The programme debuted a new logo, a throwback aesthetic that was its first fresh appearance in eight years, and a cast that was more akin to earlier, smaller seasons than the current, bloated epidemic years.
One of the biggest changes in the NBC show's history has occurred as a result of the departures of Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Chris Redd, Melissa Villaseor, Alex Moffat, and Aristotle Athari.
However, the change means that the more recent recruits, such as newcomers Marcello Hernández, Molly Kearney, Michael Longfellow, and Devon Walker, now have greater possibilities.
Both Punkie Johnson and James Austin Johnson, who joined last season and returned to play Donald Trump in tonight's frigid opener, received a significant amount of screen time. Punkie joined in Season 46 and was upgraded to repertory status this year, along with Andrew Dismukes, who co-starred in the frigid opening with host Miles Teller.
Punkie Johnson participated in most of the big sketches this evening, including a parody of Nicole Kidman's AMC commercials and Caribbean Queens with Ego Nwodim and Heidi Gardner. James Austin Johnson made his "Weekend Update" debut.
With Johnson's promotion, Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata were the first two Black women to appear in the main repertory cast of SNL, which happened in Season 42.
Additionally, there was additional room since Cecily Strong, who missed the premiere and perhaps a few more episodes due to her one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which runs through October 23, was absent once more. Strong, who has been a part of the group since 2012, has agreed to return, making her the female cast member with the most continuous full seasons on the programme ever.
The meta cold open skillfully handled the changes, with Teller's Peyton Manning joking that this is a "rebuilding" year for the show and mentioning the newcomers and returning cast members like Bowen Yang, who was anticipated to "step up" this season.
There were notable moments for the newcomers, especially Longfellow, who, in a move reminiscent of Davidson, appeared on "Weekend Update" with Colin Jost, and Devon Walker, who appeared in several sketches.
The cast, host, and musical guest (in this case, Kendrick Lamar, who performed in a blue box and a bedroom) did not wear face masks during the end credits for the first time since Season 45.
It's clear that change is in the air.