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RPDR RANT: All Stars 2, Episode 1

Aedan Roberts

Girls! GIRLS! FUCK. Yes. Words. No words.

There was a LOT of built up expectation going into the possibility of an All Stars 2. There are many reasons for this: the growing number of Alum that fans have been clambering to see again, the lack of any legit news for a long time concerning the possibility of an All Stars 2, and the relative disaster that was All Stars 1. It was that last one that seemed to make the idea of All Stars 2 ever coming to fruition a slim hope, at least for a while.

Let's face it: All Stars 1 was a mess. An occasionally fun, sometimes memorable mess, but the result of that season was a bad taste in everyone's mouth (the fans hated it and Ru wasn't fond of the negative feedback). Most of the fan hate derived from the "twist" of pairing the girls off to be judged in teams of two. It wasn't a terribly fun twist and made a show whose judging was already seen to be tailored to fit a narrative (and less about merit) into an infuriating case of certain queens being eliminated before their time because their team-mate couldn't carry their weight (or the opposite where girls who should have gone home earlier were being carried by far better queens). It was also a painfully short season due to the nature of eliminating two queens every episode (save the last). It's even more frustrating because most of the Alum returning were fan favorites and insanely talented queens who deserved another shot, so the fact that the season seems to be willfully forgotten by the majority of the fanbase is a sad disservice to them.

So yeah, for a while the idea of another All Stars was a fever dream. But here we are!!!! Bigger! Longer! With twists as deliciously fun as the team idea was awful.

I could go into a long screed about all the things this season premier got amazingly right, but I'd rather get into the breakdown. Let's just leave it here: I thought Season 8's premier was the strongest in RPDR herstory, but this one managed to blow it out of the water. Ru seemed to want to fly into this guns blazing- from the Library mini-challenge to the fantastic (and sometimes not fantastic) talent show maxi-challenge Ru and the producers showed us what is possible when the audience is already familiar with the players, the players are familiar with the players, and as such there is no need to take things slow. 

Without further ado: the breakdown! In no particular order:

Adore Delano: oh dear, sweet, wonderful Adore. I LOVED her promo look, and honestly I'm still rooting for her. Here's the thing, though: I kind of agree with Adore's assessment during the "untucked" portion of the episode. I don't really think she belongs there. However it's not for the reasons I believe she implied. Adore is an amazing performer. She oozes effortless charisma and comes off intensely sweet, funny (in a bit of a stoner kind of way), and a little naive (which makes her even more endearing). She's also found an aesthetic that suits her and her brand. She may think that this aesthetic is the reason she shouldn't have returned to compete, but I have a different theory: Adore, more than any other RPDR alum, does not have anything to prove. She's easily one of the most successful girls to come out of this show. Her albums are genuinely good pop music (that top the charts), her videos are better compared to Miley Cyrus, Rhianna and other contemporary pop starlets in terms of quality and production value, and she's one of the more universally beloved queens already. She literally doesn't need this crown. She's kind of already won. Why bother dealing with Visage's (well intentioned, in some ways legit, but also lacking in understanding) critiques? I believe Adore came to have fun, be with her friends, and get a bit more exposure. But the fun part is the most important aspect for Miss Delano, in my opinion. And watching her soul get crushed by Visage's overtly, unnecessarily harsh critique of her performance made me want to reach through the screen, hug her and whisper to her "girl, you are fantastic- you keep doing you and to hell with Visage." I also didn't feel she deserved to be in the bottom with Phi Phi and Coco. She wasn't the best performance of the night, but she was FAR from bottom three. In the end I'm glad she's still there and I hope she picks herself up, pulls her shoulders back and marches forth into the next challenge with confidence- but ultimately if she chose to take this opportunity to re-assess her attendance and bow out I wouldn't hold it against her in the least. I would miss her presence, though.

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000: From the second she walked into the work room with that billowing black Scarlet Ohara Fell Into A Dumpster Realness look Alaska proved, again and again, why she is (along with Katya) on almost everyone's personal choice for Top 3 going into All Stars 2. She still has that unique, wonderful, magnetic personality, intelligent wit, and alien movement- but this time further equipped with a stronger range of drag aesthetics and vastly improved makeup skills. Also collagen nestled in her upper lip (apparently a disturbing trend with these girls - looking at you Adore). Her reads were a lot of fun (though I did prefer Katya's), her performance was magical, and her confessionals were everything. Alaska is on fire and she easily earns her place in my own personal Top 3.

Alyssa Edwards: Miss Edwards has really upped her game so far (in my opinion, obviously). She's always been one of the best dancers/performers this show has ever had, and any scene is inherently enhanced with her ridiculous expressions and Alyssa-isms- but unlike last time a lot of her brilliance seems more intentional. It is undeniable that Miss Edwards was at her best in Season 5 when she was just being her, off the cuff, unintentionally hilarious. However the second she attempted to act or be purposefully funny she would fall flat on her face. Now, though? She's walked into All Stars 2 knowing EXACTLY what makes her so special and she's milking it from sun up until sundown. And I'm LIVING FOR IT. Alyssa is officially my Dark Horse for this season and I wouldn't be surprised to see this Walking Distillation of Gay Camp manage to wind up in the Top 3 alongside (hopefully) Katya and Alaska.

Detox: When Detox first arrived in the workroom of Season 5 I was instantly intrigued. She was polished, hyper-confident, strangely alien (due to her considerable silicon "enhancements") with flawless makeup skills and unique, mostly-impeccable fashion sense. She seemed to have it all. Sadly, however, as the season progressed and Miss Icunt started to let the competition get the better of her (she was getting increasingly frustrated with being overshadowed by queens she didn't yet understand *cough - Jinkx - cough* and getting ever more symbiotic with Season 5's late-blooming Super Villain Roxxxy Andrews) my opinion of her soured considerably. So much so that I was sadly thrilled when Jinkx mopped the floor with her in the Top 4 LSFYL and sent her packing. After the show, however, Detox has managed to re-assert her status as a uniquely talented queen and has also shown a much sweeter side we only saw small snippets of during her time on the show. And now that she's back I couldn't be happier for her presence. She's simply marvelous. Her reads were fun in the Mini-Challenge and her performance in the Maxi-Challenge did an excellent job showcasing what Miss Detox is uniquely qualified to bring to the table. It wasn't the best performance of the night, but it was solid and makes me excited for her return.

Katya: This bitch. THIS. BITCH! UGH! I sometimes go back and forth over whether she is a genius, completely insane, or both (I'm thinking both- which is the best choice of the three). Regardless: Katya, even more than Alaska, is my personal choice to win All Stars 2. And from what we see in this episode she seems to have returned equipped with the necessary tools to do so. She has a new, easy-going (in her own manic kind of way) attitude when it comes to the competition and that newly acquired confidence is doing her all manner of justice. It's allowing her brilliance to shine backstage and in front of the judges. Her walk-in-look was a smart, leveled-up version of her first Season 7 offering, her reads were EASILY the best in my opinion and should have won (they were insanely smart, hilarious, and possibly the darkest/most biting of all the queens- Roxxxy and Ginger's especially) and her performance was one of the stronger ones (a highlight of which was her backwards Exorcist-style Bridge Walk). Overall I just have this to say: GO KATYAAAAA! SLAAAAAAAY!

Phi Phi O'Hara: The very first, the original, the inception of the RPDR Top 3 Villainess: Miss Phi Phi is BACK! And this time it's personal. Seriously- this is very, VERY personal for her. Her reputation was so tarnished from her terrible behavior on Season 4 that it has taken her YEARS to begin to reinvigorate her career. However she's already done a great job laying the foundation for what will hopefully be a successful Rudemption arc in All Stars 2. She's been doing interviews that highlight how she's grown as a person and performer, she's re-embraced her original love of Cosplay Drag, and her 365 Days Of Drag on Instagram have been consistently amazing. And while I don't see her taking the crown (or even making it to Top 3) - especially after her sadly disastrous first Maxi-Challenge a-cappella snafoo - I do hope she sticks around long enough for us to see that Phi Phi cannot, and should not, be defined by a single bad period in her otherwise wonderful career.

Roxxxy Andrews: On the stiletto heels of Miss Phi Phi, Roxxxy showed up on Season 5 with a fairly strong start- yet by the end of her season proved to be practically worse than Miss O'Hara. Whereas Phi Phi's actions seemed to come from a place of immaturity and lack of self-awareness, Roxxxy's treatment of Jinkx was cold, calculated, and EXTREMELY off-putting. All the makeup skills in the world (of which she has considerable amounts) and impeccable outfits (which she also has an abundance of) couldn't save her from the wrath of the RPDR fanbase- and I was right there with them. However I am also one of those people who can't stay mad at anyone whose name is not "Trump" or "Pence" so her inclusion here makes a lot of sense and I'm rooting for her to prove she's more than an empty-headed, extremely pretty monster. So far? She's sort of doing it. She's still as polished as ever (all of her looks this episode- especially her walk-in look- were breath-taking) and she certainly deserved the win this week (for both her stellar burlesque number and fun LSFYLegacy), but she also seemed to fall right back into her head-games when she was asked to decide which of the three girls she would choose to send home. I don't know about you, but I couldn't help but notice the distinct smirk of someone enjoying power over the other girls a little too much. I can't blame her, but if I were her I would have avoided this perception at all costs. She has more than just money and a crown on the line here. She also needs her Rudemption practically more than Phi Phi. In the end Roxxxy surprised me. I don't really want her making it to Top 3, but I would love to see her prove to us that she's grown since Season 5.

Ginger Minj: Ginger is undeniably talented. She's undeniably clever. She's undeniably funny (when she isn't pushing too far into the realm of "bitch"). However she's also just . . . lacking something here. I don't know what it is. I mean she's definitely upped her game (no matter how much she likes to joke about how corsets gave Violet Chachki the win in Season 7 their inclusion in her repertoire really has helped her considerably), her reads were witty/some of the better ones, and her performance in the Maxi-Challenge was strong. But honestly? I just don't care. Not when she's in a room with the likes of Katya, Alaska, Detox, Alyssa and Adore- whose talents are just as intense but whose personalities shine far brighter. She's just kind of a non-entity for me here, and that bothers me. Because she shouldn't be. In any case I'm glad Ginger was included in the cast but I'm just not really in this with her. 

Tatianna: I hopped on the RPDR bandwagon a little after Season 1 finished airing (I binge-watched it almost immediately after the finale), so I was there for Tati's first foray into RPDR. And honestly? Much to the chagrin of a couple of my friends (love you Ian Thomas) I was always kind of a fan of Tatianna. Sure fellow Season 2 girl Raven had a lot of valid criticisms when it came to Tati's then-aesthetic, but there was something extremely charismatic and refreshing about Tati's personality that appealed to me (a "something" that pissed my friends off as much as they appealed to me, but whatever, lol). In the end I think her problems were more due to the fact that she simply wasn't ready for RPDR when she was first on than anything else. And in the years since then she seems to have undergone an amazing metamorphosis. Her return to the show was both unexpected and extremely exciting. As the only girl pre-Season 4 in the cast Tati has a lot to prove: however she seems to have arrived with the newly-acquired skills to do so. Her makeup game is lightyears better, she's learned to dress properly (in her words "stop shopping at Wet Seal"), and her performance chops have gone through the roof. I'm very much with Ru when it comes to Tati being in this week's Top 2. Her Spoken Word was hilarious, unexpected, and wonderful. My boyfriend's seething hatred for it aside it was fairly universally beloved at the viewing party I originally watched the episode at. Tatianna is back with a vengeance, people, and I can't wait to see what else she has for us.

Coco Montrese: I'm going to make this one short: when All Stars 2 announced Coco as one of the returning girls my expression could be summed up in one word: puzzled. I was never a fan of Coco. I openly admit she is a fantastic, seasoned performer- but her drama-fabricating, melodramatic, mind-numbing backstage antics on Season 5 is the reason I have such a hard time re-watching it. And I was never impressed with anything but her lipsynchs. This time, however, Coco can't be saved by her biggest strength (since the format has switched from a Bottom 2 LSFYLife to a Top 2 LSFYLegacy) so I immediately made the prediction that she was going to be the first one out. I'm not proud, persé, that I was right. I'm just happy I don't really have to deal with the inevitable drama that Coco's continued presence would have wrought.

END NOTE: yes, this was extremely delayed. You can thank Dragon Con for that. I'll try to have the second episode rant up ASAP, and then the third not long behind. HUGGLES!