Netflix's Queer Eye is one of the very few reboots that's better than the original.
Though each and every single member of the new Fab Five is a tantalizing thirst trap (yes, even the married ones), and there are definitely goofy/campy parts--like every piece of dialogue out of grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness's mouth--this reboot is also kind of serious in a way that will touch your heart.
"The original show was fighting for tolerance," Tan France, the fashion expert, said in the first episode. "Our fight is for acceptance."
This new fight shines through: though the show is undeniably about the makeovers, there's an undercurrent of understanding underneath every episode. Unlike the first series, which was set in New York City, this reboot is set in Atlanta and its surrounding rural towns. The effect is kind of radical: the men being made over connect with the Fab 5 on a deeply personal level. The trust in the Fab 5 lets the recipients of the makeovers rethink themselves as men, even masculinity as a whole, and emerge as better versions of the people they used to be. This show is not about changing, per se-- it's about evolving.
On top of tackling the excesses of masculinity in a tight hour-long episode, Queer Eye also takes on huge social issues like police violence, homophobia within religion, and coming out. Of course, the show is set up in a way that guarantees a happy ending-- what would a makeover show be without one? However, even within the decided structure of this show, these moments hit a very vulnerable spot. I've cried at least once during each episode.
Without further ado, here is a comprehensive ranking and short recap of every new Queer Eye episode from worst to best.
Episode 3: Dega Don't
I know I'm going to get some flack for putting this one as worst, but I have a really good explanation as to why. Just hear me out. Cory, the subject, is a Trump supporter and no one said/did anything about it. That's kind of bad, right?
Let's start from the beginning. While Karamo, the culture guy, is driving the Fab Five through Winder, Georgia, they get pulled over. Immediately you can see the fear on his face. Watching a person of color interact with a police officer is one of the most anxiety-riddled, fear-inducing activities ever. Of course, it's revealed that the officer is Cory's co-worker--yes, Cory is a cop--and that they're not in trouble. Uh. Not cool. Really not cool.
They get to Cory's house and see that Cory has Trump lawn signs in his basement along with all of his NASCAR shit. You hear those? Yeah, those are warning bells. I was basically screaming at the Fab Five to get out and never look back.
Of course, they embark on the makeover. Bobby, the design expert, redesigns the house in order to condition Cory into spending more time upstairs with his family instead of in the basement with the Trump signs. It's unclear how effective that was.
Tan takes Cory to a big and tall store to find clothes that actually fit, including a pretty decent suit. Antoni, the food expert, shows Cory how to put raw avocado and grapefruit on a plate. Riveting.
Jonathan, the grooming expert--love that binch--is just his funny, charming, goofy self. He helps Cory bond with his daughters through making a sugar scrub, which is actually cute as hell.
Karamo... I'm really not sure what Karamo's job is as "culture" guy. He buys the family tickets for Finding Neverland.
Karamo's main contribution here, though, is a conversation with Cory about police violence. They first bond over hip hop and cars, and then they get into what seems like a pretty constructive conversation about what it's like on opposing sides. They agree that they people need to talk to each other and actually listen for anything to get done.
Though I really was moved by this conversation, I don't think that they did what they set out to do. Cory voted for Trump, and the Fab Five didn't really confront him about how that impacts them. Though by the end Cory begs them to stay, they didn't talk about "acceptance" as they said they would in episode 1. Just like Karamo changed his mind a little bit about police violence, this was a huge missed opportunity to try to get him to realize how his voting affects the LGBTQ+ population. I don't understand why they ignored it and that's why, on top of Cory's entire butch-man-who-neglects-his-family thing, I thought this was the worst episode.
Episode 2: Saving Sasquatch
The only redeeming aspect of this episode was the subject's dog, whose name is Forever. She's fluffy as hell and looks like a big ol' sweetheart.
Neal, on the other hand, was kind of an asshole? Most app developers kind of are. He was not receptive to the Fab Five, at least at the beginning. In the end he thanked them for changing his life, which was kind of sweet, so I guess that could also be redeeming.
Tan bought Neal some slouchy, cool button downs in various prints. I think Tan did a really good job, actually. He also tried and mostly failed to bond with Neal over both being Desi.
Jonathan gives Neal's super-long beard a trim and gives him a "spray, delay, then walk away" lesson a la Kyan Douglas.
Karamo took Neal boxing? Again, not sure what the point of that was or his whole job is. At least Antoni was there looking sweaty in a cute little gay little bandana.
Speaking of Antoni, he "teaches" Neal how to make a grilled cheese. Quotes because everyone knows how to make a damn grilled cheese.
The conclusion was a party for Neal's app. There's nothing I hate more than talking about someone's app than talking about someone's app at a party, so... Boo.
*Editor's Note: The original version of this article said that Tan France and Neal were both "Hindu" though France is Muslim. The article has been changed to reflect that both of them are Desi.
Episode 6: The Renaissance of Remington
This episode's subject, Remy, named Don Draper as one of his idols. Come through, vintage misogyny! Also... can we be done with Mad Men already? That shit ended three years ago. Jon Hamm is onto bigger and better things. Like voicing a purple fish version of Don Draper on Spongebob Squarepants named Don Grouper.
Also, no one appreciated the decadence of the 1970's fantasy pad Remy had inherited from his grandmother. Green shag carpeting with canary yellow furniture?? Yes please.
Bobby had to go and ruin all that with some Cuban bullshit. I don't even know.
Jonathan gave Remy a haircut and was reaaaaaally pushing a Water Pick on him. Just never floss like the rest of us?
I did like Tan's Cuban-esque wardrobe for Remy. He also found one of Remy's grandfather's hats, which I gotta say, looked really good on him. Maybe the Don Draper thing isn't so bad after all.
Karamo took Remy out for a whiskey tasting. Not sure what the relevance here is. They both ended up looking douchey.
Antoni... he really discovered the star of the episode: Remy's mom, Esther. Antoni came through to her place, she baked him a sweet potato pie (which would be a great pet name for him), and she read her son for absolute filth. Yas.
The conclusion was a dinner party for Remy's friends and family. Yawn. At least Esther was there to drag him some more.
Episode 5: Camp Rules
Okay, Bobby the good Christian--not the design guru, this episode's subject--was kind of boring. He's not as boring as Remy or Neal, though, which is why this episode ranks higher than theirs. I'm also capable of some mercy: the reason why he's boring is because he works two jobs and only gets three hours of sleep a night. It's hard to do or be anything very interesting when you're that busy and have six kids to raise. And there's what's sweet about him. He loves his kids and his wife Vera so, so much! It makes him likeable.
Let's start with the house: pure terror. It's a war zone. Sippy cups. Trash. Toys. Strewn freaking everywhere. Bobby (the designer) takes this tiny house and makes it actually cute and super functional, putting in a lot of hidden storage and a big-ass farm sink. The Gainses are quaking in their boots. Also, Bobby (the designer) talks to Bobby (the subject) about religion while he's planting a little garden outside, and it's fucking tear jerking. The Bobbys come to the conclusion that God doesn't hate the gays, which is good news for me.
Antoni, Tan, and Jonathan take Bobby (the subject) to Target to divide and conquer. Tan does a really great job of finding some well-fitting, good-looking clothes for Bobby in the menswear section. Who knew? Jonathan finds him some beauty products and makes a little kit for a three-minute morning routine. Very cute. Antoni buys beef? His contribution comes later when he actually plops it in a Crock Pot for a chilli, which makes sense for a big family.
Karamo is pretty much good for nothing this episode.
The conclusion of the episode is a wedding reception do-over (because Bobby messed up his wedding to Vera the first time), which is really sweet. Seeing how happy the whole family was in their new house together, dancing together, presumably eating that Crock Pot chilli together... I definitely cried a little at that, too.
Episode 7: Below Average Joe
I liked this episode because Joe, a comedian, was the only subject that was actually funny. Sure, he couldn't make eye contact and sure, he had a bit of a creepy vibe going with his beard and his whole living-in-the-room-next-to-his-parents-room thing, but I did enjoy his comedic quips and on-stage jokes quite a lot.
Joe had just lost 100 pounds, so all his clothes--and his underwear, as you will see when Tan daintily holds up Joe's black unmentionables--make him look like he's the victim of a Hanes-related accident. Tan gives him the regular Tan treatment, which means better fitting clothes and a lesson on layering.
Antoni does nothing. Literally nothing. Well, he stands there and looks fucking adorable.
Bobby... Oh, Bobby. He puts Joe in the basement, which isn't much better than the room next to his parents. It plays into the stereotype more. At least there's more privacy? Jonathan scoured Joe's sheets with a blacklight, found nothing, then twerked on Joe's bed, so we know Joe isn't choking the chicken upstairs. Maybe he will in the basement.
Speaking of Jonathan, he gives Joe a much better haircut and a shave. He makes Joe look much less creepily nondescript.
Karamo actually does something in this episode! He makes Joe a website and sets up headshots for him, which will actually help Joe's career.
The conclusion of this episode is a pretty good comedy set by Joe, who has been rebranded as #BelowAverageJoe. Watch to see his joke about Bobby's questionable choice to put him in his parents' basement.
Episode 1: You Can't Fix Ugly
Being the first in the season, this episode has a lot riding on it. And it pulls viewers in beautifully. Each member of the group gets to showcase what they do best in the best way they can (except for Karamo), and the crux of the episode is a harrowing story of romantic redemption.
The recipient of the makeover is Tom, an older guy who lives in rural Georgia whose favorite thing to drink is something called a "redneck margarita." It is primarily made of Mountain Dew, and after trying it, the Fab Five confirm that it's as foul as it sounds.
What makes Tom so lovable, though, is that he's such a good sport. He's kind of a jolly, jort-wearing Santa Claus-type.
Jonathan gives Tom's ZZ Top beard a trim and is his wonderfully charming self. Tan burns the jorts and finds him a jaunty lil pageboy hat. Bobby creates a really gorgeous outdoor space for Tom to spend his hot Southern nights in. Antoni looks really sexy running his knife along the curvature of an avocado, designating himself as the bear-sized thirst trap of the group. However, he tells Tom to put Greek yogurt in his guacamole, which is absolutely blasphemous. Don't come near me with that Greek-ass dairy-ass guacamole, okay? Karamo does... whatever Karamo does? Which, from the get go, is unclear.
What's really sweet, though, is that Tom still holds a candle for his ex-wife, Abbey. She's a pearl-wearing, car-loving Southern belle. They've got a whole will-they-or-won't-they thing going on and I live for it, honey. The conclusion of the episode is a possible? Could be? Date between the two. Watch it to see if she's going to spend those hot Southern nights with Tom on the porch or if he's going to cry into his redneck margarita.
Episode 8: Hose Before Bros
One word: firemen. Mm.
In the finale, the Fab Five go to the Covington Fire Department to make over Jeremy, one of the firefighters. Sort of. By sort of, I mean that Jeremy is the world's biggest honeybun and asked that instead of him being made over, he wanted the department to be made over. Oh, and he's raising funds for a low-cost program to train rural firefighters that he runs. Oh, and he adopted four kids with his beautiful--and I mean beautiful--wife. Oh, and that speech he gave about just wanting to help people and how he feels when he watches people die on the job? Full tears. Full tears.
Anyway, the firehouse is an absolute tragedy. It's brown, tired, and none of the ovens work, so Bobby turns it the fuck out. He makes the space functional, beautiful, and masculine in a matter of days.
Antoni teaches Jeremy how to make some fancy-ass hot dogs to sell at their fundraiser, which was kind of boring. These are not the wieners I'm looking for, boo.
Jeremy is in the usual straight guy uniform of t-shirts, cargo shorts, and Crocs, so Tan gets him some nicer duds, including a very beautiful midnight blue suit to wear to his fundraiser. I mean... Jeremy looks kinda like a snack in it, in like a dadcore kind of way, especially when he does his Magic Mike dance moves (courtesy of Karamo). Again, not really sure what Karamo's job is, but the dance class was kind of fun.
The gag of the episode was the total and utter infatuation the Fab Five had with one of the firefighters, Micah, who was exclusively called Superman throughout the episode for his dazzling smile and popping muscles. Watching him do the Magic Mike moves wasn't so bad, either. Oh, and the wet t-shirt contest part was nice, too. Watch just for that.
Episode 4: To Gay or Not Too Gay
Y'all ready to be absolutely and completely emotionally undone to the point where you're on the ground crying into your bottle of rose? No? Too bad. This episode will crush you, and you're gonna like it.
First of all, this was the only episode in the season that centered on a queer man. I'm actually really glad that they got rid of the "For the Straight Guy" part of the name, because you know what? Sometimes gays need the Fab Five, too. And this one, AJ, sure did: on top of everything else the Fab Five fixes, AJ also needed help coming out.
So let's talk about AJ: A) he's a major hunk B) he's a major goof and C) he's a major sweetheart. He had a whole sweet and shy schoolboy thing going on that was really adorable, even if he did sometimes wear cargo shorts. Underneath all that, as you shall see when he models nothing but a leather harness and jeans for the Fab Five, he's absolutely ripped. Though he expresses fears that showing off his (ridiculously hot) body will make him seem gay--as if jacked straight dudes don't take every chance to participate in wet t-shirt contests, see episode 8--Tan puts him right in more colorful and better fitted clothes that still go with his style.
AJ's pad is already fucking cool with its exposed brick and indoor swing (read: possible sex swing), so Bobby just makes it cooler with more leather and a more masculine finish. Good job, Bob.
Jonathan and Antoni don't do much this episode. AJ gets a trim, a shave, and a lesson on how to make arepas.
Karamo's involvement is a mixed bag: his conversation with AJ on how hard it is to be gay in the black community was tear-inducing, but his unduly metaphorical ropes course and constant reminders about "leaps of faith" were more vomit-inducing. This caused far too many war flashbacks to corporate retreats.
The ending, of course, reduced me to a puddle of snot. The letter AJ wrote--to his freaking dead father--and read to his stepmom about being gay was some of the rawest shit I've seen on Netflix as of yet. Move over, Amanda Knox.
I won't spoil for you what the stepmom's reaction was, though: you'll have to watch and find out yourself.