The BBC decided to drop the finale on Thanksgiving (or as they call it in the U.K.: Thursday), so writing this recap has me thinking a lot about tradition and about drudgery. How much do we enjoy the comfort of the bird, stuffing, green bean casserole, and mac and cheese just as mom used to make, and how much do we start to resent the same old meal served year after year with no difference whatsoever?
I have to admit, as a Drag Race completist, I’m starting to get sick of my favorite feast of the year. Maybe it’s just that the Drag Race cycle, with all of its countries and different iterations constantly airing, has become too much of a grind. We don’t get any time to miss it. If you ate Thanksgiving dinner every night of the year, it wouldn’t be special, and I feel like we’re getting to that point with the show in general.
As for this finale, it is more choreographed than your mother printing out her Excel spreadsheet with the times that she has to put every dish in the oven. It’s always the same: They all go to be interviewed by Ru and Michelle; they have to write the lyrics for a verse in a new RuPaul single; they learn the choreography and we’re worried because at least one person is bad at it; they sit around in the werkroom and talk about their highlights of the season and how everyone belongs there even if they earned no badges; they perform their number with some backup dancers and everyone applauds; the judging panel gives them only positive critiques even when some things clearly suck; all of the queens talk to a picture of their younger selves and we sob and sob and sob; and then a winner is crowned.
That is this whole episode. That is the recap. That is the recap of every Drag Race finale and I’m sort of torn. I know that reality television is at its best when it is a ritual. RuPaul says the same thing at the same time in every episode (“Bring back my girls,” “Don’t fuck it up,” “I have made my decision” etc) and I love that, I really do. But when is the inflection point where we have heard these things, seen these things, so many times that we stop responding to them, that they become something like white noise?
There were admittedly a few tweaks to this episode. The RuPaul single was not a single but a “mega-mix” of four of her most popular tracks. See, there are so many editions of Drag Race that the RuPaul Music Industrial Complex can’t keep up and has to dip into the archives. This year the queens don’t get to talk to the eliminated queens during Untucked, instead they get to talk to the past three winners of Drag Race U.K. I didn’t like this for a few reasons, the biggest of which was Lawrence Chaney manspreading on her throne like she was a straight transportation worker on the New York City subway. The reigning queens have less of a relationship (at least as far as the viewers are concerned) with the finalists than the eliminated contestants do. I would much rather they all show up and air their grievances and question the remaining queens than just stand around on the runway while they do their big number like they’re some kind of living mannequin in a stupid holiday window display.
It’s hard for me to criticize this season because, honestly, I love the four remaining queens and think that all of them would be deserving winners. But, let’s be honest, we spent a full hour waiting for Black Peppa and JB, the drag artist formerly known as Jonbers Blonde, to be eliminated and knowing that neither of them had any shot. JB didn’t even have one badge, and they were giving them out like conservatives think Planned Parenthood gives out abortions. As for Black Peppa, she brags that she “sent a quarter of the cast home.” Uh, yeah. She can only say that because she was in the bottom four times. She didn’t send them home, she barely outlasted them. What she’s basically saying is, “I was slightly less bad than four of the other queens in this competition.”
Maybe there should be a three strikes policy for the bottom — if you’re down there your third time, maybe you don’t deserve to stay. And if the badges don’t count for anything, why are we even giving them out in the first place? Maybe Drag Race needs an overhaul stem to stern? Maybe they should start doing every season like they did the all-winners season, where no one gets eliminated and you earn points. That way we know who the finalists are, and one off week won’t send a great queen home, and constant middling performances won’t result in someone sashaying the finale when there were other girls who deserved it more. From when the queens first walked into the werkroom, it was always going to be Danny or Cheddar, so why did we spend 10 hours watching this and countless hours bitching about it on Twitter and to our friends? If we knew how it was all going to end what even is the point? To hear Michelle’s awful jokes about Paula Abdul’s Vibeology (which is a forgotten gem, mind you)?
Maybe loving these queens and spending time with them is enough? They all turn out two major lewks in the finale. For the performance, I have to give it to Cheddar, dressed in Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie finery with a red lightning bolt both on her jumpsuit and her head. Genius. The theme seems to be sci-fi, but Danny, in a multicolored short dress with Big Bird feathers, is giving more ‘70s Valley of the Dolls than Faye Wray. Peppa looks like an Atlantean princess in a blue and gold bodysuit that shows off every amazing contour of her body. JB looks almost exactly like the original costume for Dazzler, and I don’t know if I could ever give anyone a bigger compliment than that.
When it comes to their “Finale Eleganza” on the main stage, I have to give this one to Danny, with her signature white face and a wig so extraordinary I would swear that it was CGI or a Snapchat filter or something. As Michelle points out, it goes right into her makeup and blends into her face in a way that makes it look like she had a giant alien head. The dress — black velvet with elaborate gold wings on the front and the back — is excellent, but it’s all about everything from the giant necklace up for me. She is a very deserving winner.
Cheddar is right behind her looking like the bitch alien that Ripley kills in just about every movie. That was Cheddar’s character from the beginning and she played it brilliantly. Even more brilliant is when she starts taking off layer after layer of the construction during the lip sync. Not only is it amazing looking, it’s obviously intricate and took ages to construct. We should all marvel.
Also marvel at Peppa, in the black and white dress she made out of a motorcycle jacket and the amazing white dreadlock wig that makes her look like a Wakanda elder. She’s stunning. The best she’s looked. Same with JB, a Celtic warrior goddess with a giant golden shield (or the world’s biggest cocktail ring) and a lumpy golden bodysuit that makes her look like the lady who originally posed for the Emmy statue. Ru should know exactly what that looks like by now.
They’re all great. I love them all. Some were better than others, yes, but it’s never the queens who detract from the show, it’s the show itself. Is it stuck in a rut or is it just too busy celebrating its own traditions, basking in the things that people love? This Thanksgiving, I am grateful that we have a drag community full of so many great and willing contestants that we get as much Drag Race as we could possibly want. But after yet another feast, the thought of doing it all again makes me a little sick to my stomach.