'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' season 2: Was this the best season ever?
Season two of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars is over and done with, and we've certainly said our piece about it all season. At multiple times throughout, All Stars 2 thrilled, excited and made us emotional. But looking back at the season, does it hold up?
(Editor's note: Spoilers ahead for the second season of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.)
To settle any lingering feelings before we put Drag Race to bed until season nine premieres next year, Mic's Arts editor Kevin O'Keeffe and Identities staff writer Mathew Rodriguez sat down to talk about the season. How will Alaska's win look in retrospect? Was the Lip Sync for Your Legacy format a success? How fair was Phi Phi O'Hara's edit? Read on for our thoughts on all this and more.
Mathew Rodriguez (MR): So, here we are at the end of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2!
Kevin O'Keeffe (KO): And what an end it was! Is what I'd like to say. To be honest, the first five episodes of the season were sublime, and everything past that point was pretty mediocre. Our winner, Alaska — (who ran the boards the entire season — got an unfavorable edit in the second-to-last episode that prompted fans to flock to the runner-up, Katya, ultimately making Alaska's crowning unfulfilling. Meanwhile, Alyssa Edwards, the breakout star of the season, missed out on the top four solely because Detox couldn't eliminate her best friend, Roxxxy. To be frank: kind of a bummer!
MR: Yeah, the first few episodes really made it seem like this could go down as one of the greatest seasons of reality TV ever, of all time. Period. But the back half was scattered and repetitive. Though, it did give us the infamous mirror moment. Face crack of the millennium, as Katya put it.
KO: That was legitimately shocking. And that's where I thought All Stars 2 really succeeded. Speaking of that moment, since she was absent from Thursday night's reunion, let's talk about Phi Phi O'Hara. She was, all told, the season's villain, grasping at a redemption she never received. In some ways, that makes her a tragic figure, since everyone was on the show to be redeemed — though I could never call her a tragic hero.
MR: Phi Phi obviously got the rawest of deals in that, like with Willam's departure, we may never know the truth behind what actually happened. There will always be several versions of the story, and then the truth. But I think talking about Phi Phi opens up a great question about how few people were actually helped by All Stars 2. When I really think about who got a boost from being on the show, it's Katya, Alyssa and Tatianna. Coco and Ginger went from starting off strong on their seasons to leaving early. Alaska had the meltdown. Adore exited early. Detox was neutral. And Roxxxy overstayed her welcome.
KO: Agreed that Katya, Alyssa and Tatianna are the true winners of the season. Katya became the fan favorite, Alyssa became the truest Miss Congeniality we have, and Tatianna introduced herself to a whole new base of Drag Race viewers. I feel badly for Roxxxy, though. She really did grow as a person (if not really grow in her drag), and she stayed a positive presence throughout the season. She did get her redemption, and then Alaska and Detox kind of ruined it by dragging her along to the finale. Regarding Alaska, though: As much as I was disappointed by her win, I think it will look good in the hindsight of history.
MR: Yes, when it comes to Drag Race herstory, history will smile kindly on Alaska. She's one of the consummate great winners, but the internet's cries for Katya drowned out any celebratory shouts for Alaska. In a fierce competition, her one kinda misstep was basically repeating that "bank thief" motif from when she made up Nebraska Thunderfuck. However, did you feel that the judges were a little *too* lenient on her in their criticism?
KO: I would generally agree, yes. The thing is, when we talk about shutting down the season, we have to accept Ru's criticisms, and I wouldn't have given Alaska all the wins Ru did. It's the tough thing about Drag Race — you have to accept the host's ultimate judgment. But this is a show with a fanbase that's only grown in recent years. Does the show feel beyond Ru in a way now?
MR: Oh yeah, the show is much bigger than Ru now. In a way, Ru safeguarded herself from some criticism this season by having the queens eliminate each other, but they still definitely handed Alaska too many wins, and I will go down in history saying that that 2-in-1 was not a 2-in-1, it was a reveal.
KO: So let's talk about the format a bit. In my mind, flipping the script and having the queens eliminate each other was a total win, even if it didn't lead to the most desirable results. But I can understand some fixes might need to be made to safeguard against not just bad choices, but also boring lip syncs. I don't think it's a surprise the only truly legendary lip sync we got this year was when Alyssa and Tatianna were fighting for their chance to return — the only Lip Sync for Your Life of the year. What did you think of Lip Sync for Your Legacy? How would you change it (if at all) for All Stars 3?
MR: I'm so split on the format. This season replaced the drama of Lip Sync for Your Life with the personal drama of deliberations, but those became unwieldy and unedited. And, as you said, Tatianna versus Alyssa will go down as the season's best, and one of the series' best, lip syncs. Without the fire of the threat of elimination, each week's lip sync kinda just felt like a moment to see great queens perform, which is great entertainment, but not perhaps great tv. Maybe in All Stars 3, Ru can split it so that the queens get to choose halfway through the season and then she comes back in to decide?
KO: That could work. I also thought of a fairly evil twist: Ru chooses the top and bottom two. The top two lip sync for their legacy; the loser of that lip sync joins the bottom two on the chopping block. The winner of the lip sync for your legacy can then decide: Eliminate one of the original bottom two, or eliminate the loser of the lip sync? It'd be very dramatic, and it would provide major incentive for the queens to win the lip sync. But maybe that's too negative. Regardless, I definitely think we need a tweaked format for All Stars 3.
MR: Speaking of All Stars 3, name five queens you want to see come back — go: Laganja Estranja, Chi Chi Devayne, Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls and Kennedy Davenport.
KO: I broke this down in a full list of 10, but to supplement yours: I desperately need to see Chi Chi and Kennedy. I value Laganja's well-being off the show too much to watch her get Phi Phi'd on All Stars 3. I love Kim and Naomi, but I don't really feel like I need to see more of them just yet. Maybe Naomi, given more time. I'll add five more off my list: Ongina from season one, Jessica Wild from season two, Trinity K. Bonet from season six, Trixie Mattel from season seven and Acid Betty from season eight.
MR: How could I forget Trixie Mattel? Also, Gia Gunn is a great quote machine to bring back. Here's another thing we need to talk about: What did you think of Todrick Hall as a full-time judge? Because I was noooot a fan, exactly. He doesn't seem to bring an expertise to the table that Michelle or Ru can't already bring?
KO: Yep, Todrick was a waste. Ross and Carson both have their flaws, but I think they've shown what being on TV for years creates: a sense of professionalism. Todrick doesn't have that yet. Maybe he will at some point, but as of right now, he just doesn't have the experience improvising on TV to make up for his expertise gaps. I missed Ross as a regular judge a lot this season, to be frank — hope he's back full-time for season nine! Speaking of which, what are you looking for most next season, Mathew?
MR: Well, I'm very excited to see a lot of Lip Syncs for Your Life! I'm also excited to get back to the character arcs that come with new queens coming on the show. I guess I'm most excited to see what "kind" of queen will succeed this year. Very often, the seasons are produced to get us a certain winner, and it's great to see that veil get lifted as the season progresses. Is there a certain "type" of queen who hasn't won yet? What are you excited for?
KO: I would love a big girl winner. We got close with Ginger Minj, but then she got a little too villainous and Ru went with Violet. I think it's odd that Drag Race, which celebrates an art form all about transformation and confidence, has never seen fit to reward a Ginger, or a Darienne Lake or a Latrice Royale. It's going to happen one of these days, so why not now?
MR: Speaking as a big girl, I'd love to see that, too. Latrice Royale was the strongest big girl competitor to me so far, would love to see another one — or two! Or three! — rise to the top. Guess we'll have to wait until 2017!