Friday, June 3, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' - Patterns Emerge But the Queens Find Ways to Break Free of Them in 'Fairytale Justice'

Paramount+'s RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Episode 7.04 "Fairytale Justice"

All rise! The legends are telling tall tales in court as they bring their best storybook characters to the witness stand in this twisted improv challenge.

This show has a formula that works. It can be tinkered with a little bit from time to time. However, production knows exactly what it's doing. The audience relies on that familiarity to provide comfort no matter what. Sure, sometimes the narratives the show hopes to sell don't work whatsoever. Questionable decisions are still made. The viewer may not agree with who wins or who is in the bottom. Those opinions are valid sometimes. This show is merely meant to serve as entertainment. People can analyze the various layers that dictate that storytelling. At the end of the day though, it's just suppose to be fun and joyous. Those qualities have stood out immensely this season. So much of that is an extension of no eliminations. No one has to worry about crushing the dreams of another. Yes, that has long been satisfying drama. It was annoying when the regular season produced many non-elimination episodes. However, that format requires the queens to be whittled down to determine the best of the best. Here, these queens have already won. They have already proven themselves to the judges and the fans. And now, they get to enjoy the celebration of simply seeing them compete again. They are each given a chance to shine in the spotlight. Patterns still exist. The Vivienne is complaining about not winning a Legendary Legend Star early on in the episode. That foreshadows her eventual domination in the improv challenge. Similarly, Jaida calls out Monet for avoiding the Platinum Plunger every week even though she won a star from the first challenge. That too sets the expectation for her to finally suffer from those consequences. These layers are visible. It's also just fun to see these queens mess with each other knowing that the competition won't dictate their friendships or what happens after the show.

Jinkx plays into the secrets of the Platinum Plunger as well. Shea got that speculation going. And now, Jinkx simply continues it. It's built entirely on nothing. It's trying to make the blocked position seem enviable. People have to see the potential from it. It has to be accepted as a compliment. Jaida opted to block Jinkx because she's good at everything - besides the ball. She has the same reasoning when it comes to picking the teams for the improv challenge. She needs a heavy hitter like Jinkx to carry her team to victory. Of course, it's startling to see Raja picked last. She is just as capable of thinking on her feet as the other queens. Yvie is underestimated too. That's the consequence of so many talented people being in the cast. Several of them do well in this challenge. As such, it's difficult for any of them to feel confident in winning a star. The audience has a bit more perspective. The judges don't really offer that during their critiques. They simply praise everyone for doing well. However, the standouts are easily Vivienne, Yvie and Jinkx. Vivienne and Yvie were asked to do the most in the challenge. That gave them an advantage over some of their competition. Monet and Trinity were saddled the most simply because they were the last characters to enter their respective scenes. The improv in the courtroom relies on surprise witnesses. It's amusing when Jaida and Raja enter in order to turn the cases on their heads. With Monet and Trinity, it invites chaos before Michelle issues her final verdict. They have to follow a specific script in order to deliver that outcome. It's a lot of work. Everyone is trusted to act a fool and lead with the most absurd jokes they can deliver. No one absolutely flops. It's just noticeable how some have larger roles. That could have set them up for failure. It was most concerning with Yvie because she's struggled with character work in challenges like Snatch Game. This challenge proved why she is as deserving a winner as everyone else in the cast. As such, it's a disappointing that she isn't the one lip syncing for her legacy alongside Vivienne.

The runway features spikes this week. It's always fascinating to see what inspires the queens when the category is so broad. Plenty can see the brilliance of leading with a punk edge. They still have to make it unique and true to their drag persona. Jaida is absolutely gorgeous and amplifies her look with severe makeup. It needed more coverage in the back to conceal her natural skin tone. The look was still successful though. Monet pursued a similar vibe. However, it looked better on Willow Pill during the shoulder pads runway of Season 14. That's unfortunate. Those comparisons are common too. Vivienne's outfit is what Shea was trying to achieve during the pleather runway earlier this season. The two are incredibly similar. The whip is even unnecessary with both of them. The placement of the spikes and the variation of sizes elevates Vivienne's to perfection. Of course, Raja continues her reign as the conceptional queen who brings such beautiful architecture in her designs. She mixes elements of punk with gladiator warrior. She embraces a different color palate and materials than Jaida and Monet. As a result, it's truly remarkable. Some of these elements are expected. Again, that's how the viewer recognizes patterns. The judges still treat Jinkx and Yvie as doing good enough looks for their caliber of drag. Jinkx was smart for using porcupine to define her silhouette. Meanwhile, Yvie presents an insect creation that defies gravity the longer she stays still and demands people look at her. It's a clear concept too. In contrast, Shea may be trying a bit too hard with her fashions this season. That's shocking to say. It's not a criticism meant to convey any true harshness. She presents oddness here that's not meant to offer easy clarity. Sometimes that's a little necessary in order to stand out as remarkable. Runways are yet another avenue to tell stories after all. Trinity takes advantage of that with every look she brings - with one spike through the heart as the central feature of her vampire design.

The Vivienne and Jinkx are called as the top two legends of the week. Yvie easily could have replaced Jinkx. However, RuPaul has such a fondness for the camp queen from Seattle. She especially enjoyed the moment after the courtroom where she didn't break character despite losing an ear. That easily could have been a devastating mistake. Nothing like that fazes Jinkx though. She's aware of her surroundings at all times. She knows how to take advantage with the most brilliant jokes she can deliver. She pursued every pun that could be found. Meanwhile, Vivienne pulled out her accent work to great effect. The second group was probably better overall because it was attempting to blend the various fairytales together to create chaos. The first was stuck mostly detailing the three little pigs as it is traditionally portrayed. But again, no one stood out as bad. In the final lip sync, the show proves once again that it loves remixes lately more than the original songs. That's become increasingly true with songs from Whitney Houston done to provide more dance beats. It's strange to see Jinkx in a gown for the entire time. Vivienne goes for a full-on performance look. Moreover, every queen from the United Kingdom is determined to destroy their knees on the main stage. It's the move they all do. It's painful every time. It still carries the necessary impact to stun the crowd. Vivienne even got a slight assist from Jaida bringing in a prop. That made the lip sync pretty lopsided. This week was simply all about the Vivienne. That praise is deserved too. She is no longer in the background. She is at the forefront celebrating her first star. Plus, no one has collected two yet. Jinkx was blocked from that achievement. Vivienne breaks from the pattern of simply blocking whomever won in the previous challenge. She knew it was time for Monet to receive this punishment. It's fitting. That showcases how the queens themselves are aware of the patterns. They know how to exploit them to produce the best drama. They can do so without compromising their integrity one bit either. That energy radiates immensely from this season and is quickly making it one of the best in a long time.