With this second episode of Canada’s Drag Race, two things sort of crystallized for us. The first is that, despite the low energy of the judges and the lack of RuPaul (sort of), the format of Drag Race is strong enough to stand on its own – theoretically, that is. This wasn’t a great episode of Drag Race by any stretch, but we don’t think the show is fatally flawed. We still think it’s odd to have Ru introduce the challenges by video and then never appear again in the episode.
We suppose they could play it up like a Message from the Queen or something; give the moment some sense of a Grande Dame from far away deigning to send a message to her subjects, but it’s just a normal intro from Ru and then a cut to the door while Brooke Lynn steps in to take over. We think one of the first things this show should do in order to improve is to cut ties with Mama Ru completely or play up her untouchable, far-away status for jokes. Playing her brief appearance each week – you’ll pardon the term – straight just makes for an awkward transition and reminds the viewer of what the show is missing each week.
The second thing we realized is that we have to take the show on its own terms and dial back our expectations – not because it’s a Canadian production or because it lacks Ru, but because it’s definitely more of a rag-tag affair than the high-glam of the American and U.K. versions of the franchise. The sets are a bit more threadbare, the lighting a bit harsher, the judges and guest judges a bit less high-wattage. And all of that is fine. It reminds us very much of the first few seasons of the OG Drag Race, which may not stand as the best in the franchise’s history, but undeniably have a bit of a back-room charm to them.
We haven’t yet reached the point where we think any of the main judges need to be shown the door, but they all need to ramp up their energy and interaction considerably. Maybe over time they’ll learn to, but we think the biggest impediment to the show really pulling itself together is the way they utilize the guest judge each week as some sort of rotating host. The main judges are never going to coalesce as a team if they have to defer to someone new each week. Guest judges should be getting a line or two at most; not taking over the conversation.
But as we said, we’re kind of okay with the show taking time to figure itself out and serving up a slightly lower-glam version of the franchise, which is more than appropriate given the *ahem* rag-tag nature of this crop of queens.
We have a couple of early faves, but right now the playing field seems a bit level, with only one or two standouts. The majority of these queens are very much of the diamond-in-the-rough type and it remains to be seen if this season of the show has what it takes to mold any of them into superstars. It seems to us that Jimbo is the best of the lot in terms of polish, character, and willingness to commit to a challenge.
Still, it doesn’t help anyone when the challenges handed to them are so piss-poor. The performances were unusually bad almost entirely across the board, but it’s hard to get too critical about that when the scripts were so long and tedious. We can handle a rougher version of Drag Race but it’s hard to root for a show as un-entertaining as this episode wound up being. It’s possible a better crop of queens could’ve made something of the material, but we tend to doubt it. These were some of the least funny sketches in Drag Race herstory – and that’s really saying something.
Loved the runway category asking the queens to do a glow up on their first drag looks; first because it told you a little something about each queen and second, because it showed you how some of these queens still have a long way to go in their professional evolution.
We can’t help thinking Brooke Lynn gagged over Lemon’s look so much because it’s essentially a Brooke Lynn Hytes kind of look. Rita’s was … just okay. She didn’t have much to work with, going by her original drag but the only thing that saved this was the face and hair. The costume was ugly. So was Tynomi’s. Kiara’s was too basic and Anastarzia served up classic pageant-style drag.
BOA’s drag was good even though she seems to be lacking in performing or runway skills. Kyne’s was just bad. The makeup was okay enough but the costume looked like a something you buy at CVS for Halloween. Priyanka’s was okay. Scarlett’s was actually kind of amazing. We like Ilona’s but it sure didnt’ get the message across that you’re a more polished queen than you were on the first day you did drag. Jimbo’s was freaking amazing. He should have won it.
We’re not super-mad about Lemon’s win since she really did show herself to be among the better queens in this rough crop.
We got ourselves another pretty good, if not exactly epic lip sync. We have a theory that less-polished queens tend to be better lip syncers because they do a lot of bar and club work.
Kyne did her best, but it felt like she’d checked out before this moment. It seems she realized very early on that her bluster didn’t match what the judges were looking for. Kind of a shame she couldn’t course correct before realizing that. As for us, we’ll be back next week, looking for signs of improvement and expecting to see some Jimbo love from the judges. Hope springs eternal for a Drag Race fan.
“Our book Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life is on sale now!
The Los Angeles Times called it “a nuanced exploration of the gender-bending figures, insider lingo and significant milestones in queer history to which the show owes its existence.” The Washington Post said it “arrives at just the right time … because the world needs authenticity in its stories. Fitzgerald and Marquez deliver that, giving readers an insight into the important but overlooked people who made our current moment possible.” Paper Magazine said to “think of it as the queer education you didn’t get in public school” and The Associated Press said it was “delightful and important” and “a history well told, one that is approachable and enjoyable for all.”
[Photo Credit: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]