It’s likely 2015 will be remembered as a year of serious upheaval in TV comedy—Jon Stewart retiring, Letterman handing his late-night spot to Stephen Colbert, and the beloved sitcom Parks & Recreation coming to an end. But the departure of Key & Peele after five seasons on Comedy Central deserves to be remembered as the biggest loss of them all, because it was the only example of a show ending when it still had so much originality and energy left. To be sure, the creators and stars Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key had good reasons to call it quits: They could make the rare, dignified decision to end the show on a high note, and both are embarking on big film projects. But that didn’t make Thursday night’s series finale any less sad, as the episode demonstrated how much the show had grown and evolved into a comedy classic since its start in 2012.
Sketch shows are always tough to bring full circle: Since there’s no plot, there’s no specific beginning to reference to offer a feeling of closure. But Key & Peele’s finale managed to do so anyway. Season five’s interludes between sketches featured Key and Peele chatting as they drove together down a desert road. The final episode included a nod to the show’s first-ever sketch—in which two men retreated to increasingly implausible locations to say the word “bitch” without their girlfriends hearing—by allowing the pair to finally say their forbidden word without fear of reprimand. It was a small, but telling example of how cleverly the show played with its own formatting over the years to the very end.