Welcome to the season 12 finale of RuPaul's Masked Lip Syncer! Well, er, Rupaul's Drag Race.
For the first time, Drag Race aired a virtual version of its finale episode. And while the show aimed to keep things still within the established format of the episode, they did so in a new socially distanced format. Here's our take.
First up Ru's look: You know exactly where this is going. It was lazy, featuring Ru in another face mask (we also got one for the reunion.) That said, we all must remember that RuPaul hasn't had to put himself into drag in well over a decade. He's worked with an entire team that has done his hair, makeup, and looks. So what did we expect?
Outside of that, the show gave us a resee of the season's competitors which we had seen earlier today. Much respect to that.
Then Ru led us into a variety of packages built around the final queens with them speaking to their childhood selves, talking about particularly resonant storylines from the show, and getting special messages from important people in their life. This was interspersed with particularly timely PSAs (which Ru loves) about voting and social distancing. This was all par the course for a Drag Race finale.
Of the most touching packages was one built around Jacqueline Wilson, a longtime producer of the show that died last year. Contestants called her the "soul of Drag Race," going on to reveal that Wilson was often the person they were talking to in their confessional videos. Aiden Zhane had a partcularly moving moment with Wilson on her last confessional filming for the episode she got kicked off the show, and multiple queens became visibly emotional while speaking of Wilson.
For the lip sync, things were divided into three sections essentially. First, a bit of RuPaul spon-con; the Queen Supreme required her finalists to all lip sync to her latest single "Bring Back My Girls." Jaida Essence Hall, Gigi Goode, and Crystal Methyd "assumed the position," which for this performance meant getting extra close to the camera. While they all nailed every word, personally it was Goode who outsold here.
For the second lip sync the queens were able to choose their songs and create their performance. It is, surprisingly, unprecedented for Drag Race to work in this way: to allow performers to select their song to perform as well as staging. While Drag Race Thailand includes that aspect, the U.S. version has not. So this was a nice addition.
That said, with this added layer it became clear that this was just as much a production challenge as anything else. Methyd's Nelly Furtado performance to "I'm Like a Bird" was characteristically quirky, with the performer taking us to children's theater as she turned into a mother and baby bird. Goode's performance to A-Ha's "Take on Me" went high production, with the gloss of a music video; she clearly had the physical space, as well as resources to pull off a studio sort of setting. Hall, on the other hand, prized performance. Of the three performers, she was the only to actually dance, putting more than a one, two-step in her Ciara number to "Get Up." That said, she did flub a few words, but not enough to take her out of the game.
The fact that the three focused on different things (Methyd concept, Goode production, and Hall performance) makes picking a winner slightly complicated. In an ideal world, we would love a combination of the three, but this is not ideal. Goode's production was second to none but as this is a performance, we are going to have to give it to Hall.
Ru, who had previously said that she would eliminate one contestant after the first two rounds, decided not to give it to anyone. The issue with that is it sort of defeated the purpose, in a way killing the suspense. Not only do we lose out on the "battle to the death" feeling we normally have because everything is being done virtually, but also there's apparently room for everybody in the finals!
For the Miss Congeniality crown, Nina West came back to pass on her title. Dolly Parton made an appearance and a few wisecracks that were amazing. Heidi N. Closet was given Miss Congeniality, as anticipated, and received $10,000. In addition, Pantene, who sponsored the award, decided to give $2,000 to each of the other 11 competitors present at the finale.
For the final lip sync, Drag Race leveled the playing field. They sent the same equipment and staging to each of the three finalists and made them all perform to Destiny's Child "Survivor." This, obviously, makes judging a little easier as there are areas of comparisons. While all three performers put on a show, Hall and Goode pretty quickly stood out. They each ended up with multiple reveals, and Hall (rightfully) walked away with the crown and $100,000.
With this season in the bag, the show has now awarded a whopping $1,863,500 in cash to queens throughout 16 seasons.