"Saturday Night Live" concluded its 47th season by celebrating the apparent departures of some of the show's brightest talents in the new century.
Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant both hinted to it being the end of their time in "SNL" skits. Pete Davidson confirmed his departure during the show and on social media.
Spokespeople for the show didn’t immediately respond to a request for confirmation about the departures, including that of Kyle Mooney, which were widely reported.
The cold open was a reprise of the skit "Close Encounter" in which McKinnon and Cecily Strong are interviewed by the National Security Agency about their recent paranormal encounters. McKinnon's character, Ms. Rafferty, customarily goes off the rails and talks about sexual contact with extraterrestrials.
"I wasn't so much gently lifted as I was yanked skyward," McKinnon says en route to her usual testimony about unsatisfying alien contact.
This time, however, the skit seemed to end for good, with Miss Rafferty compelled by the bright light of an alien ship, which she boarded before declaring, "Earth, I love you."
"Thanks for letting me stay awhile," she said, teary-eyed. "Live from New York, it's Saturday night."
McKinnon, Bryant, Davidson and Mooney all joined "SNL" before Donald Trump began campaigning for the presidency, yet they were well suited to an era that challenged traditional concepts of truth.
McKinnon and Bryant came to the show in 2012; Davidson in 2014; and Mooney in 2013.
McKinnon, 38, often anchored the franchise's cold open with impressions of Hillary Clinton and an always ready-to-dance octogenarian Notorious RGB (late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), who was quick with put-downs she called "Ginsburns."
To open the first show after the 2016 election, McKinnon sang the late Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." After the election, McKinnon created an evil, gutter-dwelling troll based on Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to Trump.
Alongside Bryant (as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz), McKinnon made impressions of men by the show's women commonplace and routinely stinging. The latter took on Trump's first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, by exaggerating his Southern tongue and drawing out vowels to almost absurd lengths.
Bryant joined in the finale’s farewells during a skit with Bowen Yang in which the two portrayed trendsetters forecasting “in” and “out” trends, with Bryant declaring, “In — 10 nice years,” and Yang responding, “In — a friend I couldn’t have done this without.”
Davidson, 28, was one of the youngest-ever cast members when he started at "SNL," and without the character-creation tools of a improv or theater background, he became known for being himself.
In a farewell posted to "SNL" writer Dave Sirus' Instagram on Saturday, Davidson said he had a strategy: Let his stand-up comedy skills shine by appearing usually as himself joking about something in the news, on the show's Weekend Update.
"When I got the show I was 20 years old and I had no idea what I was doing," he said on the social media platform. "I figured since I’m a stand up I’ll just try my stand up and personal bits on Weekend Update as myself and I’m so glad I did. I got to share so much with this audience and literally grow up in front of your eyes."
Davidson, who has been dating Kim Kardashian, has achieved a level of celebrity that overshadows his comedy performances. He is also working on a post-"SNL" career.
Last month, Variety reported the comedian was producing, writing and starring in Peacock’s “Bupkis,” a half-hour comedy based on Davidson’s life.
During the season-ending Weekend Update skit, Davidson thanked producer Lorne Michaels for "a place to call home with memories that will last a lifetime."
The comedian said his tenure on the show will serve as a beacon to anyone who dreams of being illuminated by the bright lights of Studio 8H in Rockefeller Plaza.
"I should inspire hope that literally anyone could be on 'Saturday Night Live,'" Davidson said.
Bryant was also a historically young hire, only 25 when she joined the "SNL" as an alumnus of comedy studies at Second City, the Chicago institution that's been a source of talent for "SNL" since its first episode.
She quickly created original characters (often a mother) and crafted impressions of Adele, Rebel Wilson and Sarah Huckabee Sanders that seemed to resonate, as well as a perpetually Cancún-bound Cruz.
Mooney, 37, who is mostly low-key and quirky, triumphed late in his tenure at "SNL" with his Baby Yoda, a crude “Star Wars” character corrupted by notoriety and twisted by “pills and weed.”
The show was hosted by Natasha Lyonne. Japanese Breakfast was the musical guest.
“Saturday Night Live,” Peacock and NBC News are all entities of NBCUniversal.