The last few seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race have featured “live” finales, but RuPaul is still tweaking the formula of the finale to figure out what works best. Last season ended with an episode that highlighted the reunion element, spending more time with eliminated queens to give us moments like Joslyn Fox’s Ru-fficiated wedding ceremony, but this year the primary focus is on the top three, which is a very smart shift. Because the competition is so tight (according to Ru), each of the final three queens lip syncs to an original song created just for her, and then has a one-on-one conversation with Ru that summarizes her respective journey, making the first half of this finale the last leg of the competition.

The one-on-one conversations do cover a lot of the same ground that the conversations in the final four episode addressed, but the performances are immensely helpful in determining who deserves to win the crown. Predictably, Pearl gives a drowsy performance to a song about sleepwalking, and she lacks that spark of passion that makes it look like she’s actually channeling the music. Pearl just isn’t a very good performer, but she looks great in her all-white ensembles, which now come with padding! It’s the best she’s looked all season, but unfortunately her personality still doesn’t register, despite whatever the judges say about her waking up. Even when she’s wide awake, Pearl is never particularly enthusiastic, and she needs to show that fervor if she’s going to be a drag superstar.

Ginj gives a spirited performance to a high-energy gospel number, and there’s no denying that she can tear the house down with her lip syncing skills. Of the top three, Ginj is far and away the strongest performer, but she became less captivating over the course of the season as she became more mean-spirited. She didn’t have much of an evolution because she was so consistent, and any weaknesses she did overcome may have been considerably exaggerated. Ginj ended up being the villain of the top three, whereas this season’s “Shadiest Queen” Violet Chachki wins it all by making a personality adjustment, cutting back on the shade, and making fun her top priority. Violet doesn’t stress out and has faith in her talent, and Ru clearly admires that confidence.

Violet gives the evening’s best performance by having dynamics during her burlesque striptease lip sync, building to big moments instead of charging ahead at full-steam like Ginj. There’s more nuance to her performance, and she radiates sexuality as she teases the audience by slowly removing items of clothing. So much of Violet’s appeal lies in aesthetics, and she looks fantastic at the finale, delivering three dramatically different looks that each make a big impression. With Ginj and Pearl in bland black and white, respectively, Violet stands out in her amethyst chandelier realness during the crowning, and she clearly has the most ambition of the three queens when it comes to her drag look.

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The high point of this episode comes when Ru is about to crown the winner, gets something in her throat, and calls out for Katya. For a moment it looks like Ru might actually be crowning the eliminated fan favorite, but then Katya hands Ru some water to clear her throat so she can announce the real winner. It’s a delightful fake-out that takes advantage of all the fans that were furious when Katya was eliminated, and acknowledges that it was probably a mistake sending her home. This small moment ends up making the finale a sort of mini-tribute to the magic of Katya, who also wins Miss Congeniality and is mentioned as the prime contestant from this season to participate in All-Stars 2. Violet Chachki is “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” but Katya is the queen that really won Drag Race season 7. Katya’s time on this show will keep her club performances packed for years, and if she’s smart she’ll milk this current fame for all it’s worth.

When it comes to catching up with past queens, Ru moves very quickly, covering the major plot points for each person and then moving on to the next one. The reunion segment is a stark reminder of the lack of strong personalities on this season, and I get the feeling that Ru cut down on the catching up because she realizes that this crop of queens isn’t all that interesting. There was very little drama this season, so there’s not much shit for Ru to stir as she checks back in with the queens, which is fine. There are some inspirational videos packages prepared for Jasmine and Jaidynn, but for those first eight queens, Ru generally just asks a few question and moves on. She spends more time with Trixie, Katya, and Kennedy, but that’s fine because they are far more interesting queens (and more time with Katya is always a good thing).

I’m going to assume that, like in years past, all three of the finalists were crowned winner for filming purposes, which would explain why Violet’s reaction isn’t quite as excited as it could be when she’s named the winner. Who knows how long she’s been standing up there with her cinched waist; she looks like she’s about to pass out, and it’s a very real possibility considering just how tight that cinch is. But when she walks up to Bianca and Ru to claim her crown and scepter, Violet looks like she’s on the same aesthetic level as those two veteran queens. She’s the most fashion forward queen since Raja, and you just know that Violet is going to use her new status to come up with even more sickening looks.

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Violet grew considerably over the course of this season, and she’s only going to refine her craft as she’s thrust into the life of “America’s Drag Superstar.” I can easily see Violet translating this success into a fashion line, and I would love for her to craft an entire collection of flamboyant drag ensembles. With her unwavering confidence, deep knowledge of fashion, and willingness to change her behavior to succeed, Violet Chachki proved that, despite her youth and relative lack of professional experience, she’s a killer drag queen, and I can’t wait to see the looks she imagines in the future.

Stray observations:

  • Good god the fashion is amazing tonight. A lot of the season 7 queens deliver their best looks of the season, and RuPaul looks fantastic in her silver gown. But the queen that makes the biggest impression is Bianca Del Rio, who comes out covered in silver glitter. It’s the kind of over-the-top fashion I want to see all the time on this show.
  • How does Miss Fame feel about chickens being the defining element of her brand now?
  • I’m so glad this show has kept the ridiculous dancers around for the finale. Last year it was Ornacia dancers, and this year it’s Hello Drag dancers.
  • Trixie’s crazy make-up really makes her look like a living doll from far away, and her dress makes her look like she just broke out of a plastic toy package.
  • The Goddess Latrice Royale once again proves her immense value by shutting down Max when she tries to justify her vocal affectation by saying it’s elocution, not an accent. “Alocucia? Is she from Inglewood?”
  • I’m so glad this show got Patti LaBelle to record a short cell phone video for Jasmine Masters before her plane took off.
  • “I’m a size 22, so no matter which way the light hits me, I’m gonna throw shade in one direction or another.”
  • Mother Of Pearl: “One day I thought, ‘I should do a fan page.’ In just a few hours, I was literally inundated with private messaging from younger gay boys—” RuPaul: “Looking for sex.”
  • “Starting with ‘I hate Michelle Visage.’”
  • “Where did you get a loaf of bread?”
  • “There was something in my head that said, ‘She wants to kill you.’”
  • “You and Max knew each other in college. Did Max speak with that fake-ass British accent then?”

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