If anyone is going to present twisted parole officers, Nazis, steampunks and disabled bar patrons all in one installment, who better than Key and Peele? With a range that seems endless, it’s difficult to imagine a situation outside of the duo’s reach, and their colorful assortment of characters back this week are no exception. That said, this episode (the second of its fourth season) is noticeably lackluster, especially in comparison to last week’s outstanding premiere.
Now, that’s not to completely undermine the episode. You will laugh, and it won’t take long, either. Right from the gate, a short opening clip shows Key as a news anchor, listing a variety of domestic abuse cases before ending with, “Well, that’s it for sports!” It’s there and gone in a matter of seconds, but, in that short time, serves up a poignant punchline that demonstrates Key and Peele’s culturally relevant tendencies and clever joke construction. Later, additional vignettes confidently hit their mark: a soldier returning home takes an unexpected turn when he disregards family for his dog, and, in the episode’s most memorable sketch, Ty Burrell returns as an incompetent SS officer whose narcissism in storytelling keeps his foes alive.
That said, the episode, by and large, drums by without a truly standout sketch. A bit featuring Little Homie, the puppet alter ego of a hellish parole officer, comes close, but suffers from a particularly frustrating ending. Then there’s Key’s neck-braced night club patron, whose frequent screams turn from comical to deafening, and Peele’s steampunk enthusiast, which, despite having a few great lines (“You wearing a top hat with a door on it!”) never finds its footing. Binding the vignettes is banter between Key and Peele, which, despite being occasionally charming, never seems to form a relevant narrative.
All things considered, this week’s humor relies heavily on outrageous juxtapositions—the disabled man in a popular nightclub, a steampunk convert with a former cohort, a parole officer and his polarizing puppet. Although the conflicts make things inherently humorous and interesting, many of the scenarios invite incredible tension that eventually throw the vignettes off-balance. In short, they become tedious. Now, for fear of sounding too critical, allow me to say this: undoubtedly, the majority of the jokes will sit well with fans of the show. But is this the best offering that Key and Peele has given us? I don’t think so. By the time credits roll, we’re left with a solid half hour, albeit one that doesn’t channel Key and Peele at its prime.