In a season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race that perhaps required at least a few moments of standing still on the stage in a moment of heartfelt self-reflection a la Latrice Royale doing “Natural Woman,” Season 10 instead ended with a burst of wriggling and jumping, ultimately signifying nothing and making us wonder if the “live” finale format has lost its luster.
Or maybe at this point we’re just tired.
Let’s not forget, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 premiered all the way back on January 25, and now, five months and three days later, we’re finally done with the show this year (we think?) and have a diamond-crowned queen of Season 10. To put that in perspective, that’s actually a few days longer than an entire NFL season from the kickoff game to the Super Bowl. Sure, technically we got two seasons out of the run, but it’s the longest we’ve ever been asked to keep our attention on the actual competition of Drag Race at a time, and subsequently, have to deal with all the drama and nastiness that spills out onto social media. Just when we’re all ready to kick off our heels and head into the Interior Illusions lounge for a few months to occasionally check Reddit to see if the Season 11 cast has leaked, it’s like, “Oh, right, another one of these things…”
The live finale format started in Season 4 as both a way to celebrate the show’s growing success and to avoid the problem of leaking the winner before the season even began (as Perez Hilton did with Raja of Season 3). Since then, like the Oscars, a political convention, a Victoria’s Secret runway show, or, allow me one sport’s joke, an NBA Finals involving the Golden State Warriors, it’s just kind of settled into being one big self-congratulatory pat on the back. All Stars seasons have proven that a pre-taped finale in the studio can still pack a punch and keep our attention, while the idea of actually airing the finale live, as in like, actually live, lingers in our head.
It’s not like what we get is completely boring or irredeemable. The filler can still be fun! Any Oprah cameo is a gag. Perhaps Dame Judy Dench’s was even more so (and please note that she addressed Michelle Visage on equal footing with Ru, because Dame Judy knows how important a good supporting actress is). The featuring of the Season 1 queens was a nice nod, and it was good to know that the rumor which said that Akashia, the queen of recovering from a fall, had quit Drag to manage a Starbucks wasn’t totally true. And we do have a particular soft spot for the shoutouts to the queens’ friends and family members in the audience.
Still, the fact that the reunion didn’t address the issues of racism and trans exclusion that fans have been buzzing about all season read about as tone deaf as a Hollywood awards show in the past year that didn’t address Time’s Up. It’s not like Ru and the show can solve all those issues in the middle of a finale, but c’mon, an acknowledgement can at least lead to some further discussion and eventual healing.
On to the meat of the show: the lip sync competition. Last season, the format served as a shocking surprise. This season, everyone was ready, most of all the queens who trot out for for the first round in outfits telegraphing that there would be fancy reveals and stunts from a mile away. Let’s break it down sync by sync.
Kameron Michaels vs Asia O’Hara
Well, at least the rumors that the butterflies died weren’t true. They just didn’t seem to want to fly. Asia O’Hara apparently hadn’t thought her reveal stunt all the way through, and while it didn’t derail her entire performance, she also made the perplexing decision of sticking with the game plan long after it was apparent it wasn’t working.
Meanwhile, Kameron continues her own brand of hyper-competent if not particularly stirring lip syncing and is handed the win. With this comes the realization that she’s just perhaps one lucky break away from actually limping her way to the crown via lip sync. Aquaria’s plan of releasing actual doves from underneath a top hat flubs up? Congratulations, Season 10 winner Kameron Michaels! Eureka breaks her leg again? Here comes Kameron!
Nothing against Kameron personally, but, as mentioned last year, we need to believe that the entire dozen episodes we watched before mean something! The entire crown shouldn’t be left up to a total of about six minutes of lip syncing. We can’t just have handle such an exaggerated repeat of the situation. We’re still reeling from the end of All Stars 3 after all!
Asia was not only a talented queen who slayed challenges, but she emerged as the heart of the season. Kameron is a competent queen, but, lets be honest, if you used a time machine to send her back to Season 4 and swapped her in for the Princess, not much would have changed, you know what we mean?
Aquaria vs Eureka O’Hara
The real top two of the season, by track record anyway, end up in the first round together, and both queens have reveals up their sleeves that seem hurried and unnecessary. Luckily, both are competent lip syncers (and, in Aquaria’s case, her performance really made you wish she was in the bottom two at least once before, but the fact that her lip sync style comes off fresh works in her favor). The double save seems appropriate and immediately all but totally eliminates any chance of a surprise Kameron win …which might further explain why Ru went with the double save anyway.
Pause for congratulations for the much deserved Miss Congeniality winner Monét X. Change, and the show for the one much needed update to the finale format it finally did make: ripping the results of this crown from the hands of a corruptible online poll that skews to the preferences of teens with too much time on their hands and handing it rightfully to the rest of the queens themselves, as happens in actual pageants.
Aquaria vs Eureka O’Hara vs Kameron Michael
Well, this was a big hot mess of drag queen excess, wasn’t it? That’s not even a bad thing. In one three-second segment, we’re pretty sure there was a cartwheel, death drop, and split executed onstage in rapid succession. We’ll hand Eureka the win for the Nicki Minaj rap portion. She showed the most furiously during the verse, but while she’s always an entertaining lip syncer she ended up reusing many of the same tricks we’ve already seen. Kameron does as well, and with nothing new planned other than a removable skirt, she sort of fades into the background. It’s Aquaria, however, who commands attention from the beginning with the execution of a literal lightning bolt and keeps it all the way through to the end with the pop off of a confetti cannon. We never really had any question who had it in the bag, and with that, the show restores our faith in the idea that the queen who actually has the best track record during the season should win. Now, maybe it could work on restoring some faith in other areas as well.