Saturday Night Live has always had a stealthily big heart. You can see it when the hosts people really like get hugs from everyone at the end of a show, and you can see it when people come back for guest appearances, and you've certainly seen it in some well-known moments in which the show says goodbye. That includes genuinely sad moments like the night Steve Martin hosted the show hours after Gilda Radner died, as well as considerably lighter fare like singing "So Long, Farewell" when Phil Hartman was leaving.
Saturday night's episode, hosted by Mick Jagger, was the last for Kristen Wiig, who's been with SNL since 2005, when truly, just about nobody had ever heard of her. Now, she's the star and Oscar-nominated co-writer of one of the most successful comedies in recent memory, and she has a full slate of upcoming film roles. Not everybody is a fan, and almost everybody has at least one character of hers that they find agonizingly irritating, but I've always really appreciated her enthusiasm for doing grotesques. She loves characters who are uncomfortable to watch, and while that sometimes means they're just annoying, sometimes it means they're delightfully bizarre. This is a natural point for her to leave the show (and there are rumors, as yet just that, that cast members Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis may follow), and they went to some trouble to acknowledge it.
After a tiny bit of business to create the pretext of a graduation sketch, they simply had the band perform the Rolling Stones' "She's A Rainbow" as everyone stepped up to dance with her. The simplicity of the scene was also what made it so sweet; it was pretty easy to see the progression of emotions, because there wasn't much else to look at.
It was beautifully awkward at times — how she misses the kiss with Jay Pharoah because he's bowing to her, how Bobby Moynihan ducks away in a hurry because he's losing it, how seeing Bill Hader is the moment she starts to buckle and the first one where there's no gag to the dance. And then how grateful she is that Kenan Thompson shows up and does a little "keep going" reset for her and makes her smile, how she and Seth Meyers boogie because that's who they are, and how that moment with Sudeikis is obviously completely wrecking — he doesn't look right for the rest of the number, honestly.
And of course, because it's live television, Andy Samberg doesn't realize he's almost pulling her dress up. And of course, because she's not made of stone over here, she sneaks in a hug with Jon Hamm as the credits are rolling.
The whole thing is really pretty perfect, and pretty perfectly human, right down to the fact that it's so emotional that nobody is paying a lot of attention to the fact that they're doing a "Ruby Tuesday" singalong with Mick Jagger. You can see, too, the miracle of people who can instantly make other people feel better — that's what guest Amy Poehler is doing when it turns into that "Ruby Tuesday" singalong. She's the one my eyes kept returning to when I watched it, because some part of me believes that she's somebody who left, and who knows that it's really, really sad to go, but that your life can also get really, really good when you leave something you love to do something else you also might love. And, of course, you can always come home.