The twelve contestants strike a pose
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is back for its second season (or series…), with a new episode being released every week on BBC iPlayer. To celebrate, we’ve lined up four rrramble writers (including a Drag Race virgin!) to watch each week and spill all the tea, with a new review coming to you every Sunday. Yas queens!
This week’s episode started on a bit of a sour note. With everyone still reeling from Asttina’s departure (and who can blame them), the vibe in the werk room quickly tipped over from playful banter to full-on claws out in a matter of moments. Top bitchy moments: Lawrence Chaney’s ‘Ginny: get over yourself and get fucked’ and Tayce calling Tia basic while she was literally standing with her hand on her shoulder??? In the words of our fallen angel Asttina… “Rude.”
This week’s mini challenge was… interesting. My main take away was probably that most of the queens are not as funny as they might think they are, although A* for effort all round (apart from Ellie Diamond, bless her, who was just straight up awful). Speaking of Ellie, another highlight of this week has got to be her boldly confronting Ru about why the judges don’t pronounce her name in a Scottish accent the same way they do with Lawrence. To be fair, we’ve all been wondering it (or at least I have) but to hear her squaring up to ‘television’s Ru Paul’ the same way you imagine she might do to a friend down the pub, was comedy gold. Ask him about fracking next will ya Els?
Having seen the contestants’ varying (crap) levels of improv skills, I didn’t hold out much hope for the main challenge, to star in daytime tv show ‘Morning Glory’, featuring national treasure Lorraine. When I say didn’t hold out hope, what I really mean is I was secretly hoping for some monumental failures. But while there were definitely some dodgy performances, overall the queens were either great, or just… meh. A’Whora was definitely the surprise star of the show, with her Essex Girl impression channelling full Amy Childs. This definitely wasn’t the challenge to go for subtlety – the whole script was basically one big walking stereotype – so the way forward was absolutely to go all in, and Tia and A’Whora’s ‘gravel vajazzle’ skit was exactly that. Love it, babes.
Over on the ‘meh’ end of the spectrum was most definitely Sister Sister and Veronica’s ‘goth birthday’ skit, which ended up more like slightly disgruntled northern housewife. Perhaps they’ve simply both fallen victims to the curse of ~ reality tv editing ~, but Sister in particular still feels like a bit of an unknown – her only really memorable moment for me so far is her cringe assertion that “I’m a bit quirky” in week one. Are you hun?
Judging from this performance, really, I thought Veronica should have been in the bottom rather than Ginny… but after their frankly shocking capitulation in the lip sync, I think it was right that they went. I love you Ginny, but that was worse than Valentina’s infamous ‘I’d like to keep it on’ moment. As they said themself… time to go home. Fair play to Sister Sister for properly going for it despite the lip sync being rendered essentially pointless (I was slightly concerned she just genuinely hadn’t noticed Ginny had legged it) but in the end, this week’s conclusion was a case of all fur coat and no underwear: not quite a let-down, but nowhere near the high drama of last week.
Soggy bottom anyone? (image credit: Tom + Lorenzo)
An episode abundant with drama and emotions, I found structure for this week’s review through the character development of four standout queens – Bimini, A’Whora, Sister Sister, and Ginny.
I was thoroughly delighted by Bimini this week. A strong performance in the ‘Great British Fake Off’ mini-challenge, their intelligent humour truly took the biscuit! Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d like this queen, assuming they would be too crude for my liking. However, in their continuous charm and openness I have become such a fan, who feels foolish for his incredibly inaccurate judgement. They were hilarious as the Gen Z co-host of ‘Morning Glory’, effortlessly being themselves in a role that could have been slightly bland. Though Lawrence was a rightful winner this week with a superb runway, Bimini’s performance left them not too far behind.
A’Whora was a surprise this week for different reasons. Her performance as an Essex girl was a perfect caricature, right down to her white ensemble stained with fake tan. Not only was she hilarious, but it was a breath of fresh air to later see some vulnerability in contrast to her previous run of bitchiness. Sharing apologies with Tia and shedding light on her issues of being self-critical and defensive created some understanding and helped separate her from being “the villain”; a narrative that could well have plagued her entire run on the show.
My feelings regarding Sister Sister took a rollercoaster ride this week. The goth role is always the riskiest to go for, with the need to deliver without seeming too bored or unlikeable. Personally, I would have gone for Dragony Nieces and built on the pre-existing campness of a kids TV presenter! Sister Sister fell into this trap of her own accord and so it was incredibly unfair to blame Veronica, who at least tried adapting to the brief. However, I appreciated Sister Sister’s focus on mental health in the competition and forgetting one’s own strategies to quiet internal forms of self-sabotage. Highlighting her mental state acted as a reminder that too often we can judge these queens harshly and hastily, forgetting they are still human, in all their complexities.
As for the queen of the hour, hints of being shaky yet overly confident and comfortable for the challenge made Ginny’s trajectory an anticipated one. Ginny’s characterisation seemed promising, but the lack of relation to the part itself made for a chaotic performance. The runway too was very much a let-down, not seeing a monster mashup whatsoever. However, the end still had me gasping! Ginny’s decision to blow a kiss and depart with a mischievous laugh felt disappointing at first, but as an act of staying true to themselves, I respected their choice…and still fancy a sloice!
My main takeaway though was Sister Sister’s commendable continued delivery of an energetic lip sync. It was so wonderful to see a performer just live their best life on the main stage – watching them have fun and reignite a fire at risk of burning out.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the most basic bitch of all… (image credit: Tom + Lorenzo)
The main challenge this week required the queens to don their improv hats as part of the Morning Glory daytime television show in front of a live studio audience (consisting of the queen of daytime television herself, Lorraine Kelly). This was another chance for us to see everyone get into pairs again, which, of course, always creates some interesting dynamics (and tension). I think the best duo in this challenge was undeniably Tayce and Bimini Bon Boulash; their chemistry was great, and their improv was just really fun to watch.
As the old saying that someone somewhere said goes, ‘indifference is far worse than hate’. And, to be sure, Ginny’s performance as her Austrailian alter-ego concerned with aligning her chakras was certainly not met with indifference. The one performance that did feel like it lacked any flair was Veronica Green and Sister Sister’s stint as unhappy cooking show goths. As Veronica said herself, it was clear that she was really out of her element. However, I also agreed with what Lawrence Chaney said: Sister Sister does seem to often blame other people for things going wrong, and I certainly didn’t get much of a sense of her own improv skills, which surely should have come through, regardless of Veronica’s own ability. (And can we talk about how Veronica always tries so hard to be empathetic, and put everyone else before herself?) Plus, when it came to their final outfits, Veronica’s pig-Medusa monster mash-up was clearly much more inspired that Sister Sister’s mummy look. If it came down to how each of them had performed as a whole, I think Sister Sister would have been the one going home.
Alas, in a shock turn of events, we must now mourn the loss of the great and wonderful Ginny Lemon (let’s just ignore my naive excitement at the end of the last episode, hindsight is very cruel indeed). Of course, it’s the nature of Drag Race that things can go really well one week and terribly the next, and vice versa, but I’m still mad that it came down to a lip sync between Ginny and Sister Sister, as rather than awarding consistency, everything ends up depending on that one performance.
I do have to give a shoutout to A’whora in this episode; when she started crying in her talking head segment, I wanted to reach through the screen and give her a hug. I felt like this week gave a really clear image of who she is, and why she has built up this wall of “bitchiness” as a defense mechanism, to hide her genuine kindness and empathy so that she won’t be perceived as weak by anyone around her.
Well, I am exhausted. Hopefully next week’s episode will be a bit less of a downer.
(Love you 4eva Ginny Lemon)
Not so bitter lemon? Ginny bows out (image credit: Pop Sugar)
So there I was, enjoying Ginny being on screen, chuckling at her outburst to Lawrence, listening intently to their confessionals, and then we get to the end of the show and…she just walks out…without a lip sync?? Even though she would have beaten Sister Sister for sure?? I have to start with this because I am confused as hell and a little distraught. I’m also shocked; yes, this was a Ben Dela Crème moment (another drag queen I adore), but this was the first time it had happened during a lip sync, leaving only one competitor to perform in front of the judges. To be fair, Ginny looked genuinely happy to leave, and I really can’t argue with someone who knows what’s right for them. But: the goopery, the gaggery, even the gumption! This season really has been one full of shocking eliminations—and that was only the fourth episode!
Before I get too flustered, I’ll quickly move on to A’Whora. Am I possibly warming to her? It felt quite relieving seeing her open up about her insecurities, and even better that she was being honest with Tia. It showed a kind of growth, especially when she apologised about criticising Tia behind her back. It was heart-warming to watch competitors find friendship, especially when one of them has so far been portrayed as the series villain. I hope, as the series progresses, A’Whora doesn’t regress and we can see more of her soft side.
I was also impressed with her presentation of an Essex girl; she had the accent and the attitude pinned down. Tayce also did well in the main challenge, alongside Bimini, so what a treat to see the look queens stepping up their performing abilities! As Veronica said at the beginning of the episode, “drag is not just about the clothes you wear. It’s about the total package.”
Speaking of Veronica: oh dear, bless her. Her improv was very awkward indeed, but at least she’s not delusional. She was very honest with herself and knew it was a failure, and it was humbling to see her have the guts to admit she’d let down Sister Sister. What a shame to then witness Sister Sister not do anything to cheer her up. One thing I love about the Drag Race series, as a whole, is watching these magnificent, larger-than-life characters behave like a family towards each other; it’s very wholesome. But from Sister Sister, however, I could detect no sisterly behaviour towards Veronica, who was clearly having a hard time.
Which brings me back to the shocking episode conclusion, and my Ginny-lamentation: I was ready for Sister Sister to be eliminated—so ready! Apart from her runway look last week, she hasn’t stood out to me a lot. Her runway look this week was rather boring (as opposed to Veronica’s absolutely fabulous pig-Medusa look), her performance in the main challenge was a shambles, and her lip sync didn’t excite me. Why, oh why, has Ginny gone?!
Oh Brother! Sister Sister goes it alone (image credit: Tom + Lorenzo)
Catch us next Sunday to see what the reviewers make of episode 5!