Review: Rupaul’s Drag Race UK, Episodes 1 and 2

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***RU PAUL’S DRAG RACE UK SPOILERS FOR EPISODES 1 AND 2 BELOW***

Though episode one of BBC Ones Rupaul’s Drag Race set up for a promising season, full of witty British banter and iconic UK pop culture references, episode two struck a chord with Drag Race USA as it caved into its usual challenges.

Let’s take a quick recap of episode one before launching into the ru-view of episode two: the first ever mini-challenge of the season got us questioning “how’s your head?”, as the queens creatively snapped their head and body separately, and coming up with (mostly) comical one-liners. This saw Scardy Kat, the youngest contestant and most inexperienced queen win, raising many questions considering her “I think I just shit myself” lacked the comedy of many other queens’ choice of words. Leading onto the main event, which of course was a looks challenge to get the season rolling. Asking the queens to prepare two looks – one inspired by their home county, another by the Queen. This produced some quality runways, from Baga Chipz drunken take on Amy Winehouse, to Sum Ting Wong’s hilarious 1stclass stamp look. Naturally also having its share of questionable looks, particularly Vinegar Strokes and her ‘painted for the back of the room’ make-up. Overall it opened the season to a good start, despite not much happening and a boring main challenge, ending on the iconic leaving message from Gothy Kendoll as she self-titled herself “the UKs Porkchop” – referencing season 1 of Drag Race USA.

Beginning with its usual round up of drama-to-come, emphasized through its editing, Baga Chipz claimed that “the shite is going to rise to the surface” – “shite” being her competition that fail to deliver. This competitive and shady narrative continued as The Vivienne (winner of week one) had to rank her fellow queens from top to bottom. As expected, this naturally caused drama, with Blu Hydrangia wittingly summing it up as “everyone over 30 to the top please” – the common Drag Race theme of age-divide already rearing its head. Ru then announced that the top and bottom ranked would be team leaders for the acting challenge of ‘Downtown Draggy’, thus creating team “The Vivienne” and team “Scaredy Kat”. To summarise this challenge, think season 7 ‘Shakesqueer’, as it was similarly haunting. Though Rupaul’s shock at Sum Ting’s ‘American’ accent was a moment UK viewers could easily relate to, with the Drag Race USA queens constantly thinking they can do a class ‘British’ accent and Ru eating it up whilst we cringe.

Though somewhat scarring, episode two did provide some classic moments and set up for what seems to be heading towards a very shady season. As they got dressed for their ‘Bond Girl’ runway, The Vivienne stated that “she’s being overdramatic”, referring to Cheryl Hole and speaking for many of the queens, whose annoyance towards Cheryl seem to be growing. We saw lots of tears, as Sum Ting explained the hardships surrounding her gay/drag life being hidden from family, Divina De Campo worried she “hadn’t arrived” and was underperforming, and Blu shared her feelings of isolation and homesickness. But in typical Ru-style, Rupaul told reassured Blu to “just remember – three boobs, zero fucks”, referencing her three-boob Bond Girl ensemble. Crystal’s look also deserves a mention, as a black sleeveless bodysuit, covered in self-tied knots, and wielding the deadly accessory/prop of a whip (almost scaring guest judge Maisie Williams to death with its frequent cracking). Finally, it wouldn’t be episode true of Drag Race if a queen hadn’t already been thrown under the bus, so Cheryl ensured her attack on Sum Ting achieved this – later revealed backstage as the queens told Cheryl they felt she was trying to be too Alyssa Edwards.

So far, this season has seen a double-look challenge, an acting challenge, and episode three will bring the UK’s first sewing/design challenge through use of car boot sale items. Although these are all somewhat boring, there’s still hope that Drag Race UK will encourage Ru to re-think the challenges, and add back a little excitement and spice into the show. Let’s hope that next episode isn’t as snooze-worthy as the challenge deems it, and that week four brings about something fresh and new to the Drag Race franchise. If not, we’ll be sure to tune in anyway; hooked on ru-fever despite its recent stagnation.

Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK episodes one and two are available to watch on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer now.

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