Finale episodes are always tough to recap when it comes to RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. At least on the flagship series, we get to talk about the various Lip Sync for Your Legacy matchups, and break down just how we got the winner we did. On All Stars, everything comes down to RuPaul’s subjective taste — though that’s much preferred to a goddamn jury.
To its credit, Drag Race knows how badly it fucked up All Stars 3 with the jury. Shangela’s loss simply because the other queens just didn’t seem to like her much remains one of the biggest gaping wounds in Drag Race lore. It’s the kind of wholly wrong choice that comes up every time someone new is “robbed,” as Manila Luzon was just weeks ago. So while Drag Race plays with us and its top four queens by teasing that former winners Chad Michaels, Alaska and Trixie Mattel are on set to choose the winner, it’s ultimately a fake out.
That said, “the three former winners appear and basically do nothing” is a pretty good summation of what this finale episode is. There are some fun moments, like Monique Heart killing it in her (fake) What’s the T? podcast interview with Ru and Michelle Visage, or Naomi Smalls’ erstwhile flirting with a dancer while going over choreography with Todrick Hall. But overall, this finale feels like a chore, slowly delivering us to our final destination.
And what a final destination it is: condragulations to our co-winners, Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck! Colour me truly shocked at this ending. I truly assumed it’d be Trinity, as she had the best track record all season long. Unless there’s some twist to screw things up (jury, Lip Sync for the Crown), track record always wins. So while I came into this season with Monét as my absolute favourite, and I’m still delighted to see her take home half of the crown, I don’t think the season as a whole supports this choice.
Honestly, the judges work pretty hard in the finale to sell us on the idea that Monét has had a stellar season, and that Trinity is an underdog, Sure, maybe Trinity isn’t the most natural dancer, but she’s such a hard worker. There’s little doubt when watching the episode that she’ll pull it out for the group performance of “Super Queen.” Her performance all season — with four challenge wins and one very fake trip to the bottom four — is what puts her over the top, though.
Meanwhile, Monét’s record — three wins with one lip sync tie, two trips to the bottom, and a lot of time just merely safe — pales in comparison. Now, I don’t particularly like the focus on track records when it comes to deciding a winner — I think Jujubee would’ve been a far better winner than Tyra Sanchez in Season 2 despite never winning a challenge — but I do think the show has spent too much time talking about report cards this season to suddenly throw them out the window in favor of an “everybody wins!” ending.
I’d guess that Drag Race felt a fifth white or white-presenting winner in a row would be untenable, and so they crowned them both. But then why not Monique? She’s had a stronger season overall than Monét (admittedly not by much), and has had a stronger narrative overall. Putting on my tinfoil hat, I’d say the fact that it’s Monét and Trinity in the final two indicates that Trinity was, at some point, supposed to win this season, but that shifted at some point. Since Monét was the only other person in the top two, that makes her our only option for a co-winner.
Whatever the reason, Trinity and Monét now both have spots in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, and I know they’ll use them well. Monét’s inclusion is particularly powerful; that hall desperately needed a Black winner to better represent the scores of Black talent that have graced the Drag Race stage over the past decade.
The less said about the final four’s performance to “Super Queen,” I feel, is for the better. The choice to slow the song down and make it acoustic is, quite frankly, a terrible one, and no one’s verse stands out as particularly impressive. Monét does the best in both verse and choreography, while Naomi’s very elementary lyricism gets an all-too-fair knock from Michelle Visage. Trinity and Monique are both fine.
When they started with All Stars 2’s “Read U Wrote U,” these final four musical performances were legitimately thrilling. “Category Is” in Season 9 was also strong. All Stars 3’s “Kitty Girl” was maybe more impressive as a feat of production than performance, but was still fun. Season 10’s “American” was a significant step down. And “Super Queen” is the worst yet.
All Stars 4 is a tricky animal, because it is simultaneously the second-best season of All Stars (low bar to clear when the other two are All Stars 1 and All Stars 3) and also reveals a lot of the inherent flaws with the All Stars format. The format is getting stale, and it needs to reinvent from the ground up. Lip Sync for Your Legacy should not return in its current form, nor should the final four group performance. At several points this season, the show experimented with new ideas — Snatch Game of Love, for instance, or the club challenge. More of that, please! Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s new and interesting, and sometimes pays off big.
Drag Race could stand to follow the advice Ru gives Naomi this season: be messy, make mistakes, get stuff wrong. Because in the process, they’ll find a new right. In other words: good luck, and do fuck it up.
I mentioned this earlier, but it really bugs me that they don’t actually record mini-episodes of What’s the T? and release them during these finale episodes. They’re sitting there talking anyway! Give us the episodes, Ru and Michelle!
Drag Race needs to divorce itself from Todrick Hall. His attitude and judging skills have always been under par, and now his choreography is starting to lack as well. Alyssa Edwards came back and did his job better in Season 10. Can’t we get her back every season? Pay her well and she’ll make the time, I’m certain.
Boy, Naomi really gets brushed to the side during judging, huh? I know they don’t declare who comes third and who comes fourth, but I don’t think there is any doubt.
Carson Kressley saying he can’t forgive Naomi for eliminating Manila Luzon made me fully cheer at my computer.
I’d harp on the fact that this isn’t a totally deserving top four, but I actually think it’s the best All Stars top four yet. I’d probably only swap out Naomi or Monet for Manila. Meanwhile, I’d have dumped both Chad and Shannel for Manila and Yara Sofia in All Stars 1, Detox and Roxxxy Andrews for Alyssa and Tatianna in All Stars 2, and Trixie Mattel and Kennedy Davenport for BenDeLaCreme and Aja in All Stars 3. Not too shabby!
Trinity, girl, much as your “Category Is” verse disappointed, don’t even try to pretend yours is the most loathed final four verse while Roxxxy’s “Read U Wrote U” verse is still around.
Favourite lip syncs of the season: Monét X Change’s “Jump to It,” Valentina’s “Into You,” and both of Naomi’s (“Adrenaline” and “Come Rain or Come Shine”). But my absolute favourite: Manila Luzon’s “How Will I Know.” That’s the one I’ve already rewatched plenty, and I’ll keep coming back to over and over again.
Thanks so much for reading along with my coverage this season! I’ll be sticking with Xtra for Season 11, which premieres in less than two weeks, so get excited for that. And we’re not quite done with our All Stars 4 coverage yet! Keep an eye out for a power ranking of the real winners and losers of the season tomorrow, plus an autopsy of a season that was mostly strong, but proved the show still has a ways to go to get back to All Stars 2–level excellence.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 premieres Thursday, Feb 28, at 9 pm ET on VH1 in the US and OUTtv in Canada.