Why they didn’t title this episode “We Three Queens” we’ll never understand, but we’ll give Drag Race UK this: they’ve got a great sense of timing. Not so much for American recappers in the midst of a holiday weekend (hence the lateness), but they landed a Christmas themed episode at the exact right time for it and it was just plain fun to watch.
Once again, it was about as straightforward an episode of Drag Race you’re likely to find. The UK franchise is, if nothing else, admirably free of muss and/or fuss. Mama Ru’s got a Christmas single dropping and each queen had to write and sing a verse while doing their best naughty choreography for a Santa corpse. We’re not sure about that last part, but the rest of it was on point and fully expected.
Like most Drag Race finales, the show goes full pageant, subjecting the queens to a string of pageant queen questions (both in the exit interviews and again on the runway), giving them at least a half-dozen opportunities to be their most charming selves to the judges.
When the format works, as it did this time, it’s always because the final queens have charm and charisma in spades and it’s genuinely fun to watch them go about their work.
It also helps to have a game group of eliminated queens willing to come back and grab a little more of the spotlight time denied them. The finale format, like most of the other aspect of the show, is always in danger of getting stale and to be honest, it crossed over that line several times in recent seasons of various franchises. But if you’ve got fun-to-watch girls at the top and treat the whole thing like a tribute to the art of drag (or just a drag revue with unusually good production values, it’s hard not to smile a little through the whole thing.
Now. Here comes the hard part. Here’s where we kinda sorta defend the final decision, even though it made us furious when we first heard of it. It’s no secret that Ru has been gushing over Krystal all season, in a manner that tends to support the idea that Ru and Michelle support traditionally glamorous queens with high levels of polish over all others. It’s hard not to see how talented Ella is and how much star quality Kitty has. It’s easy to remember that Krystal has rarely been a top performer, but mostly a very game one with world-class lewks.
But we’ll tell you what: Ella and Kitty both had a string of disappointing or underwhelming moments this episode. Ella’s vocals were fantastic, but her energy level dropped through the floor when she didn’t have center stage. In addition, her wig work continues to be incredibly dicey and her makeup a bit harsh. Kitty was mostly great, although she didn’t have the smooth polish of Ella’s performance or the focus-pulling looks of Krystal. She was fun to watch, but her flesh-colored bodysuit kept showing every time she raised an arm and her choreo was a little too basic. They were both great; just not as great as they should have been. Is that to say that Krystal gave the best performance? Maybe…? Some queens have a star quality to them and we can’t deny that she keeps your eye on her at all times. She’s not the best singer and definitely not the best comic, but that bitch can work a stage like someone who’s been performing for ten times as long as she has.
And we’re sorry to say it, but Ella and Kitty failed to rise to the occasion for the final looks.
We really came around on her during the season and we realized with this episode that she makes us laugh at least as much as Kitty does, if not more. She’s a great performer. Her drag is still rough, though. As Graham pointed out, her accessories clashed. That may seem minor, but it’s indicative of how her drag just doesn’t quite have the details down. The color of the gown is pretty but that’s a goofy shape. Once again we note a not particularly great wig and a face that just looks like his boyface with some makeup on it. We like our drag a bit more transformational than that and he’s got the kind of fine features that would take well to a really good Raven-style makeover.
Kitty looked gorgeous from the neck up (even if it is the same look she sports week after week), but we’re sorry, that is a dowdy drag dress. Even Ru is too young to be wearing that. We realize she wanted to go for something classy and pageanty, but the color is drab and there’s too much puckering going on. In addition, that neckine and those demure little strap sleeves feel a little too Mother of the Bride and not enough Mother of the Ball. Ella’s look was an expected disappointment, but we really hoped Kitty was going to step her pussy up for the finale. This is good, but like the rest of hers and Ella’s work this episode, just not quite good enough. We wonder if they each got a little cocky in the end.
We’ll restate our critique that she sports the exact same face too much, but it’s not like Ella and Kitty were switching theirs up all that often either. We also think the neck should have been trimmed off that breastplate since she’s wearing more than enough jewelry to hide the edge. Those critiques aside, it’s a stunning look, made all the more notable by its originality. She’s definitely serving her version of eleganza, but she avoided some of the pageanty pitfalls that the other two girls fell into.
We’d say all three of the queens brought their A game to the lip sync, but we’ll admit our eyes kept going to Kitty and Krystal. They’re just way more dynamic and energetic on stage.
If you think a reality competition finale should be taking the whole of a queen’s work and level of talent into consideration, then this might be a frustrating finale to watch. But we must once again remind everyone that RuPaul’s Drag Race, so long as RuPaul is sitting on the judging panel, will never really be a completely above-board competition. It has always been a variety show with cash prizes routinely handed out to the performers. Krystal proved her worth, going by Ru’s criteria of showing high polish, vulnerability, growth and potential. As Drag Race has matured, those qualities have largely overtaken the previous Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent set.
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[Photo Credit: WOW Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]