RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE: Grand Finale!

Posted on April 25, 2022

It’s amazing what a weensy little two-year pandemic can do to one’s convictions, darlings. One of the drawbacks to being two of the people with the longest record for Drag Race recapping is that you’re going to compile quite the record of wrong takes over time, as you document the show’s movement from backroom-of-the-bar to global mega-phenomenon. For as long as Drag Race has been doing these sorts of grand finale extravaganzas in front of live audiences, we’ve been bemoaning them, mostly because it robs the show of arguably its most important moment each season, the crowning of the winning queen. Because of the presence of that live audience, the final crowning moment is one of several decoy endings shot (one for each finalist), which means every season builds up to a finale of play-acting and false cheers. You never actually get to see a queen found out that she won in the moment, which is shunted off to viewing parties and posted online later that night, days and sometimes weeks after she pretended to win for the TV cameras.

To be honest, we still maintain that the show lost something important when it moved to these live finales, but even we have to admit that this year’s extravaganza was not only great on its own (largely due to the performing power of the finalists), but a huge relief to see after the previous two locked down finales, which were either performed in the finalists’ living rooms via Zoom (Remember Ru’s tragic facekini?) or performed in an empty theater while shots of fans in parking lots were subbed in for audience reactions. As we said regarding last season’s finale, there was going to come a time when all of our lockdown-era entertainment was going to force full-body cringes when we encounter them in a post-pandemic future. After years of these pandemic-fueled non-extravanzas, it was just great fun to see Drag Race feeling itself on such a grand level again.

 

And if the fun and energy of this year’s finale silenced many years of our complaining about them, we can at least take comfort in the fact that this year’s finale went all-in on an observation we’ve been making about Drag Race for at least a decade. It’s not a reality competition. It’s a drag variety show where Ru hands out cash prizes. Never was that more true than in this episode.

 

Drag Race – and subsequently Ru himself – gets a lot of flack from the fans for things like the chocolate bar save or the various other shenanigans that resulted in so many episodes without eliminations, but with respect to the sometimes unreasonable fanbase of the show, we maintain that these complaints miss the point of Drag Race, which has always been made clear by its host.

 

As he said at the end of the first season’s finale, the goal of Drag Race was  – and still is – to place the art of drag at the very top of popular culture, where it belongs, instead of existing solely in the underground or on the sidelines.

 

Drag purists can argue that such mainstreaming of drag hasn’t been a net good for the art form (and there’s a lot of truth to that), but there’s no denying that this finale – and by extension, this season – did right by all of its queens, making sure as many of them got the maximum amount of spotlight time in front of a huge audience. Not only were the finalists lovingly profiled and interviewed, but each of them got a solo number to prove their bona fides, while every eliminated queen got a chance to strut her stuff.

 

With tributes to Vegas drag legend Hot Chocolate and an extended number from the Drag Race Live show, this year’s finale packed more drag goodness into 90 minutes of television than the world had ever seen. It was joyous, it was celebratory and it was respectful of the art and artisans of drag performing. And every queen on that stage was able to exit it with higher booking fees because of that spotlight time.

Now, as to those solo numbers…

Angeria’s “My Track Record is Good” was high energy and she was giving it her all. It was fun to watch, but it was also somewhat clear that this style of performing doesn’t come naturally to her. We could see that she was working at it.

 

Similarly, Bosco’s “There’s a Devil in My Head” number, while well-suited to her, seemed more about her showing off her face, body and costume than it was about connecting with the song or the audience.

 

 

Daya’s “Fighter” attempted to recast her bitchiness as some sort of triumph over adversity. She gave it everything she had, and if we’re being honest, we think she did better with her material than either Bosco or Angie. The dancing was a little rough and sometimes it seemed to be more about showing off the costume, but she really did make her case for herself.

 

Lady Camden’s “I Fell Down” was a pure show-stopper of a number. So much so, that it almost felt unfair to give her such an incredible feel-good composition, designed to get a crowd on their feet and cheering, but to think that would be to detract from Lady Camden herself, who unhinged her mouth and ate that stage whole. We’ve said it about her before: when she really needs to set her pussy on fire, she goes supernova. She’s got star power just shooting out of her.

 

Willow Pill’s “I Hate People” had the benefit of being both the funniest number and also the song best suited to the queen performing it. While she wasn’t able to do some of the more eye-popping dance moves of her competitors (partially because of a costume that restricted her movements too much), she gave the second most entertaining performance of the night.

 

We have to admit, we were a little confused about what happened next, because we didn’t realize the solo numbers would be used to determine who would lip sync for the crown. Angie, Bosco and Daya all got eliminated in one fell swoop, without the chance to thank Ru or say goodbye to the audience, which seemed strange to us.

 

Symone came out to give the Miss Congeniality prize to a deserving Kornbread and a lot of prissy white fans on social media immediately started trashing her outfit for not being “formal” enough. Bitches, please. First, this is Vegas, not the Met Gala. Second, this is a drag show, not the freaking opera. Third, if you don’t get that Symone’s drag is specifically about elevating and paying homage to Black cultural figures and tropes, then her drag isn’t for you. Fourth: the essence of drag is not about wearing gowns. It’s not even about serving sickening lewks. It’s about remixing aspects of the culture through a queer lens; it’s about illusion and references and wit. She isn’t serving you pageant; she’s serving you Lil’ Kim or Janet or Beyonce at the MTV Awards circa 2000. She isn’t wearing a wet t-shirt. She’s wearing a resin-molded breastplate designed to look like one, along with thousands of Swarovski crystals studding those jeans. That’s drag, kids. That’s the freaking height of drag.

 

Anyway, after all that, Lady Camden and Willow were (rightly) chosen to face off for the final lip sync, to Cher’s cover of “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight),” and we’re sorry to report that it was all rather anticlimactic. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but after such an energetic buildup, the final moments of the season just weren’t as dramatic or as high stakes as we’d hoped. We don’t even think the results were all that decisive. Neither queen truly dominated the other during the song.

 

While we’re happy to see a true original like Willow Pill receive the crown, we probably would’ve handed it to Lady Camden, just for having more star power and for absolutely crushing her solo number. Still, we can’t get upset about the results; not after such a great show overall.

We’ll be catching up on Drag Race Espana very soon, we promise. And of course, we’ll be back for the all-winners version of Drag Race All-Stars next month. Until then, buy our book, bitches! It’s critically acclaimed and shit!

 

Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life, a New York Times “New and Notable” pick, praised by The Washington Post “because the world needs authenticity in its stories,” and chosen as one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR is on sale wherever fine books are sold!

 

 

[Photo Credit: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]

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