Well here we are, face to face, a couple of silver haired fans waiting to see just who wins the title of Americas Next Drag Race All Star and god damn I’m tired. I love this show (as the several thousand word recaps I’ve done will attest) but we seriously need to cut back on how many of these we do each year. With Season 11 starting on the first of March, Drag Race UK starting up at some point this year (If it’s the week after Season 11 ends, I swear to god) and rumours floating around the internet about a Drag Race Legends season… it’s too much of a great thing. Can All Stars stop being yearly now? We’re going to run out of queens and I’m going to run out of patience with the fandom losing their minds every time one of them sends a fan favourite home or when someone who they don’t like wins the competition. I’m still barely over the people reacting to Manila going home and their bullshit, now I have to deal with this… I just need a break, I’m tired. But, this tired boy has a pretend job to do and wants to talk about the final episode of the series before we have one week off before Season 11 begins because I’m taking next week off even if they do a reunion, which I don’t think they’re doing but they should because the best All Stars episode ever was the insane reunion of All Stars 2 and the fact they didn’t take the hint to just do All Stars 2 again but with new queens is just… uggh, let’s do this.
Because this is the finale, I’m removing the usual setup because it’s not really important. By this point we know who the winners are before I even have a chance to start typing because the names of the winners were literally trending topics on Twitter. Now on the positive side, this episode was certainly a step up from last year’s finale when they decided to throw in some random twist that made the entire season pointless. They actually joke about that very twist in the episode when they have the three previous All Star Winners return and say that they’ll get to pick the winner, before going to commercial and then revealing instantly that it was all a joke. Now, I know that’s a trope of reality shows but… can that trope please be thrown into the fires of hell where it belongs? Because I’m not fond of shows lying to me in order to get a small moment of drama and this show does that so often that it’s gone from being a cute parody of the crap that reality shows pull to just doing it unironically. If you can’t get actual drama out of drag queens in a competition without any outside influence, then there’s a problem. Anyway, this time the episode played out in a very similar fashion to the All Stars 2 finale which makes it a much better sit… kind of.
The main challenge for this one felt pretty lacklustre, especially when you compare it to the one take music video from last season or the epic Read You Wrote You from All Stars 2. The song was fine, though I think Ru needs to get a better writer because these tunes aren’t as exciting as some of the old ones were (I’d say she should get her old writer back but… well, I was also there while that old writer had his meltdown online so I think just getting new writers in general would work). The dance routine was fine, some good moves and I enjoyed how they worked with each of the queens and within their wheelhouse of talent to create some fun moments but if I have to compare this one to the last two music video challenges from All Stars, this one’s the worst. They didn’t even use the previous winners well, they gave Chad a DJ table and I’m fairly confident that wasn’t used for the track. There’s an audible triangle on the track and no one thought there was some natural comedy in Chad hitting a triangle enthuseastically? There’s nothing in this number as genuinely iconic as Read You Wrote You and there’s nothing as exciting as seeing if the queens will make it through the entire song in a single take but its fine, it’s a fine finale performance for a fine finale episode. I just described the finale of a show that is known for being over the top and extravagant as ‘fine’, which is a word that I shouldn’t be able to type when talking about an episode of this amazing show!
I feel that by this point in the review we’ve hit the part where people who haven’t seen the episode and accidentally clicked on this have left so I can now just talk about the winners of the season. That’s right, WINNERS, because for the first time in Drag Race Herstory we have a tie between Trinity The Tuck and Monet X Change, a tie that was obviously created in post production because you will notice that there are no shots in the episode that aired where they address this as a tie on camera and both queens are crowned separately. In fact, if you rewatch the episode and listen carefully you will notice the distinct change in audio quality between “inducted into the Drag Race Hall of Fame is…” and “you are both winners baby”. This was doable because they crown everyone who is a possible winner and don’t tell anyone the results until it airs. This has happened since season 4, thanks to Perez Hilton deciding to spoil who won season 3 while the show was on the air (not kidding, for those who don’t know the series had only just finished airing the Face of Cakes episode when Perez just posted who won, that’s why we have ‘live’ finales now) but I’ve never seen the show actively acknowledge that as a part of the show. If this was something they had thought about during the production you can guarantee there would be video of both queens walking that runway being played. I would love to know why no one thought to just have a tie ending prepared, just in case (since they did that in Season 6 with Bianca and Adore) but they didn’t so they kind of threw a tie together because… I mean, let’s be honest, Trinity had the best record but they knew they couldn’t just crown a fourth white blonde queen in a row without the fanbase going insane (especially after last year when Shangela was robbed at the finish line) so they created a tie.
I’m still unsure what to think about a tie win, I don’t know if I will ever have a solid opinion on that one because for some reason it feels wrong, but I do know that both queens are great and either one would’ve been a deserving solo winner so it’s not all bad. Trinity The Tuck is a fabulous queen who went from strength to strength in both seasons and definitely deserves the recognition that she’s received, and Monet X Change is possibly one of the most charming queens that will ever be put on this show and has always delivered when it came time to lip sync.
Both of them deserved the chance to win and while I kind of feel bad that they now will forever had their wins compared, at least they both get a cheque for 100K. At least they both get to increase their booking fees and got to go home with a crown on their heads because both of them are great, but a tie win is always going to be a little asterisk beside their names whenever we call them the winner of All Stars… which we will be doing for 2 weeks before we start season 11 and therefore lose any/all chance to revel in this for any length of time. This season has been pretty average, to be honest and they need time off so they can actually prepare properly.
The brilliance of All Stars 2 was that it came about 4 years after the first one, in that time about 30-40 new queens got added to the potential roster and they knew they needed to come in with a bang so they thought up some great challenges and spent enough money to really get us some great lipsyncs. All Stars 3 was good but it only took a full year break and we only gained a dozen queens… this season started in the same year the previous one finished. There was no time to prepare. The challenges were not as thought out as they could’ve been, there were things changed just out of desperation and we didn’t have many new queens to work with (yes, I’m saying this while one of the season 10 queens has a crown on her head now, my point is still valid that there was just no time to think this out all the way). Leave this series alone till maybe 2021 or something, a year off to recharge and plan out more fun challenges and build up to get more queens because this isn’t sustainable.
Saying all that, this year has had some big accomplishments and we should praise those.
- I am honestly happy beyond all reason that All Stars featured the first openly trans queen to be on this version of the series. Gia Gunn may have gotten to me sometimes, but she walked into that workroom a woman from the jump and it was so great to see.
- Latrice and Manilla coming back is also a huge deal, opening the door for the All Stars 1 girls to come back. I’d genuinely be happy if they had one team from that season come back every time they do an All Stars because it needs to be acknowledged just how bad that season was… and because I need another season with Tammie Brown.
- In terms of challenges, the LaLaPaRUza was a great idea that I would be fine with them keeping on as the big All Stars game changer, when a shock moment happens in the middle of the season its way better than it being right at the end. Also, the roast episode was genuinely good and it’s lovely to have our bi-annual reminder that Lady Bunny hasn’t died yet, no matter what Bianca Del Rio has tried to do to her.
- The Valentina lip sync redemption moment was amazing and will probably go down as one of the best lip syncs in the shows history. Same with Naomi Smalls pulling out that Judy Garland lip sync, these were actually fun performances and I can imagine we’ll be referencing them for a fairly long time.
- Stacy Layne Matthews got to come back for a bit and it’s really nice seeing some of the most iconic queens from the show getting to come back… now, if you could just get her to compete we might have something here.
That’s kind of it though, the things I’m going to remember from this season are those few positive changes and some minor performance moments. The rest felt like it wasn’t up to the bar that we expect from All Stars, in part because All Stars 2 set a standard that the show hasn’t approached since. I really wish the two queens who won the best luck in the world and I hope that they take their shared title and do something great with it… now, let’s all take a nap because in about 2 weeks we do this all over again but with a new batch of queens and we need a goddamn nap.