Tuesday, March 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs. the World' - The Winner Is Crowned After a Lip Sync Smackdown in 'Grand Finale'

BBC Three's RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs. the World - Episode 1.06 "Grand Finale"

It's the grand finale! The UK hosted as nine legendary Drag Race queens from around the world entered the workroom to compete for the title of "Queen of he Mothertucking World." Six weeks later, RuPaul is about to crown the winner. Which queen will be elevated to true legendary status and do their country proud?

Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, Jujubee and Mo Heart are all talented queens. It's rare to head into a finale where anyone could win. It offers the perception that whatever they do in this final episode will determine who goes home with the crown. It's truly up in the air. That's an extension of eliminating the strongest competitors throughout the season. That created unpredictability each week. It also crafted a finale where some queens have to say winning a RuPeter Badge doesn't determine who did well. Blu and Jujubee each have one. Baga and Mo have none. That's simply because they lost the lip syncs to their fellow finalists. They each only finished in the top once. The true gag of the season was Blu's elimination of Pangina. No one can question that. When Lemon returns wanting to know details on the season, that's immediately the focus of conversation. It overshadows Jimbo's own hurt feelings regarding her elimination. Mining through those details is an important part of this finale. However, it also serves as a celebration for the four queens who made it to the end. They each embraced different strategies to make it this far. Baga is proud of never being in the bottom. Of course, that's not entirely true. She easily could have been eliminated in the semi-finals. Jujubee and Mo both chose Janey though. They each remark on how talented she is as well. She would have been a deserving finalist too. However, the final showdown is a battle between the United Kingdom and the United States. The queens notice that. In fact, that's the energy that carries through the final three lip syncs too. Everyone has something to prove. They carry that with them as they embark on this final showcase.

A drag queen doesn't need to be a great lip sync artist in order to be successful. However, it has increasingly become necessary to win RuPaul's Drag Race no matter which franchise is airing. No one can sail through the competition without having to lip sync any more. The finale is designed to reward the queen who can best entertain through that specific skill. A large part of the industry is dominated by these performances. The rest is represented through the other challenges. A lip sync for the win has always been a component of the show. However, it has sometimes felt like the rightful winner is declared regardless of how they perform during that last minute in the competition. In this case, the lip syncs are all that the judges have to go on. They can remark on how the queens have done throughout the competition as well as the extravagant outfits they've chosen to wear for their final runways. The celebration is extended to all of the queens as well. Everyone gets that chance to make one more appearance on the runway. The lip sync smackdown decides the winner. The viewer probably goes into the matches with the expectation of reveals and various jumps and splits. That's what lip syncing for the crown has become on the main stage. In order to reward whomever wants it the most, it's judged by how effective and creative their reveals are. Of course, that may just be the queens who have to time to prepare for these moments. Here, Blu is the only one who does a death drop. It's fine. It's simply more impressive to see four queens connect with the songs and translate them to moves that are fitting of it instead of doing what has increasingly become required.

Of course, all of this would have been different if Pangina was in the Top 4. Her final look blows everyone else away. It's not even a competition anymore. Plenty of queens have worn Marie Antoinette-inspired looks. Pangina simply does it better than anyone else. No one should even try again. She now owns that space. It's an expression of who she is and what she wanted to do in this competition. She didn't need to win in order for the world to appreciate her. Nor does she have to be bitter about Blu's reason for sending him home. She thought she was safe. She misinterpreted what Blu said during their deliberation talk. Blu didn't want to pick her but noted that it was very tempting. She did so. She had to eliminate her biggest competition in order to have any shot of winning the crown. She took that risk. It paid off. Meanwhile, Jimbo is being shady. She may be a strong entertainer but she's a sore loser. She didn't agree with the reasons why she was eliminated on her original season. And now, she walks into the room acting as if she wasn't the worst in the Rusical. Sure, people can debate whether Jujubee should have been saved so many times. However, these queens can eliminate whomever they want for whatever reason. Pangina saw the elimination process as declaring who was the weakest in that specific challenge. That caused pain because she didn't think she was the worst at Snatch Game. The elimination made her think she was. That wasn't Blu's reason. Pangina needed that closure. It provides cathartic release. Meanwhile, Jimbo's emotions still linger. It's odd. She wouldn't have won given the lip sync finale. That too may be dawning on her. Even if she was the best elsewhere, she would have failed when it came to this final event. Baga can relate to that. Her fellow competitors treat her as the weakest in this regard. That's why Mo selected her. That helped secure her own spot in this race.

Mo and Blu are the final two. They make it that far because they took strategic risks. It required so many things to go in their favor. Mo had to be the lucky queen the wheel landed on. She could slay whichever lip sync was presented. However, she chose to go against Baga. Jessie J's "Domino" is a fantastic song. It's shocking it hasn't already been used during a lip sync for your life. Mo is great. Baga doesn't entirely deserve the title of being a terrible lip sync artist. She does her best. It's admirable. The result is pretty obvious. With Blu and Jujubee, it truly appears as an even match. Duran Duran's "The Reflex" stands out as not quite fitting the energy from the other two lip syncs here. But Blu and Jujubee both handle it well enough to reasonable please whomever wins. It's not like Blu was obviously better than Jujubee. RuPaul simply picked her. That may be nothing more than production not thinking Baga or Jujubee should have won. Mo and Blu in the final showdown feels right. They were solid throughout the season. Baga and Jujubee were more hit or miss. Everyone had beautiful final runway looks. Blu's was perfect. Baga had a stunning headpiece and looked beautiful despite the dress once again being the wrong length. Jujubee embraced simplicity once more but was at least stunning in doing so. Mo's was slightly disappointing given the caliber of her runways this entire season. It was still ultimately fine. And in the end, Blu Hydrangea is declared the winner. She does more than Mo in performing to Kylie Minogue's "Supernova." It fits the song even though there are moments where she comes across as desperate and flailing. She's a queen who still has so much further to grow. She is evolving. Meanwhile, Mo is proud to declare that her mother is finally rooting for her. Those victories are resounding and earned. It's emotional especially when Jujubee talks about why she was out of her body for most of the competition. These explanations were necessary. Them all coming at the end is a little chaotic. But more international queens should get this opportunity to shine once more. The casting alone can create the drama even if the audience has to accept what that all entails when the winner is ultimately crowned. Good luck Blu on your upcoming song with Mama Ru!