Friday, April 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - Production Struggles to Form a Consistent Storyline Centered Around the Queens in 'Catwalk'

VH1's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 14.14 "Catwalk"

The top queens must play catty supermodels battling for the spotlight in the music video for RuPaul's new song, "Catwalk."

Season 14 had some truly incredibly queens competing. However, they were ultimately failed by production, which saw the necessity of tinkering with the format of the competition. That resulted in several frustrating moments. The queens have taken the brunt of that responsibility. In some instances, the criticisms are fair. The queens are to blame for bombing Snatch Game. Of course, it's incredibly hard for someone to find a new, inventive way to stand out in that format. That's the consequence of success. The show wants to keep getting bigger and better with each season. Everyone yearns for that. The show doesn't have enough Emmys yet. It always aspires for more. That is perfectly sensible too. The show was ignored for so many years. Once it finally was accepted, it deserved being showered with as many trophies as possible. That validation is still justified. However, it can still be annoying to watch as the show trips over itself not knowing how to deliver efficient and effective thrills with its storytelling. The season has certainly had an abundance of twists. The queens even talk about how they were the firsts to do some things in the competition. A Top 5 competing in the finale doesn't quite seem like the direction everyone should be clamoring for. Instead, it simply reinforces the narrative that RuPaul can't narrow the cast down using the challenges to test their various skills. Now, it's a celebration where everyone should be invited to participate for as long as possible. Again, that's noble and happy in a way. It doesn't satisfying those in the audience who demand the vicious nature of a reality competition show. The end result creates a dull product that is casually toying with the audience's emotions instead of letting us experience them firsthand in astonishment.

The trajectory of this episode was spelled out early on too. Angeria and Willow's friendship was prominent long before they even went to set to film the "Catwalk" music video. The editing was setting up the gut punch of them being in the Bottom 2 together. They had to lip sync against their closest friend in order to stay in the competition. It's a decision made for how emotionally gut-wrenching and traumatic it will be instead of actually being the fair breakdown of the performances. This episode highlights how difficult it is to maintain momentum. The queens that started out strong had to maintain that quality throughout. They could still offer peaks and valleys. That simply required more dramatic ups and downs. Instead, Willow and Angeria have mostly been steady. Meanwhile, Daya and Lady Camden waited for their moments to break out and shine. They are peaking at just the right time. It creates the sensation that they are the ones most deserving of continuing onto the finale. They are the best this week. That really can't be denied. Lady Camden even scores her third win. That ties her with Bosco for the best track record of the season. It's strange Willow has only won once. That doesn't track with all the greatness she has brought to this season. She is clearly RuPaul's favorite. She stands out because of a unique story. The rest have too many moments of being generic. Willow's perspective is so engaging and expansive. Everyone else has showcased what they do best. They are talented at their craft. However, the familiarity is apparent too. Of course, that allows the audience to see the greatness of the cast spread out across the challenge. Daya does the best in the overall music video. Camden has the best final runway look. And Willow produced the best lyrics for the song. Those facts are noticeable. The judging as a result is all over the place.

Ross wants to give Bosco and Daya credit for refusing to go home when the competition demanded their eliminations. And yet, they had absolutely nothing to do with those decisions. It's not like their fight and determination changed minds after RuPaul told them to sashay away. Production kept them around as a result of the twists designed for the season. Similarly, Carson critiques the outfits worn in the music video. The queens designed them. However, they didn't have to make them or choose something they brought. This isn't the first time the queens benefited from outfits being available on set. This challenged simply allowed garments to be made for them after they specifically knew what the challenge required. That design element is still key. It provides the audience with insight into how they approach drag. But Bosco was read for her outfit being too plain in comparison to the other queens even though she wasn't the one who picked out the fabric. She had an idea. It was executed on her behalf. And then, the judges expect the queens to deliver right away. They are in full drag when learning the choreography. They have absolutely no time to practice before filming begins. As such, no one really has time to process what is happening and think about what they will do. It's odd. Michelle loves to judge the queens for how they take direction. That's used as part of the overall critiques. It certainly is for Angeria as she struggles the most in picking up choreography. Her ignoring Michelle's advice to crawl is partly why she falters and Daya soars. Those little details add up. That makes it all seem taken together as a package. The judges are evaluating the queens as they are being presented on the show and not on the challenge and runway. That's a significant diversion built from the need to differentiate them somehow. They want to make things out to be so close. Any small detail could keep someone from the finale. What the judges fixate on can be really weird.

The judges rave on certain runway looks as well. Meanwhile, they demand more explanation from others. Everyone loves how weird and creative Willow is. And yet, she is placed in the bottom seemingly because Carson doesn't understand why she is dressed as a mouse. It's a unique choice for a final runway. It offers a story though. Drag is meant to produce that kind of reaction. It being questioned is certainly allowed. But the storytelling was apparent with what Willow was doing. Across the stage, Bosco is seemingly complimented because she isn't wearing a skimpy outfit with a corset. It's still a body suit with a piece of flowy fabric tied around her waist with a wig she has worn before. If it's that obvious, then it shouldn't be presented as delivering something elevated. Similarly, Angeria's outfit is a pageant gown. She's worn the same overall theme in every category. It's not as jarring or blatant as what Bosco and Jorgeous have done. It should still be noted. It sets the bar extremely high for this final presentation. In the end, she simply says it doesn't need the flash and bling she has already delivered. It still needed something more to stand out as a three-dimensional piece. That element is missing. Daya and Camden opt for beautiful gowns too. They offer some twists though. Camden's is successful while Daya's is more of a struggle. The judges love the idea of what Daya offers. The execution doesn't immediately tell a complete story. It's mostly her placing an extension in an odd place and being completely confident in it. And then, Camden explains her look as her embodiment of a Disney princess. That may win over people more easily. It's still glamorous too. It simply produces an ending in search of a justification. It's still not consequential in the least. Angeria and Willow lip sync to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé's "Telephone." It's fine. Nothing is jarringly bad. It doesn't scream double save. That's the second one of the season. And so, the finale will feature all five queens after the season produces yet another episode where no one goes home. That has already been a major problem. And now, it's only amplified even further.