So… that happened.
Let’s not bother beating around the bush here. By this point, I’m certain that you already know what happened in the episode and who won or lost and if you didn’t know already then be warned that it’s literally going to be somewhere in the next paragraph, now is your time to run away if you haven’t seen the episode yet. You got that? Cos I don’t wanna hear someone get upset at me because I revealed the winner in this review of the episode… we good? OK then, let’s do this.
So after 7 weeks of competition, a large number of shocking eliminations and shenanigans and romper room fuckery we ended up getting to crown another clown, the incomparable Trixie Mattel. You might notice at this juncture that I’ve jumped ahead right to the end of the episode without bothering with what happened before. The reason? What happened in the episode, indeed what happened throughout the series, has been rendered moot because of a pretty poor twist that some producer came up with and didn’t think through.
What we are now seeing is that All Stars 3 is a season that was put together too soon. We’d only just gone through All Stars 2, arguably the best season that Drag Race has ever had with the best challenges and the best queens. All Stars 3 lacked that same feeling almost from the start, there was something off about it and now that we’ve seen the ending it’s clear that what was missing was the time to actually prepare the season properly so that everything could be at its full potential in regards to the challenges and, instead, forced the series to rely on toxic levels of drama that overflowed and tainted what could’ve been the best season ever. This problem is something that I put solely on the producers who decided that last All Stars was so amazing that they had to do it again as quickly as possible without really examining what worked best about that season. Spoilers, it wasn’t the petty drama.
This week’s main challenge was to shoot a long 3-minute video in one take, an insanely difficult task that would require a ton of choreography and hard work. It would’ve been an all-day rehearsal, they had to write and record their verses to lip sync to, learn some intense dance moves, understand the camera timing for it to work, interact with queens who they had eliminated. The preparation for this number should take up a half hour of the episode easily, there’s endless material there. You wanna know how long we spend watching the queens prepare for this gigantic challenge that’s the most difficult thing the queens have ever done? 3 minutes and 46 seconds. Most of that is watching them doing the choreo that they’re going to be doing on the main stage… we see literally none of them rehearsing the most complicated stuff, the stuff that’d actually be different and interesting. We never see them writing their lyrics or recording their verses, no moment where they get to interact with the eliminated queens while rehearsing the big number. No, we don’t have time for that because we have to be done with the entire main challenge by the 17 minute mark to make time for the drama that is about to follow.
This episode is done with the main 4 queens before it’s even a quarter done. Think about that for a second. It’s the finale, the biggest challenge of the show and we spend no time on it. No, we need all the time possible for the queens to plead their cases to the eliminated queens who get to make the final decision.
It’s at that point when I realised All Stars 3 was a mistake. Not because of the queens, every queen in the cut is absolutely amazing and deserves endless praise and higher booking fees. No, it’s a mistake because it was done so soon that the producers were desperate to manufacture drama to justify it and that’s exactly what this setup does. The show stopped being about the All Stars actually being stars and showing off what they can do from the second they finished the main challenge, the rest of the episode is a typical shitty reality show where feuds and bitter rivalries are what matters. Once the show went from “Who did the best throughout the season?” to “Who has pissed off the least amount of eliminated queens?”, it loses its spark. I’m sure that the eliminated queens tried to be objective but let’s be frank, it’s hard to be objective when at least half of that jury was eliminated by one of the people they’re meant to be judging.
What this all boils down to is my general annoyance/anger that not only did Shangela not get to be top 2, she was actually 4th. A video was released showing who voted for who and Shangela got exactly 1 vote worthy of 1 point. Bebe got more than Shangela. Kennedy got THE MOST VOTES! I love Kennedy, but she objectively was the worst of this season if we go by track record (You know, that thing they went on about so often that the words lost all meaning by episode 4). Trixie was second highest with votes so she got to lip sync against Kennedy. Meanwhile Shangela (The one with the most wins and the obvious front-runner who deserved a spot in the top) was sent to the back of the stage with Bebe where she had to watch two other queens fight for the crown that would’ve probably been hers had RuPaul actually been the one to pick the top two.
This season’s problem isn’t that the queens have to eliminate each other, it’s been the obvious hand of the producers trying desperately to make reality show drama happen with some asinine twists that not only ended up costing the front-runner the crown, but it’s clearly upset a lot of the fanbase. Their focus wasn’t about showing off the queens, it was about drama. The deliberations where the eliminated queens interviewed the top 4 and then picked who won? That’s a solid 10 minutes of the episode. They spent almost as much time dealing with this insane piece of forced drama than they did on the main challenge. I’m sorry but this is, objectively, the worst way to run this kind of an episode.
Now let me clear a tiny bit of the air around here. Yes, I was team Shangela. I love that dragon-obsessed queen so much that I was rooting for her from the second I heard she was cast and the more she won, the more I was into her and did I want her to win? Absolutely. That’s not my problem with this season though. My problem isn’t that she was denied a win that I felt she was deserving of, my problem is that she was denied the CHANCE to get that win. I’ve seen people compare Shangela’s loss in this season to Shea’s loss in Season 9. I don’t feel that’s a fair comparison because, if nothing else, Shea actually had a chance to get that crown. Shea just had to out lip-sync Sasha Velour and she would’ve been given that crown. She wasn’t sidelined and unable to fight for her crown like Shangela was. Shea got a chance and blew it, Shangela got her chance torn away for no reason other than petty pointless producer drama.
In the end, that’s what pissed me off most about this episode and, indeed, this season. The sense that nothing mattered, that no one really had any ability to fight for themselves. In the final minutes it stopped being about anything that came before, it was about friendships that these queens had pretty much from the day they walked in. What we saw was not the finale we deserved. I’m not even saying I disagree with the winner, I think Trixie Mattel is a great queen and a deserving All Star. I’m just sad that the decision was not about the competition, and that we didn’t get to see the actual top 2 queens of this competition duke it out. Thank god next week is a new season, here’s hoping that’ll wash the taste of producer bullshit out of my mouth. Let’s not do All Stars 4 for at least a few years when, hopefully, they’ll have worked out how to run this show correctly.
…oh, sidebar, I promise I’ll get a normal film review up soon but because I’m a uni student there are assessments I have to do and also I don’t get paid to do this so sometimes, can’t afford the tickets.