“Saturday Night Live” host Benedict Cumberbatch dove right in to the action in his second time out as host, appearing in the cold open sketch that took aim at the Supreme Court’s move on abortion rights and the spectacle of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial.
Cumberbatch, star of the latest MCU movie release “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” appeared in a 13th century sword-and-sandals costume, complete with a Prince Valiant wig, as he and two others sitting in a castle debated how to govern women’s reproductive rights.
The sketch opened with a voice-over and text scroll that made reference to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s citation of 17th century writings of British judge Matthew Hale and references to 13th-century laws as offering justification for curbing rights protected for a half-century by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
As the three men settled on draconian decisions, Cumberbatch’s character exulted in their “moral clarity” and envisioned future legal scholars reviewing their work and declaring “There’s no need to update this at all. We nailed it in 1235.”
A profound moment of moral clarity from 13th century England pic.twitter.com/loZfY5sb40
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) May 8, 2022
Cumberbatch was confronted by a servant-class woman played by “SNL” regular Cecily Strong, who questioned why men should have such control over women’s bodies given the high rate of mortality in childbirth for mother and child in those days. “Shouldn’t women have the right to choose, since having a baby means a 50 percent chance of dying?” Strong’s character asked.
A few more characters dressed in period garb entered the scene to discuss equity of the situation and whether women should have political rights. Chris Redd, a Black member of the “SNL” troupe, questioned the restrictive decisions for women but quickly added, “Moors will be Moors. I know I can’t vote,” he quipped.
“SNL” star Kate McKinnon also made an appearance as a Merlin-esque witch who came in with dark predictions of the future. She introduced herself as not a magical character but “just a woman in her 30s.”
McKinnon sought to scare her 13th century audience with bold predictions about a brighter future for women.
“These barbaric laws will some day be overtuned by something called ‘Progress,’ ” she said. “Maybe 50 years after the progress, they’ll be like, ‘Maybe we should undo the progress.’ “
McKinnon’s character also observed that in the future, “It seems like all the power comes from a place called Florida” and she nodded to the strangeness of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial that made worldwide headlines last week.
Cumberbatch spoofed his image as a screen hearthrob for women of multiple generations. His monologue revolved around Mother’s Day and his appreciation for his own mother and his wife, Sophie, the mother of his three young sons, in romantic and seductive terms. Midway through his sexy soliloquy, Cumberbatch nodded to “Dr. Strange” by whipping his hands around like the titular character while the music suddenly became superhero-movie dramatic. “I’ve just opened a portal. You’re welcome,” Cumberbatch said, almost with a wink before he returned to heaping praise on his wife and other.
Cumberbatch also joked about how hard it was for “SNL” writers to pitch sketches about some of the art house films he’s made, including last year’s “The Power of the Dog.”
Cumberbatch said that “SNL” writers told him that not enough people saw the movie for them to write an effective sketch. He scoffed, “I was nominated for an Oscar for it.” And with deadpan aim, he added, “I didn’t win. I was beat by Will Smith,” which got a big response.
Later in the episode, “SNL” did in fact spoof “Power of the Dog” by having Cumberbatch deliver a lengthy monologue in a low-key angry tone, albeit in a very different setting than the Western backdrop of director Jane Campion’s much-praised Netflix film.
Cumberbatch, a two-time Oscar nominee, last hosted “SNL” in 2016.
Musical guest Arcade Fire, which released its sixth album, “We,” on May 6, continued the Mother’s Day theme. After performing the first song, frontman Win Butler closed with “I love you, mom.”