EPISODE 1: LEGENDS
These bitches threw as much Drag Race at us as they could possibly fit into two episodes, so we’re just gonna have to barrel ahead and get through it quickly because it’s Saturday morning and a bitch needs some time off. We won’t assess every entrance look except to note that Shea’s, Trinity’s and Raja’s were mild disappointments, The Vivienne’s was fun and creative, and we’d forgotten just how good Jinkx is at the art of drag. There was a lot about Jinkx that we forgot and she spent most of these first two episodes reminding us.
She won the Library challenge handily and so far, she seems to confidently acing everything the show throws at her. We’d forgotten what a world-class queen she is. To be fair, every one of these queens is at the top of their game, which is the whole argument in favor of All-Star seasons in the first place. There’s no cannon fodder here.
Ru brought her old pal Naomi out to give the girls some pointers on their walks, which turned out to be one of the sweeter, more emotional Drag Race moments in some time. World class these queens may be, but Naomi is on a whole other level and serves as something of a patron goddess of modern drag. She knows it too, which is why her critiques and comments came from such a loving place. These aren’t rough Top Model contestants that need to be whipped into shape, these are fellow goddess figures who already know how to walk like a supermodel. You can tell she really enjoyed engaging with the queens.
And there was just no denying how real and sincere Shea’s reaction was to being told that her walk was Naomi-certified. Drag Race can get awfully formulaic, but it remains a very good showcase not only for drag artists, but for explaining and upholding the very art itself.
The first main challenge was a musical number which turned out to be a little forgettable and underwhelming. There were no disasters here (and there probably won’t be for most of the season), but no one truly took over the stage either. Given how talented these queens are, we tend to think the material let them down. Leaving them on their own to devise the choreography didn’t help either. Unless you’ve got more than a few killer dancers on your squad, self-choreographed routines on Drag Race tend to be of the “point and walk” variety.
The runway category was crown-themed and once again, the girls stepped up their pussies and showed everyone what a winning Drag Race queen’s costume trunk looks like.
Raja’s and Jinkx’s looks were gorgeous but perhaps not as conceptually creative as some of the others. Monet’s take, combining modern Black streetwear with historical European courtly dress was inspired.
Trinity’s was over the top – and not necessarily in the good way, since she could barely move in it. Yvie served Yvie. The headpiece was gorgeous but we’re not sure the rest of it made much sense.
Viv’s hair and makeup were stunning, but the costume was underwhelming. Jaida and Shea (who’s wearing Valentino Couture, by the way) were both gorgeously regal and we think they are always going to be the ones to beat on the runway this season.
Because of the rather too complicated rules this season, the two top queens (Shea and Monet) each won “Legendary Legend” badges and had to lip synch for their legacy (and a $10,000 tip), with the winner (Shea) being granted the opportunity to block a queen (in this case, Trinity) from winning a badge the following week. There will be no weekly eliminations (Who didn’t see that coming after S14’s various shenanigans to keep the queens from going home?) and the 4 queens with the most badges at the finale will have to face off for the win. We’re okay with it. The Platinum Plunger is already being used strategically and shaping the gameplay into something unexpected.
EPISODE 2: SNATCH GAME
Episode two throw every queen into the deep end of the Drag Race pool, tasking them not only with breezing through what everyone has called the hardest challenge in the history of Drag Race, but asking them to do it twice. Once again, we’re going to do this quick and dirty style. First, it should be noted again that there were no train wrecks, which is an extreme rarity in any Snatch Game. In the first round, there were no less than five Snatches that might have won the game in a less competitive season: Monet’s Mike Tyson, Raja’s Madame (the puppet sticks were inspired), The Viv’s Patsy Stone, Trinity’s Lucifer (so weird that it worked) and Jinkx’s Natasha Lyonne, which was an absolute master class in celebrity impersonation. Yvie, Shea and Jaida suffered from uninspired choices of character.
The second round had three world class Snatches: Trinity’s hilariously on point Leslie Jordan, Raja’s inspired Diana Vreeland, and Jinkx’s frankly astonishing turn as Judy Garland. Viv’s choice of Catherine Tate probably hurt her, not just because she’s less familiar to Americans but because picking an already comedic character for the Snatch Game leaves you nowhere to go except to repeat their catchphrases and tics. Yvie’s Boogie Man wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t an impersonation of anyone either. To be fair, neither was Trinity’s Lucifer, but she gave the character such a funny spin that it didn’t matter. Jaida didn’t have jokes for the Lady Chablis (although she did look just like her) and both Shea and Monet got a couple good lines in but failed to launch as Miss Jay and Martin Lawrence.
But we would be remiss here if we didn’t stop and pay attention to a legendary snatch. We don’t think we’re being hyperbolic when we say Jinkx’s Judy Garland could quite easily be regarded as the greatest Snatch in the history of Drag Race. What makes that so amazing is that she launched this amazing performance off one of the oldest cliches in drag. Part of the reason so few queens have done Judy (or Liza or Barbra or Cher, relatively speaking) over the years on Drag Race is because at this point, it’s such a tired choice for most drag queens. It’s been done to death and every joke that could have been told has already been told. It’s not that Jinkx provided a fresh take on Judy (although we were happy that she didn’t fall back on pills-and-liquor jokes) so much as she simply got to the heart of what made Judy so entertaining and then just …did it. If you know the character you’re playing, you don’t necessarily have to come with jokes in hand. You just have to be so comfortable in her skin that you can react naturally to anything Ru throws at you. To be fair, it’s clear Jinkx came with that bit about season 5 guest Dave in hand, ready to unleash it. Even so, her performance was less about having shtick and lines as it was about really observing the person she was impersonating and then letting that truth come out in her performance. Truly a master class in comedy and in drag. She’s next-level and we’d forgotten just how good she can be. The “Is that my camera?” asides were pure brilliance.
The runway category was pleather (about as broad as a category can get), and the queens all went to town embodying it with world-class costumes.
We wouldn’t have credited Monet with serving such a high-fashion look, but her pleather gown was gorgeous and we liked how it played with both masculine and feminine forms. Yvie’s look was typical Yvie in a lot of ways: explosively creative and interesting to look at, but a little overdesigned and less than impeccable. Her drag is always going to be more about the creativity than the execution.
Raja’s execution is always going to be flawless. Having said that, her walk is clearly not what it once was and we haven’t loved how voluminous some of her costumes have been. That jacket is just a little overdone.
Trinity is a big puffy cartoon character and she’s always more fun when she leans into that rather than the pageant drag. Viv is serving high fashion.
Jinkx’s was gorgeous, creative and witty. Jaida’s Niobe drag was flawless.
We were honestly a little surprised by Shea’s pleather cat. It was a cute idea, but it didn’t have the execution and impeccability we’ve come to expect from her.
Trinity and Jinkx landed in the top and the latter was awarded a Legendary Legend badge. If we’re being honest, we think Trinity might have delivered a better lip sync, but there was no way Mama Ru would’ve been able to look at herself in the mirror if she hadn’t given that insanely good Snatch Game performance the win, rules be damned.
Jinkx set the tone for the rest of the season, not only by stepping her pussy up to such astronomic levels that it put all of the other queens on notice, but also by handing the Platinum Plunger to a queen who already had a badge. Chances are, someone’s handing Jinkx the plunger next week. We’ll see how this goes. On the one hand, we don’t think any queen has a right to be upset over this kind of gamesmanship. On the other hand, we don’t think any of them have quite figured out how this twist is going to affect the competition over the long haul.
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: Paramount Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]
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