a unit, you’ll appreciate the way that its lead two actors lay the groundwork for a sketch and add to the goofy mood that’s already been established. But if you’re catching the sketches later on the Internet, there’s a charm to each one that’s immediately apparent. In one of my favorites the show has ever done, Peele is throwing a Halloween party, and his friend, played by Key, shows up as Michael Jackson. Now, having been to costume parties before, I know the whole dance people do to demonstrate who they are. They quote the movie or whatever, do a move, strike a pose, etc. Then they move on with their lives and try to get laid. Not Key. He does a few moves as MJ, does a few more, repeats a few, does even more, gives Peele the “Thriller Eyes,” dances around, performs high kicks, grabs his crotch… this goes on for a while. It’s the “Kristen Schaal Is A Horse” philosophy of comedy: It’s funny, then it’s not, then they push through until it’s funny again. Even with zero context, this sketch goes off without a hitch.
And thanks to some wonderful cinematography work, the show is able to lambast Harry Potter by portraying the poor-school rival to Hogwarts, done up like an HBO documentary. Kids have silencers on their wands; they smuggle illegal wizard powders through security; the janitor, played by Key, has the Mad Eye Moody wobbly eye. Again, it works by itself, or you can know that Key has never read a Harry Potter book or seen one of the movies, and has a very warped version of how Harry Potter actually works. It’s even more enjoyable, then, to watch him embrace the wizarding tropes he trusts Peele to bring to the table, bringing his own sense of wonder to the sketch.
There’s a parody of The Walking Dead and a sketch that mocks the trope of the “magical black man” in every film—done already last year, but this one takes it in a more sinister direction. Key and Peele can parody things big and small. Or, they can put on their girl costumes yet again and get in the back of a van run by a creepy dude, or hold a reunion of the Human Centipede trio. Evil takes many forms, and Key & Peele finds a plethora of ways to approach the subject. And whether they stumbled on the episode accidentally or they planned for it, it’s impressive just how wide an array of topics they cover.
- Because the hurricane has been making my DirecTV all spotty, I finagled a screener for tonight’s episode. It didn’t contain the Obama/Luther sketch, so I can only assume it’s timely and wonderful.