Last week, Saturday Night Live surprised us with a character-breaking cold open that put joy back into our hearts. This week, it decided to break them.
With just a piano and a spotlight, Kate McKinnon took center stage and sang Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" as Hillary Clinton. There were no weird faces. There was no weird dancing. No mugging for the camera. It was just a straightforward homage to Cohen, who died this week, and to Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump and did not become the 45th president of the United States or the first female president this country has ever seen.
McKinnon’s performance sees Clinton lamenting her loss.
"And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but 'hallelujah,'" McKinnon sings in a verse.
The performance was as powerful as it was surreal. Week after week in the months leading up to the election, SNL spoofed the increasingly comical real-life debates between Clinton and Donald Trump. And seeing this week’s cold open forego the contention between Clinton and Trump to imagine how Clinton may have felt after losing the election — it just seems so different and so jarring than what we’re used to.
McKinnon draws upon a soulful sadness, showing her range as a comedic actress; she proves that she can make you cry as hard as she can make you laugh.
"I’m not giving up, and neither should you," McKinnon’s Clinton says, in what seems like McKinnon’s final performance for the character. A final performance that seems so different, so somber — nothing like what many people were expecting McKinnon’s election week "Hillary" to be.
And somehow, even though it’s not what many people ever imagined, it’s perfect.