Mulaney proved to be the right host for an episode with a somber cold open with the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York performing "Prayer for Ukraine" days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "Humor, understandably, feels hard to come by these days. But the concurrence of Mulaney attempting to find his comedic footing after a personally disorienting time and SNL trying to put on a show amid a globally disorienting week actually felt resonant. Mulaney had to reckon with the unfamiliar," says Amanda Wicks. "He lacked the panache and confidence of his earlier self, yet his earnestness shone through. He was really trying. Perhaps that’s all any of us can hope for right now."
SNL's somber cold open was too mawkish: "That Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong (who had her own cringeworthy musical number in response to a political heartbreak a few years back) introduced this show-opener might suggest that somebody at SNL knows its own history when it comes to tonally questionable earnestness, but that doesn’t make this sort of grandly benevolent spectacle any easier to swallow," says Dennis Perkins. "Not that I’m confident SNL could cobble together a more traditional Ukraine-based cold open that wouldn’t collapse into a soggy mush of lukewarm takes and celebrity impressions, but when the show goes to this bathetic well, the self-satisfied self-seriousness is awfully hard to recover from. People quite rightly howl at Aaron Sorkin’s take on Saturday Night Live for painting a late-night comedy show’s creative process as a life-or-death battleground for the soul of America. Often saved, at the last minute, by the overblown grand gesture of an unexpected Gilbert & Sullivan showstopper. (I’m on record questioning the whole post-9/11 'The Boxer' cold open as well, just to prove my crotchety cred.) SNL has a range, and this mawkishness—unlike the soaring voices of the fine folks of the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka—is well outside of it. Well-intentioned, I guess, but, yeesh."