My dearest squirrelfriends, it brings me the utmost pleasure to announce to you that Bianca Del Rio, the queen of mean with the heart of gold, is America’s Next Drag Superstar. Is anyone remotely surprised? She can sew, she can act, she can read a bitch like no other, and she can even sing and dance without making a fool of herself. She’s like a drag superhero, and she dominated this entire competition. She also dominated the online vote, establishing herself as the fan favorite going into tonight’s festivities. There was always the slight possibility that RuPaul would give Adore the crown because of her spunky spirit and genuine It factor (Courtney… not a chance), but Bianca has been the queen to beat this season and nobody ever came close.
Joe Reid over at The Wire wrote a great piece about how Drag Race is America’s best reality show with the worst finale, and while I can’t argue against his claim that the “live” finale robs the show of much of its suspense, I do feel that this is the smoothest reunion finale this show has ever attempted. There are definitely some moments that reek of filler—Adore and Laganja crying while watching Untucked is totally unnecessary—but on the whole this closer is a huge step up from last season.
The evening begins with a nice, simple dance number that introduces the girls before their queen mother Ru takes to the stage to “Freaky Money” while the pit crew showers her with dollar bills. Confetti blows onto the audience at the end of the most expensive opening in Drag Race herstory, and taking things as over-the-top as possible is the key to this episode’s success. I just about passed out when the Ornacia Dancers hit the stage to perform a choreographed routine wearing alien goddesses on their heads, and that kind of absurdity is what makes this episode work.
The Q&As with returning queens are relatively painless, and Ru gives the deserving contestants some extra time to shine with bits like Vivacious showing off her New York City walk and April Carrion detailing the outfits she didn’t get to wear in the competition. They are the two early eliminations that probably would have been the most fun to keep around, Vivacious for her hilarious banter and April for her sickening fashion, and Ru has more fun talking to them than the pairs before and after.
No matter how hard Kelly Mantle tries, she can’t be entertaining sitting next Magnolia Crawford the Fun Vacuum, who didn’t watch this season because she wanted to remember the positive experience (translation: she knew she was going to look like shit on the air). RuPaul’s not buying it, and she ends up dismissing Magnolia quite harshly considering her normally cool, optimistic demeanor. Gia and Milk hit the stage after Vivacious and April, and they simply don’t have much to offer. It’s funny that they had a rivalry because they’re both very superficial queens, they just have very different surfaces. The highlight of their segment is when Gia tries to convince America that she’s really a very humble, nice person, a declaration that is met with great audience laughter and applause.
There’s not much of note in Laganja and Trinity’s Q&A except Laganja being stoned, and while her forced catchphrases are still as irritating as ever, her personality is much more relaxed and tolerable. She’s not surrounded by the cloud of tension that followed her throughout the season, but that doesn’t make her bearable, and Michelle Visage’s stone-cold face during Laganja’s clicking and honking reminds us that she was extremely annoying all season. Trinity talks a bit about her personal revelations during the season, which is fine if unspectacular, but things pick up once these two queens leave the spotlight.
After some Drag Herstory 101, Ru leads the auditorium in a group singalong to spread #love around the planet and announces, “Drag never, ever takes itself too seriously,” before the room shouts, “Back rolls!”, in unison. It’s one of those strange developments that feels completely natural on this show because of the heightened environment it exists in, and it really makes you feel like drag queens can change the world.
For the next group of eliminated queens—Joslyn, Bendela, and Darienne—Drag Race does change their world in a meaningful way. Darienne gets a message from the parents that kicked her out of the house when she was a teenager, who are accepting of their son’s lifestyle now that he’s achieved national fame. And Bendela is crowned Miss Congeniality by Iiiiiivyyyyyy Winterrrrrrs, winning a $2,500 gift card from Overstock.com and some small consolation for being sent home prematurely.
Joslyn was gunning for Miss Congeniality, but she gets something much better this episode when her fiancé walks up to the microphone during the fan Q&A segment and asks if she would like to get married on stage right now. Joslyn Fox, the lovable doofus and RuPaul superfan, has her wedding officiated by her drag idol and broadcast on national television, and it’s a truly magical moment. I didn’t much care for this season’s “let’s watch straight people get married” challenge, but RuPaul makes up for it by devoting a part of the finale to an honest to goodness gay marriage, adding a surge of emotion to an episode that is entertaining, but not particularly heart-wrenching.
The final three come out with Adore and Bianca looking like relatives while Courtney channels Jem. The singers sing, Bianca is brash and bitchy, and then they sit down for an overview of their respective journeys, which quickly reveals how much more engaging and funny Adore and Bianca were than their fishy competitor. Bianca had the most wit, but Adore was probably the most quotable of the queens this season, and her reel showcases those hilarious one-liners. (The series of YouTube clips dubbing Adventure Time’s Lumpy Space Princess with Adore’s voice is another excellent showcase of those one-liners.)
When RuPaul asks Adore what she would do if she won the crown, Adore says that she believes she has the star power to really follow in RuPaul’s footsteps, and I agree with her. Adore’s screen presence this season suggests that she could be a lot of fun on a TV series that knows how to use her talents, and of all the forthcoming albums from Drag Race alumni, Adore’s is probably going to be one of the more listenable records. Courtney is a strong performer, but there’s a natural charisma to Adore that makes her superior. Adore has got what it takes and it looks effortless when she’s using it, whereas there’s a presentational quality to Courtney that gets tired quickly. She’s just trying so hard, and that’s not as engaging as Adore’s relaxed, cool behavior.
Adore has the potential to become a RuPaul figure, but Bianca has already gotten there. She’s incredibly talented and confident in that talent, and also uses her skills to help others. The race is down to Adore and Bianca, but the former wouldn’t be where she was without the help of the latter, so the conclusion of this season is even more inevitable than usual. That doesn’t make it any less satisfying, though. Bianca deserves this crown. When Bianca stands next to RuPaul after being crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar, it looks like two seasoned colleagues standing next to each rather than a mentor and her protégé.
The live reunion finale still has its problems, but the producers turn it into a big party and deliver a very fun conclusion to another strong season of the best reality TV show on the air. Just how great is this show? Tonight’s finale ends with a message from Judge Judy (!!!) praising Bianca’s impersonation in the Snatch Game before she reminds the world that RuPaul will always be her No. 1 girl. Winning the title and the make-up and the money is wonderful for Bianca, but having her hero congratulate her on a job well done? That’s priceless.
- What were your favorite quotes of the season? Put them in comments!
- I love when RuPaul decides to hold a herstory lesson, and this week she gives a rundown of all the different types of drag to enlighten the Gia Gunns out there.
- The Overstock.com Red Room makes me laugh.
- I need all the GIFs of the Ornacia Dancers.
- You know what was a great decision this year? Adding two new members to the pit crew. Kudos to RuPaul for bringing us more beefcake on the reg. (Big fan of those tuxedo briefs during Joslyn’s wedding.)
- Bianca could have read Jiggly Caliente so much harder. A missed opportunity.
- Bianca’s Lady Bunny voice gets two thumbs way up.
- I am gagging on Jinkx Monsoon’s Emerald City realness. Such a fun look and so perfect for her.
- “To make it rain like that we had to dip into the prize money.”
- “Season one filter.”
- “I am over it, officially.”
- “I wasn’t meant to win this season. I was meant to win All Stars 2.”
- “BACK ROLLS!”
- “You’re like stumbling out to the runway and strapping your shoe and gluing on your eyelash, and they’re like, ‘Tell us about when your mom died!,’ and it’s tough.”
- “I can’t sing but I’m in the muthafuckin’ top 3, muthafuckas!”
- “I would never sleep with her ’cuz I only give to charity once a year.”
- “What was with that eyelash, girl?”
- “I feel like a winner. I still wanna win. Really bad. Like really bad.”
- “I can’t go to Rite-Aid and say, ‘Fuck you, bitch. Give me my shit.’”
- As always, it’s been a pleasure covering Drag Race each week and engaging with you lovely readers. I’m so happy with the community we’ve built around this show here at A.V. Club. See you for All Stars 2!