15th Jun2020

‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars 5×01’ Review

by Rhys Payne

If you are not familiar with the format of Ru Paul’s Drag Race as a franchise then I need to give you a lesson! The normal series has a group of drag queens perform in a range of challenges to discover America’s next drag superstar but the All-Stars brand of the show gathers those who didn’t win their respective seasons and makes then compete against each other. This also happens weeks, months and, even sometimes, years after the original seasons have aired so the queens have had a chance to improve their overall drag and have more money to do so. This means that the standard on the All-Stars season is a lot higher than the regular season and means that the queens have to work even harder to win (which I didn’t even realise was possible!)

As I have already said Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars brings back familiar faces so it was nice to have a throwback to each queens original season by showing some of their iconic moments as this helps to tie together the whole franchise and possibly remind the viewers of each queen. I would encourage viewers to watch the regular seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag Race first before watching All-Stars because they will miss out on the shocking progress of each queen and the throwbacks to their earlier appearance(s) will not make sense. I do however have an issue with the fact that the cast had already been Ru’vealed (😉) by official the Ru Paul Drag Race social media, as well as each queens walk-in look; so the impact and shock of each queen appearing on the show itself had been lost – on top of this I had already seen each queens iconic walk in moments! I really don’t think we need to see the exact same walk in moments twice (once on social media and once on the show) so I believe that this should be altered for future seasons. Shockingly there are a lot of queens on this season who appeared in the first season of All-Stars and while I believe it’s nice to see them get a chance to “ru-deem” themselves and to see how they perform under different rules (as each season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars seems to have a different setting, for example the first season had the queens competing in pairs) but I do think that maybe the opportunity should be given to the queens who haven’t had a chance to have another go at the competition before those that have already completed on All-Stars.

I won’t be discussing each queen that appears of this season as it is pretty much common knowledge at this point but if you don’t want spoilers then please skip to the next paragraph. Derrick Berry was one of the queens I was most excited about appearing on the season as in her original season she hid behind her Brittany Spears impression (which is known around the world for) so I was excited to see if she had gotten past this. While I understand she can do an incredible Brittney impression, entering the werk room dressed in two iconic Brittney looks and then going on to say she wants to move past the Britney impression was somewhat confusing. The other controversial entrance was by one Mayhem Miller whose outfit has caused a massive discussion online. Many fans have gone crazy about the fact that Mayhem wore a bodysuit that can be found rather cheaply on Amazon but for me, this isn’t a problem. When discussing this fact on her Instagram, Mayhem stated that drag shouldn’t be about spending ridiculous amounts of money on outfits but rather should be about looking good and damn she looked good!

The shows judges are like a normal season with Carson Kresley, Ross Matthews, Michelle Visage and Ru Paul with a special guest judge and for this opening episode they brought in Ricky Martin. Ricky was an incredible judge as he managed to balance the fun and comedic nature of the show with serious constructive feedback for the competing queens which in my opening makes the perfect TV judge.

Like most of the other series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars, the first episode in this season was a variety/talent show where the queens can choose to showcase one of their talents. I think this is a great way to start the season as it allows the audience to see a skill each of the queens possesses which gets them excited for future challenges. It also allows the queens to show talents that may not be shown in future epsiodes which is great for their own personal careers in the future. This talent show was a chance for Ru to promote the Werq the World Tour, which is almost a touring version of drag race, to get more people aware of the production. I don’t know if the acts were edited to be shorter but many of them did feel very brief and short which was somewhat dissapointing to watch. *Spoiler* A highlight for me was Mariah Paris Balenciaga who delivered a powerful spoken-word piece complete with theatrics that was especially poignant right now due to the BLM movement and pride month.

I have to issue another spoiler alert, if you don’t want any spoilers please skip to the final paragraph… The biggest twist in this season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars is in the way that queens are eliminated. Traditional the two best and two worst performing queens are selected with the two best having to lip-sync against each other with the winner of this choosing which queen goes home but this season is different. The two worst performing queens are up for elimination and the worst performing queen is selected. This queen has to then lip-sync against a mystery lip-sync assassin from the normal series of Drag Race. All other queens vote secretly about who they want to go home and if the lip-sync assassin wins then the queen with the most elimination votes goes home but if the queen from All-Stars wins she receives a $10,000 cash tip. I really enjoyed this twist personally as I believe the lip-syncs are what the viewers tune in for. This inclusion of a lip-sync assassin from another season being brought in really helps tie together the franchise and helps with viewer continuity. Again this does mean viewers are encouraged to watch the normal seasons first as this is where the lip-sync assains are discovered. I have got to be honest the lip-sync between the winning queen and the assassin was one of the best performances from the show I have seen in a very long time!

As an opening episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All-Stars, this was a five-star show as it set the bar extremely high for future episodes and provided exciting dramatic twists and turns and also brought back many fan favourites. As an episode of the drag race franchise if served its purpose but some of the talents show acts were a little disappointing. Overall, I would rate this episode:

****½ 4.5/5

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