The ideal Drag Race finale is one that celebrates the show. With its reuniting of all the previous champions, Season 8’s finale will always be, for me, the gold standard in this regard. (Season 9’s finale is my actual favourite, but the Lip Sync for the Crown battles feel like their own genre of episode.) RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and All Stars 5 accomplished similarly celebratory finales, bringing back their whole casts and focusing on joy over drama.
So I’m thrilled that Canada’s Drag Race’s finale follows that format, gathering its cast together for a final bow. Everything about this episode, including the return of Ralph and Hollywood Jade to work with the queens on their Rumix of “U Wear It Well,” feels like a culmination of what’s come before. All three finalists—Priyanka, Rita Baga and Scarlett Bobo—talk about their time on the show as a journey and part of their greater narrative as drag queens. There have been some bumps in the road, but this does feel like a fitting closing chapter for this story.
During their final makeup mirror session, Scarlett notes how strong the top three is, and the other two agree. She even calls it one of the best ever. I’m not sure I agree—it’s my least favourite of the 2020 Drag Race top threes. I do think Canada’s Drag Race had one of the best top fives ever, but Jimbo and Lemon’s eliminations were not optimal. Even as a member of Team Scarlett, I can admit the stronger final three would have been Jimbo, Lemon and Priyanka. Or even Jimbo, Priyanka and Rita. In those cases, I’d imagine Jimbo would’ve pulled out the win, mainly owing to her enormous popularity.
But what makes these top three so interesting isn’t their strength across the board, but how evenly they’re matched. You can genuinely see any of them winning, which makes them similar to Season 12’s finalists in at least one capacity. (I do think Crystal Methyd, Gigi Goode and Jaida Essence Hall made for a stronger crop across the board, though.) The queens’ performances are so evenly matched, too, that the win feels like a nail-biter.
The final challenge should be familiar to most who have watched modern Drag Race seasons: write, record and perform your own verse for a Rumix, and sit down for an interview with two of the judging panel. (Jeffrey Bowyer Chapman and Traci Melchor do not get the pretense of recording a What’s the Tee? episode, though, which makes the interview feel awkward.) The contestants then do one final runway presentation of their best drag, plus give a speech explaining why they should become Canada’s Next Drag Superstar.
Priyanka, Rita and Scarlett ace all categories. Their interviews are fun and touching, and their verses are clever and memorable. Their skill with Hollywood Jade’s choreography varies, but no one embarrasses themselves. And when it comes down to the final runway and speech, each makes strong a case for why they should win the crown.
Of those runways, I like Rita’s the least (I didn’t need an Elphaba alien fantasy) and Priyanka’s gorgeous lehenga the most. But what I appreciate about all three, including Scarlett’s great punk rock dress, is that they perfectly encapsulate who each queen is: Rita’s the offbeat-but-polished veteran; Scarlett’s the fun rocker chick who’s more put-together than you’d expect; and Priyanka is a stunning queen who proudly proclaims and wears her heritage.
Truly, how do you pick? I don’t envy the judges, particularly after their critiques throughout the season have left their taste up for scrutiny. No matter who they choose, there will be some fans hurt and upset that their favourite didn’t win. The benefit of a tight competition is that it leaves things in the air until the last second; the drawback is that everyone’s fans think their pick should win.
The reunion with the eliminated queens is a lovely use of this Mini-Untucked, and I cackled upon hearing Tynomi Banks say she told Priyanka not to do Miss Cleo for Snatch Game. As their closest friends, Ilona Verley, Lemon and Kiara pay tribute to Scarlett, Priyanka and Rita, respectively. Each speech is lovely, and it’s the kind of thing I’d love to see with future final threes—hearing a fellow queen opine about why their friend should win just has a special energy to it.
All the queens get their chance to show off their best drag on the catwalk. Special recognition goes to the stunning-in-gold Anastarzia Anaquway and the beautiful Indigenous look from Ilona Verley, who placed her red-gloved hand over her mouth to acknowledge murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and LGTBQ people. Then it’s time for one last lip sync. The queens seem shocked it’s a three-way, but I gotta say, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise at this point. Seasons 4, 5, 10, 12, All Stars 2, and All Stars 5 have all featured three-way final lip syncs. (I’ll grant you that Seasons 12 and AS5 hadn’t yet aired when this was filmed, though.)
Each queen acquits herself well in the final battle (this is one of the better three-way lip syncs we’ve seen), but only one can take home the crown. And while the track record is with Scarlett and the maxi-challenge wins are with Rita, it’s the fan favourite, narrator and fierce pop star who gets the win. Congratulations to Priyanka, Canada’s Drag Race’s first champion! (And as an Indo-Guyanese Canadian, she also makes history as the first South Asian queen to win in the entire franchise.)
There’s so much to love about Canada’s Drag Race that it’s hard to focus on what didn’t work—but what didn’t work dragged down everything that was so special. Queens weren’t given proper direction to grow in the competition. I know it’s boring to harp on the judging at this point; everyone gets that the judges were a problem. But I really do hope World of Wonder doesn’t just roll their eyes at the online outrage and keep doing what they’re doing. Any return to this status quo of judging—the trifecta system, their blanket roles—would be a mistake.
The casting department, on the other hand, should keep doing exactly what they did. The inaugural Canada’s Drag Race cast is one of the all-time best: scrappy, energetic and vulnerable in equal measure. Troublingly, though, this cast got some of the worst harassment by fans, to the point that the show’s social media accounts had to step in and make a statement. I’ve no idea why such a likable, fun group got this treatment, but I’m very glad the show said something. I would hope the franchise as a whole continues to take a stand against this kind of behaviour, as it may only worsen over time.
As far as I know, there’s been no official plan for a second season yet, but I can’t imagine this will be the only iteration of Canada’s Drag Race. It has a ton of potential as a spinoff, and despite the wonky judging, fan response has largely been positive. Not every series is perfect from the start—some need a little bit of time to work out the kinks. I have full faith that if they do that, Canada’s Drag Race could become the crown jewel of this franchise. The potential is there; it just needs some polish.
✨Rita correctly notes her “Team L-E-M-O-N / Ain’t gonna make it to the end” verse from the third episode’s rap battle challenge was correct—that whole team is gone! “I think I am a witch,” she says.
✨Traci Melchor is a disappointing final guest host—not through any fault of her own, but because the “Canada’s Squirrelfriend” role just never really went anywhere. Had she been more present, I could see this as a kind of poetic final judge choice—à la Tim Gunn judging the finale in Season 5 of Project Runway—but as it stands, it just feels like someone we vaguely know is back for another round. I hope if Traci returns in this role for Season 2 she’s given much more to do.
✨In my opinion, this episode serves as a strong testament to Brooke Lynn Hytes’ strengths and weaknesses as a host and judge. Her critiques during the dance rehearsal are sharp, precise and on point. She excels at being cool and critical—not a bitchy queen, but one with high standards and the fortitude to stick to them. On the other hand, her “Bye, don’t suck!” dismissal of the queens as she leaves the workroom at the start of the episode is the kind of line you need to have warmth to deliver. It doesn’t land with the queens because, as far as we’ve seen, they don’t have that kind of convivial relationship with Brooke Lynn to be shady like that. I really hope she’s thrust further into the Ru role next season. It’s where she excels.
✨Far too little Stacey McKenzie in this finale. If Brooke Lynn’s gonna be the Ru next season, make Stacey the Tim Gunn in the workroom with the girls. At least she gave us one final iconic look on the main stage.
✨Since I’ve talked about all the other judges: I ultimately want Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and the show to figure out what’s best for him together. I don’t think fervent fan calls for him to be fired will be answered, but I do think slotting him back into the role with no adjustment next season would just be asking for further backlash.
✨So nice to have long Rumix verses again! One of my main irritations with the more recent iterations of this challenge is that queens have had no time for their own material. (“Losing Is the New Winning” in the Season 12 finale was perhaps the worst offender in this regard.) The “U Wear It Well” Rumix is better for giving the queens space in the song.
✨Canada’s Drag Race has truly been a trip, and I’m glad it was our final destination after a year full of Drag Race. Thanks as always for reading, and for keeping the conversation about Drag Race lively on Facebook, Twitter and in our weekly Kiki With Kevin broadcasts. We’ll be working on a few other projects about and around Drag Race later this year, but in terms of weekly coverage we’re likely done until 2021. We’ll see you then for Season 13, All Stars 6, UK Season 2 and whatever else Ru and co. have in store for us!