Friday, May 20, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' - Double the Celebrity Impersonations Creates Unexpected Reactions in 'Snatch Game'

Paramount+'s RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Episode 7.02 "Snatch Game"

For the first time in Drag Race herstory, the crowned queens must perform two iconic celebrity impersonations in a Snatch Game Double-Header! International style icon Daphne Guiness joins the judges' panel.

In Season 14, RuPaul was so reluctant to eliminate any of the queens competing. That actually sucked a lot of the drama out of the proceedings. And yet, everyone can lead with confidence in All Stars 7 knowing that no one will ever be eliminated. In the premiere, the former winners noted how that could encourage them to take even more risks. The most daunting consequence of failure has been removed from the equation. They don't have to fear being eliminated and not being able to show all of the excellent drag they brought with them. Instead, they have to think strategically in a new way. Many of them understand the burden of singling out one of their competitors on the main stage. Every season includes the dreaded question of "Who should go home tonight and why?" Meanwhile, the All Stars format has the queens eliminating each other. However, those decisions are largely based on who did the worst in the challenges. With the new twist, the winners have to target those who are doing well in the competition. Shea believes she set the tone by blocking Trinity first. As such, that's how the rest of the competitors will make this decision. They all want to collect as many stars as possible in order to get to the final lip sync smackdown for the crown. They want the title and the prize money. That's not the only thing they are fighting for though. This season is partly to showcase how excellent each of these winners continues to be. As such, they are deserving of just as much fame and attention now as they did when they won their respective seasons. The choices they make are still tough. They have to make them. That's what the competition requires. Some may have genuine reasons. Monet and Trinity have already formed an alliance. Meanwhile, Shea believes Trinity can recover nicely from this initial block. Jinkx knows it's smart to go after those who already have stars. The various levels of the game are being played. That doesn't dampen the overall friendships that radiate from the screen. Trinity is pissed. She still treats it all playfully knowing this is a competition with many twists and turns before that final showdown.

Of course, the pressure is already on production to amplify the stakes of the competition in absolutely every moment. Many of these winners have strong track records with Snatch Game. It's rare for a queen to bomb that challenge and then come back to win. Yvie and Jaida are the exceptions. Yvie landed in the Bottom Two and earned a Double Shantay. Jaida was safe thanks to a largely forgettable impersonation. However, that means all the queens have different expectations when it comes to this challenge. Plus, it's being thrown at them early in the season. It's a return to the classic format too. It's the traditional Snatch Game and not the variation utilized in the recent All Stars seasons and UK vs. the World. Each queen is asked to do it twice. They have to come with two celebrity impersonations. They don't have to be connected to one another. It's played as two separate games with even the positions onstage shifting in between. It's still insanely tough. It's hard to bring two characters to Snatch Game. It inevitably leads to comparisons between them. Instead of competing with everyone else, it's also a competition amongst what they've also done. The bar is raised to bring two standout performances. However, Jinkx truly annihilates the competition with her Judy Garland. The queer community has long had such reverence for the actress and singer. That has almost made her untouchable in this challenge. No one has attempted her before. Jinkx could channel all of that energy and make herself the star even amongst other competitors who have won Snatch Game before. She is simply so talented with this particular skillset. She was amazing as Little Edie back in Season 5. Her Natasha Lyonne is solid as well. It's clear she wanted to follow the same rhythms with both characters. She had stories she wanted to tell in an amusing way regardless of what the questions were. She could still connect with the challenge. She had a whole journey she was going to take everyone on. She demanded that time and utilized every last second. It was an absolute masterclass that may never be touched again.

It's great to witness such confidence from Snatch Game too. Over the years, a segment of fans have grown tired of the format. That attitude is reflected amongst the winners too. Monet has lived out every experience from Snatch Game. She did well in Season 10 and then failed in All Stars 4. That trajectory continues here with Mike Tyson being funny while Martin Lawrence was completely absent. That's the overall sensibility of this challenge amongst the queens. Some of them had solid jokes for one of their characters. But again, they were judged by how well they did with both. As such, one character working is no longer good enough. Even then, it doesn't even matter how good the impersonation is. That's not all that this challenge tests. It's all about making RuPaul laugh. Jaida did that even though she wasn't channelling Prince in the slightest. It was a smart choice. She certainly had fun with it. It's also just so great to see people breaking character as it dawns on them who is truly taking centerstage. The queens know in the moment Jinkx was doing everything better than they ever could. That was freeing to a certain extent. It was still disappointing that the Vivianne couldn't quite reach the same heights with Joanna Lumley and Catherine Tate as she did with Donald Trump. That's a pitfall many former winners plunge into when they do the challenge again. What works once may not translate a second time. Of course, it's great when everyone realizes that Raja is funny as well. She almost won her Snatch Game. Drag has evolved so much since Season 3. And yet, people need to respect how well-rounded Raja has always been. The judges may have closer attachments to Madame and Diana Vreeland than the typical viewer does. But that's the pandering that's rewarded here - unlike doing social media influencers like Yvie and Shea do. It's tough because the audience wants everyone to do well. Leslie Jordan was a smart choice from Trinity and executed well enough to justify her lip syncing with Jinkx for the win. However, the obvious winner was apparent and it wouldn't make much sense for any other outcome to occur.

When it comes to the runway, it seems like the judges are grading some queens on a curve instead of evaluating everyone on a level playing field. With Jinkx and Yvie, it's all about whether or not their looks are good for them. That doesn't entirely seem fair. Jinkx has stepped up her game and showcased the elevated version of the drag persona she has embraced for years. She subverted the expectations of what a runway dominated by pleather would be. She showcased glamour while still sticking to what she does best. Meanwhile, Yvie brings colorful creativity to everything she does. No one is doing what she's doing. That has to be appreciated as well. Other queens receive more praise. That can be justified sometimes because of how gorgeous they are on the runway. However, the tone of the comments can seem pointed in some regards. Monet, Raja and Jaida had the best looks of the night. Monet was so sensual in her gown playing with gender and in a color that was absolutely gorgeous against her skin. This category is right in Raja's wheelhouse and she knocks it out of the park with the many elements she pulls from to still create a cohesive look. And finally, Jaida presented something paying homage to the 90s while never losing the essence of who she is. The audience may want to see these winners push themselves to go even bigger and more unconventional with who they are. And yet, they all prevailed because they stand firm in their unique identities. Sometimes, it just needs to be a celebration of the excellence they always bring to drag. Taking big swings can create some misses too. Trinity's outfit is odd. Shea's design is great in idea. In execution though, it seems reductive for the graffiti to say "bad girl" across her chest. That was already a given with the overall fetish concept. Shea still ends up getting blocked once Jinkx wins the lip sync. The song choices are really pushing the queens to pull out their tricks and utilize them in new ways. It's also insane that more Adele songs haven't been used on this show. Perhaps the music rights have been too complicated for too long? "Rumor Has It" is terrific and Jinkx was off in her own little world. That makes her so captivity to watch. It's delusional confidence to a certain extent. It's warranted and welcomed so much of the time as well. Plus, Shea is the right choice given how well she has already performed this season.