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David Harbour gives us the gritty antihero reboot no one was asking for, Grouch

David Harbour
Screenshot: Saturday Night Live

David Harbour, hosting last night’s Saturday Night Live, did the inevitable Stranger Things sketch as part of his opening monologue after first chiding the studio audience’s lukewarm response to him name-dropping his turn as Dark Horse Comics’ rebooted antihero, Hellboy. And while Harbor has signed on to play opposite Black Widow in Marvel’s upcoming solo movie (he’s Red Guardian), and has already played a suit (three-piece, not spandex) in DC’s Suicide Squad, a standout filmed sketch saw the intense actor essaying perhaps his most challenging, genre-busting character reboot yet.

Revealed as a grim and appropriately disturbed garbage man, Harbour’s character gradually confesses a growing and violent dissatisfaction with the growing crime, filth, and alienation on the street. That street? Sesame. Harbour’s trash-loving misanthrope? Oscar. In the “latest gritty antihero origin story” from DC and “the twisted minds at Sesame Workshop,” Harbour’s Oscar incrementally transforms into the green-faced, trash can-squatting agent of vengeance and chaos that only the nightmarish horrors of a Gotham City or a Children’s Television Workshop can spawn. Edgily-retooled simulacra of Snuffleupagus and Prairie Dawn haggle over sex-worker rates, an opioid-adicted Count counts his dwindling supply of pills, and, most horrifyingly of all (if for no reason other than Alex Moffat’s nightmare-fuel makeup job), Bert and Ernie are the victims of a violent mugging.

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With no options left (and Super Grover nowhere to be seen), it’s up to the increasingly sociopathic Oscar to take to the street, Harbour’s whispery Joaquin Phoenix growl telling a well-meaning social worker, “If everyone calls you trash, and everyone treats you like trash, why don’t you just become trash?” in perfect emulation of the most recent Joker’s disaffected, violent white guy contempt. Also directed by Joker’s similarly grouchy Todd Phillips, Grouch promises that, because this is how things go now, the film will be brought to you by the letter ‘R.’

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.