Saturday Night Live entered its 47th season this weekend, with host Owen Wilson and musical guest Kacey Musgraves, in a state of both inflation and stasis. While losing Beck Bennett and Lauren Holt, the show added three new featured players, with the full cast ballooning to an all-time high of 21 cast members. At the same time, Lorne Michaels has maneuvered behind the scenes to retain the heavy hitters of the current cast, reportedly enticing people like Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Colin Jost, Michael Che, and Pete Davidson to stay on, with hopes they'll stay at least through season 50. At that point, I assume Michaels either hands the reins over to someone else or turns the lights out at Studio 8H.

In other words, nothing has changed, but everything is changing. The seasoned cast members will have carte blanche to come and go as they need, flying in for SNL around the schedules of whatever TV pilots or films they pick up (McKinnon was notably absent this week, for example). But the influx of new talent on screen and in the writers room in the last year or two have pointed toward how SNL could be shifting, and which comedians may become the new faces of SNL (think Bowen Yang, Chloe Fineman, Ego Nwodim, and at least two of the newest castmembers, more on that below).

And make no mistake: the show desperately needs to move toward the future, and away from Michaels' claustrophobic stranglehold over the show. The show also needs to move away from the toxic culture that was, in part, exposed in a lawsuit this summer alleging that comedian Horatio Sanz groomed and sexually abused a teen 20 years ago while on the show, and that SNL and NBC stood by and let it happen. And just a few years ago, alleged sexual harasser Donald Trump was warmly invited to appear on the show.

It's accepted wisdom at this point that current SNL is never as good as it was when you first watched the show, which is maybe an indictment of the show's perpetual juvenilia, or perhaps the fact that people's senses of humor ossify as they get older. Either way, SNL always has held a unique place in the culture, offering the biggest stage to up-and-coming performers—even among the most cynical comedians, landing a spot on SNL is the surest sign of success one can get in comedy—while rarely getting consumed by just one personality (the Eddie Murphy seasons being a big exception to this). The show, at its best, could change with the times and reflect new comedic sensibilities—no one was meant to stay there forever (except Michaels). It's unprecedented for the show to have four current cast members with over 10 years under their belts. Ask yourself: how much has the show really changed since 2012?

So, with all that in mind, the Biden Unites Democrats Cold Open which opened this week's season premiere is even more striking. I've complained often about how awful and stale the political cold opens have been on SNL, especially during the Trump years, and how much they've relied on big name guest stars. It was a shock to see new cast member James Austin Johnson, who became Internet-famous for his mind-blowing Trump impressions, playing Joe Biden; I think it's safe to say a relatively unknown new featured player has never made his or her SNL debut as the first face audiences see in a season premiere. And he knocked it out of the park, with his Biden impression a huge improvement over last season's tag team by Jim Carrey and Alex Moffat.

The other thing I'll add here is that of all those senior cast members I mentioned above, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant may be my favorites, and they immediately showed why as chaos Democrats Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin.

Owen Wilson has never hosted SNL before, but you'd never know it from his Monologue, which was four and a half minutes of shaggy Wilson charm injected straight into the eyeballs.

I've pointedly not said much about the episode on the whole up until now, because it was a pretty typical season premiere: a little wobbly out of the gate, no single standout "must-see" sketch (and no unwatchable sketches either), but a lot of promise and a lot of funny moments. The 10-to-1 sketch gave audiences their first look at another new cast member, Sarah Sherman, and showed how her unique brand of body horror/humor could meld with SNL as she teamed with Andrew Dismukes to for a pretty delightful poop-centric sketch, Mail-in Testing Service.

School Board Meeting was another success, a chance to see how the show can utilize such a huge cast. Almost every cast member got a funny line or appearance: Cecily Strong playing unhinged, Heidi Gardner raging over critical race theory, Mikey Day using an insane voice, Bowen Yang's dreads, Pete Davidson dressed up as Dog the Bounty Hunter, and especially Andrew Dismukes' whispering "bitch." As one YouTube commenter accurately put it, "this feels like a Pawnee press conference."

Weirdly, my favorite Owen Wilson performance of the night came in Splitting The Check, a cut-for-time pre-taped sketch that most definitely should have made the episode, if only for Wilson's Urkel impression and the Indianapolis Bones twist.

Cars 4 was a solid premise that I wish had been expanded on more, as Wilson starts to pickup on a dark undercurrent to the latest Pixar film. James Austin Johnson also pulled out a great Larry the Cable Guy impression for this one.

James Austin Johnson was also front and center for NFL On Fox, which succeeded in making me desperately want to watch Crazy House.

Check out the rest of the sketches below: SNL parodied The View's COVID scare with Women’s Talk Show; Captain Jeff Bezos got a Star Trek spinoff with Billionaire Star Trek; and Kenan Thompson sang a deceased woman's favorite R. Kelly songs in Funeral Song.

Two very solid guests on Weekend Update this week: Ego Nwodim has become just as indispensable an Update regular as Heidi Gardner, consistently coming up with clever satirical characters who feel lived-in, like this week's A Black Woman Who’s Been Missing for Ten Years.

Pete Davidson, who is as surprised as the rest of us that he's still on the show, always shines with his Update segments as well, especially when he's dunking on his own Met Gala looks.

The show also paid tribute to former Update host Norm Macdonald, who died in September, by giving over the last couple minutes of the segment to some classic Macdonald clips. It was a wonderful reminder of Macdonald's laser-like focus on punchlines and his fully-formed, razor-sharp Update persona. It also stood in contrast to the ongoing partnership of current hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che, whose attempts at pointed or aggrieved humor often fall flat in the punchlines.

The opening speech by Jost lamenting the loss of comedy chaos spawned from last year's political climate, and preemptively asking for people to laugh at an infrastructure joke—coming after a pretty funny Cold Open about that subject—belies some fundamental emptiness at the heart of Update as it stands. Jost and Che have great chemistry together, and when they focus on that, Update still works (especially those occasional bits where they make each other read jokes). Most weeks, I find the Jost and Che portions of the show rarely worth commenting on.

Kacey Musgraves, who is very good, stripped things back to perform "Justified," then broke out some meaningful visuals for "Camera Roll."

Kim Kardashian West will make her SNL debut next weekend with musical guest Halsey. After that, Rami Malek and Young Thug are coming up on October 16th, and Jason Sudeikis and Brandi Carlile on October 23rd.