RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
Programming note: Vulture Drag Race U.K. recaps post after the episode’s BBC presentation, which streams simultaneously in the U.S. via WOW Presents Plus. Each episode will then air on Logo the following Friday. So U.S. viewers waiting to watch via Logo, consider this your spoiler warning, henny!
I don’t like Drag Race finales. I think they’ve gotten lazy and too predictable: Write an eight-bar verse to one of RuPaul’s songs, learn “the hardest choreography ever performed on the Drag Race stage,” reveal something slightly personal about yourself on What’s the Tee?, walk the runway in the best look you have left, and do one more lip-sync in case you’ve never been in the bottom, to prove that you have the one skill Ru thinks every queen should have. In most seasons, all this fanfare during the last few episodes feels like a coronation in the worst possible way, a victory lap for the leading contestant even when they don’t quite stick the landing on the final challenge.
So I came into this finale a little more excited than usual, because I think we have two pretty well-matched competitors rather than one clear leader. Before we go any further, let me share my power ranking going into the episode — no tea, no shade.
1. Divina de Campo
She has it all: the looks, the talent, the arc. I came into the season not paying much attention to Divina, but something clicked around the design challenge in episode three, and she’s become my favorite. I feel like I’ve seen a dynamic change in her — she’s become a person who sticks up for herself rather than passively letting things happen, but in a way that doesn’t feel annoying or attacking. She makes you root for her.
2. The Vivienne
Yes, technically, the Vivienne does nearly perfect Drag Race drag, but her win would just be predictable, right? From the moment she walked in talking about how she didn’t want people to judge her based on her Drag Race ambassador title, and proceeded to handily win the first challenge, I had a feeling she’d make it right to the top. But over time, she’s felt a little too comfortable to me, almost entitled to the win.
3. Baga Chipz
Baga has shown the least versatility this season. (As she told us, a few episodes ago was her “first time being a bottom.”) The comedy and stage presence are there but the looks frankly aren’t compared to the other two. And of the three, she’s turned the competition into a branding exercise the most, which doesn’t entertain me. Don’t make me hear her say “much betta!” again.
Now let’s get right to the challenge: Ru has the queens writing new verses for a remix of “Rock It (To the Moon)” (check), learning the season’s hardest choreography with Strictly Come Dancing’s AJ Pritchard (check), guesting on What’s the Tee? (check), walking the runway in “final three eleganza extravaganza” (check), and lip-syncing for the crown (check). Wow, what a gag!
We barely see the queens writing their verses — just enough for Baga to say she’s writing the next “Born This Way,” the Vivienne to worry about her fate from the girl-groups challenge, and Divina to feel pressured to deliver since this is what she does. Then it’s on to What’s The Tee?, where Baga gives some context to the seeming rift between her and her mother from last episode. She tells Ru and Michelle she actually grew up with her nan, and doesn’t regularly speak to her mom. It’s not quite redemption, because she still comes off as kind of rude to me, but it’s something. When Divina talks about her perfectionism and how much she cares about her performance, it feels like practice for her campaign speech, and Ru, Michelle, and I eat it up. The Vivienne dives a bit into her history of addiction, with a good moment when she relates to Ru about their shared sobriety.
On to the choreography! AJ and his brother are waiting for us, and are each hotter than any man I’ve seen on the show this season. One star for them! AJ explains that each queen will have to learn a style of ballroom dance along with the song’s regular choreography. The whole thing kind of goes how you’d expect: Baga is a little clumsy, Divina can perfectly just turn upside-down, and the Vivienne keeps being asked to redo steps to the point where AJ says it’s “alarming” she’s taking so long to learn. I know I could never dance like that either, but I just want AJ to hold my waist and try to teach me anyway.
The queens reflect a little bit as they paint before we’re on the runway in record time — not even a half hour into the episode! They start with their performance of “Rock It (To the Moon),” which has come together through TV magic. To me, Divina wins with the verse you’d most want to listen to and the most difficult stunts, and Baga falls a little flat with a meaningless verse (when she said it was inspired by “Born This Way,” she meant she’d list every sexual orientation and gender identity she could think of) and a dance performance that looks a little too determined. In the middle of it all, the Vivienne is, well, fine! Their corresponding runways are exactly what you’d expect from them: Baga tries to serve glamor in something the Vivienne would wear to take out her trash, Divina wears an apt Union Jack-inspired gown with signature big red hair, and the Vivienne wears an impressive shimmering dress (but I swear I’ve seen her in that wig before).
Watch the critiques, the talking to the queens’ younger selves, and the final speeches if you want, but they don’t do much for me — just tell me what happens! But there are two bits in there that telegraph how this is going to all go down: Despite acknowledging that she didn’t do the best in the performance, Michelle (who, in a perfectly ironic twist, is critiquing choreography the week after her own Strictly elimination) commends the Vivienne because she “made it count,” which feels like a concession for a Vivienne win. And Baga doesn’t really explain why she deserves the crown, because she doesn’t totally believe it — she says Divina and the Vivienne are better. That certainly doesn’t help me envision her as the winner.
Back in the werkroom, it’s the ghosts of challenges past! Since the episode is not supposed to be live (and honestly, I’ll take taped filler over “live” filler any day), the eliminated queens had to come back at some point. It makes for some fun, drama-free catching up, save for the moment Blu mentions that she thought she didn’t deserve her elimination and Baga should’ve lip-synched. “I just thought I’d bring some shade!” she jokes, and I already want to see her tear up an All Stars season.
After every queen gets their runway moment, Ru announces her first decision: Baga Chipz is not in the top two. I’m kind of satisfied, because I think a three-way lip-sync is a mess. Plus, after the past few weeks, this feels like the top two we deserve. So Divina and the Vivienne lip-sync to “I’m Your Man” by Wham! — another left-field Britpop song that’s not quite fitting for a lip-sync, but they make it work. I expect a splits or something from Divina, but it never comes, although she plays the song with charisma. The Vivienne, meanwhile, does a duckwalk and slide in that huge dress, which does deserve recognition!
And, as it felt written basically from the start of the season, so it shall be done: The Vivienne is our winner. She gets her crown and scepter (and we are left wondering who provided them, because this is the BBC), says something in her Trump voice, and tells us in a confessional that she’s going to wear her crown while doing the dishes. Good for her! She does deserve it, don’t get me wrong, and she feels like the most U.K. of U.K. queens the show could’ve cast. She’ll be a great winner to take this series off the ground.
However, her win does create the feeling that we’re just in a rut with Drag Race now, where the seasons feel a bit too formulaic and the twists don’t pay off. I was holding out hope for a good surprise at the end to cap off a narrative that had been building in the latter half of the season with Divina; instead, it feels like RuPaul took the easy route here, with a choice that we were anticipating since the queens first walked through the door. This season may have hit some true highs, but at the end of the day, it couldn’t save Drag Race from its worst impulses.