Kate McKinnon‘s cold open of SNL this week, coming after Donald Trump’s election stunned the nation, is indelible — a performance that can’t and won’t be forgotten by anyone who’s seen it. And of all the narratives about what happened in America in November, McKinnon’s brooding solo could go down in the end as the aftershock’s signature moment.
McKinnon took the stage as Hillary Clinton, the character she’s inhabited all throughout the campaign. Then instead of riotous mimicry McKinnon played and sang a destitute, heartbroken version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Cohen, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, the Democratic Party and an already brittle faith in self-government all died last week. And in just three poignant minutes, McKinnon eulogized them all. It was a bravura performance that did everything but serve as catharsis. Because when she was finished, McKinnon had exposed not just the raw nerves of a nation but also, sadly, the limitations of art. However moved to tears, no one who watched and heard her could feel any better — because nothing had changed.