And so we come to the end of the short, disappointing season that was "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars." I think the general consensus out there was that this season was not what ANYONE hoped it would be (I suspect that's especially true for the contestants), and that the ultimate winner felt like an anticlimax to a show that was already struggling to gain momentum.
The Final 4 - Raven, Jujubee, Shannel, and Chad Michaels - were blessedly freed from the shackles of the season-long teams format and competed individually in the final task, a three-pronged challenge that was ostensibly a take-off on "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," but which really just amounted to three different activities tied together by rides in a dragged-out van. (Special shout outs to S1's Ongina and S3's Delta Work, who were the chauffers, but sadly not in drag.) The queens first had to do a group interview with terrifying E! correspondent Marc Malkin (is it just me, or does that guy seem utterly soulless?), then they had to do a public appearance at restaurant Hamburger Mary's, and then they had to do a stand-up routine at the Comedy Store.
I've heard people complaining that this final challenge was all over the place, but honestly I thought it was a much better task than the typical "Drag Race" finale, which is essentially "dance in the background in a video for a 2-year-old RuPaul song." This format actually has practical applications for these queens' careers. For all my complaints about the season overall, I'd like to see this kind of challenge used in "Drag Race" finales going forward.
As far as the queens' performances in the challenges -- and taking into consideration only what the editors chose to show viewers -- it appeared that Jujubee got overshadowed in the interview portion, everybody seemed to do well at Hamburger Mary's, and Shannel was all over the place at the comedy club. But to my surprise, nobody full-on bombed at the stand-up. In fact, I was shocked at how good most of them were, especially Raven and Jujubee. As guest judge Cheri Oteri (completely unrecognizable from her days on "Saturday Night Live") pointed out, Raven should seriously consider a career in stand-up. She killed it with her routine on prison love.
The finale runway was oddly disappointing. Chad's shiny jumpsuit was polished but unexciting (fitting, given that's how I've felt about Chad all season). Jujubee was a straight-up mess; the judges were too kind about her throwaway dress that would have looked cheap in Week 1, and which was totally unfitting for a finale presentation. Raven gave us boudoir couture, while my beloved Shannel pulled out what I can only refer to as Lobster Showgirl Realness. Several members of my viewing party hated it, but I thought it was ridiculous and wonderful. I only wish she had pushed around a cauldron of boiling water and doused herself with drawn butter at the end of the runway. Commit to the look, you crazy bitch!
It became clear from the judges' critiques that the Top 2 were Chad and Raven, leaving Jujubee and Shannel out of the running. I'm a little torn on that. Going into the finale I wanted Jujubee to win. She's been a bright light in this mostly dull season. It's true that she once again choked in the home stretch (on "Untucked" Ru got to the source of this tendency, which Juju identified as her people-pleasing personality), but I was still rooting for her. Shannel can be proud of the fact that she redeemed herself after her polarizing stint on Season 1. The editing in the last few "All Stars" episodes hasn't done her any favors, but the bottom line is that whether you like her or not, Shannel is an ENTERTAINER. She is ridiculous and over the top and she loves it. That's who she is. And I would pay good money to see her perform, because that is a lady who knows how to put on a SHOW. Again: sister came out on the runway last night looking like a Vegas lobster. That takes guts.
That left two previous runners-up, Raven and Chad Michaels, lip synching to Ru's "Responsitrannity" (not my favorite song). Personally I thought Raven won this easily. Chad's moves were a little predictable, a little old-fashioned, almost a little desperate. Raven just did her sexy, sultry thing, but commanded attention. Alas, she once again came in second place as Chad got the crown and the first spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.
Chad's win is, believe it or not, somewhat controversial. On social media I've already seen multiple posts along the lines of, "Raven was robbed. Again." But as was pointed out to me, if you look at the entire season, you kind of had to give it to Chad. Raven might have outperformed her in the final episode, but Raven was also curiously a nonentity for most of the "All Stars" competition. Her Bea Arthur impersonation was flat and forgettable. She was totally overshadowed by the rest of the Final 4 during the street pranks. Her supervillain was great, but she really didn't step up until the last two weeks. So from the big-picture perspective, it's fitting that she's once again just shy of the win. But at least this time she didn't lose to Tyra effing Sanchez.
Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that this entire season was rigged just to give Chad the crown many people - including Chad - thought was rightfully hers in Season 4. I don't know about that. I don't think Chad acquitted herself nearly as well this time around, but then again, few of these queens did (aside from the breakout star of the season, Tammie Brown; I'm pissed we won't get a reunion only because I wanted more Tammie in my life). Regardless, I actually feel a little bad for Chad. Yes, she got the win she wanted. And she is deserving of a win if you take her entire "Drag Race" career - and her drag career in general - into consideration. But pretty much everybody hated this season, which makes being the winner of it kind of like being the queen of the shit pile.
The big question now is, will there be another "All Stars" season? Ru seemed to suggest it was a possibility; she repeatedly referred to the winner as "the first in the Drag Race Hall of Fame." But given the overwhelmingly negative response to the team format, I can't imagine they're going to attempt that fiasco again. Will they find the cash and time necessary to do a full season with previous queens? Will they go for a shorter season featuring fewer queens in single combat? Will queens from this season be eligible to compete in future "All Stars" seasons? If they do another one, I certainly hope that last item is the case. There aren't that many "Drag Race" alum who weren't included here that I'd be interested in seeing back. (Off the top of my head: Ongina, Jessica Wild, Shangela, Morgan McMichaels, Mariah, Willam, and maybe Dida Ritz, Tatianna, and Phi Phi O'Hara, just for drama.) There's no doubt that if this was single-elimination things would have shaken out much differently. Manila Luzon did nothing wrong and was out in Week 3. She deserves another solid shot at the title.
In the meantime, at least we have Season 5 coming up quick in January. If you haven't gone over to Logo's website to check out the new girls, get on it. It looks promising. After this boner of a season - which should have been a slam dunk given the amazing queens they brought back - RuPaul better make sure not to fuck it up.