Well. That was … something. For such a tightly contested season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, that finale sure felt a little flat. Even the big twist ending left me feeling more disappointed than gagged.
Even the structure left something to be desired. The now standard What’s the Tee? podcast interview feels like a hollow replacement for the sharp Tic-Tac lunch from the days of old. The faux tension over whether the queens will learn the choreo for the big final number always has the same result. (They do!) Then, you get the effusive praise from the judges and carefully edited comments so it seems like it could be anyone’s game.
This season’s cast was already fighting against those (like myself) who looked at the spate of fairly recent Drag Race alums and questioned if they were worthy of the All Star title. Throughout the hard-fought season, most of the queens proved their mettle, but the neck-and-neck nature of the competition dulled any one individual queen’s shine.
You would think on its surface last night’s surprising decision to induct two queens into the Hall of Fame would be a satisfying end to a season where a handful of competitors consistently felt like viable winners.
And yet …
Let’s Ru-view what went down in last night’s finale and discuss Mother Ru’s questionable decision.
We opened with the gals all regrouping after last week’s elimination. In the true gag of the night, Monique refused to reveal the lipstick she would have chosen because she didn’t want to hurt Monet’s feelings. She leaned into the gag, giving a stunningly convincing performance that she was about to eliminate her bestie. Monet was visibly shook, but when the lipstick came out, it also had Latrice’s name. Well played, Ms. Heart.
The final challenge was the familiar combo of the aforementioned podcast interview, performing an original verse for Ru’s latest single and executing complex choreo courtesy Todrick Hall.
The interviews weren’t all that revealing. This may be gay blasphemy, but I am less and less charmed by Ru’s armchair psychoanalysis. Many of Ru’s life lessons and affirmations are truly so insightful and resonant, but there are times when she projects her worldview on others that starts to read a bit smug. (I feel this is the issue at heart when Ru’s personal rejection of the ego comes into conflict with contemporary identity issues and trans stories in particular.) Then again, maybe that’s just my personal brand of dopey pop psychology. Sorry!
All the gals were charming and likable in their conversations. Blah blah growth blah redemption blah blah I really want this blah. My two big takeaways were Monet’s cleverly titled one-woman show (“Call Me By Monet”), and the fact Monique was once 300 lbs. Every time I feel like I could not love and want to root for Monique more, she peels back another layer of her journey.
Todrick Hall held nothing back with the choreography. We’re talking cartwheels, lifts and lots of hot background dancers. Naomi in particular seemed distracted by all the dancing trade, shamelessly flirting to the point that Madame Hall had to snap her back to attention. Monique had cartwheel PTSD from her clumsy stumble lip syncing vs. the Vixen last season. Trinity was vocal about her unease with the choreo.
The real standout coming out of the rehearsal was Monet. Free from the shackles of corny comedy or conceptual craft challenges, Monet can just do what she does best.
It made her standout in the final video where the queens were joined by Alaska, Chad Michaels and Trixie to spit their verses on RuPaul’s latest track “Super Queen.” In the first segment, Monet looked like an actual pop star. Someone get her on a Lizzo remix, stat! (Though it seems Monique is more likely to score that collab.)
Monique was up next, and she was fine. Neither her lyrics nor her performance had any obvious flaws, but they weren’t particularly memorable either.
Naomi looked stunning (of course), and her imposing stature made Todrick’s already challenging choreography look otherworldly.
But then Trinity appeared. Clad in a silver futuristic fashion, she not only nailed the choreo, but she lit up the screen with pure star power.
The runway was one of those generic “eleganza”/best drag situations. Monet kicked off the show in a jaw-dropping African-inspired printed gown with a gorgeous pattern and stoned for the gods. She piled a mountain of beautiful white dreadlocks atop her head, and her makeup was hands-down her best ever.
Monique was next down, and her final runway left a lot to be desired. Consistency has been Monique’s greatest struggle this season, and sticking the landing on the final runway was going to be absolutely necessary to stay in contention. Instead, the odd black gown was voluminous in all the wrong places and overall left very little impact. Also, her gloves were giving me serious Salad Fingers vibes.
Naomi’s final runway was a lot, but would you expect anything less? It’s so much sparkle, fishnet, a jaunty hat and a tearaway dramatic train that was removed to reveal her legendary stems. Here’s something I love about Naomi: Under the hat and fishnets on her head, she still worse a short blonde wig, even though you could just barely see it. That attention to detail is what makes this 24-year-old savvy beyond her years.
But then, oh but then, Trinity walked her final runway, and it was literally a show-stopper. It may have been a world-stopper. Time definitely froze for me. I will say this is one of best drag lewks I have ever seen. It’s perfection. The structured gown feels like a blue and white fine china pattern, which is already a wonderful blend of whimsy and fashion, but then she tore away two breast pieces to reveal actual matching teacups over her chest that added a sublime level of levity. It was sophisticated, but there was still a wink, which is what makes it such incredible drag. Every single one of Trinity’s runways have been a home run this season.
The judges went down the line singing the praises of each contestant. They are particularly glowing when it comes to Monet, citing her extraordinary growth and precise performance. The judges recognized how much more Monique was able to shine this time around, but even their compliments felt more like a eulogy. Next up, Naomi similarly seemed to be getting a pleasant send-off from the judges. However, when it came to Trinity, the judges seemed all in. Michelle even (rightfully) called her final dress one of her favorites in the show’s herstory.
Predictably, it was Monet and Trinity in the top two. The final lip sync was set to an absolutely ideal track: Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.” Both queens went all out. Trinity radiated so much passion you could almost steam coming off her wig as she slayed the lip sync and threw her whole body into every single move. Monet, meanwhile, showcased some of the absolutely masterful lip sync skills she displayed last season busting out an impressive jump split and then a wig reveal that exposed an almost identical wig underneath. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it.
With both queens left with nothing more to give, they awaited their fate. Ru announced the winner … wait, I’m sorry, WINNERS: Monet and Trinity! It’s a tie!
Um, OK! It’s not that both queens aren’t worthy winners, but, like what’s the point of any of this? Why eliminate queens only to bring them back? Why allow the best performing queens (like Manila) to be eliminated unjustly? Why establish a search for the one to enter the Hall of Fame if you’re only going to change your mind in the end to two? Why not just induct all 10? Why not just every queen ever?
I’m sure there are people who will suggest that really Trinity is the worthy winner, but Ru/producers were worried about the optics of not inducting a black or Latinx queen in the Hall of Fame considering how vital both those communities have been to the history and art of drag. While I completely agree with the sentiment, I think that does a disservice to both Trinity and Monet. They both worked incredibly hard and have so much talent. Any of the top six queens could have been a worthy winner.
My gripe is more with the producers/judging. Was this finale REALLY that much harder to call than last All Stars? You can’t maintain the illusion that this competition is about awarding charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent if the rules of the game are designed to undermine that at every turn. You can’t wave off criticism by saying it’s all part of the game and then change the rules at a whim. As viewers, we know this isn’t some documentary, and producer interference runs rampant. But we do expect you to stick to the rules of the universe you created, in spirit at the very least.
I am happy to see all four of these queens recognized for their extraordinary talent, but I am so very ready for a long break from All Stars. We don’t need All Stars 5 between seasons 11 and 12. We’re going to run out of worthy queens, and I just don’t care to see a three-way tie on All Stars 8 between Charlie Hides, Magnolia Crawford and Kelly Mantle.
Let’s let All Stars rest for a bit so our reigning TWO winners each have plenty of time to reign. For now, let’s raise an Absolut cocktail to Monet and Trinity for both being excellent examples of drag at its finest.
What did you think of the finale?