‘All Stars 4’ concludes with unprecedented, hollow twist

A promotional photo for season four of 'RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars' is pictured. Via Viacom Media Networks

Hey, kitty squirrels! After Latrice Royale’s not-so-shocking elimination last week, we are down to the final four queens of “All Stars 4.” Going off track records, Trinity the Tuck is the frontrunner with four challenge wins. Monét X Change and Monique Heart both have three wins, while Naomi Smalls has one. However, as proven by the controversial finale of “All Stars 3,” we can’t count on track record in this game, especially given Ru’s penchant for “All Stars” finale twists.

The formula for the finale of an “All Stars” season has been set since “All Stars 2,” and this episode will be no different: the queens will give a choreographed performance of their own lip-synced verse for one of Ru’s new singles (for this season, “Super Queen”), as well as appear in Ru and Michelle’s podcast “What’s the Tee?” In the Werk Room, BFFs Monét and Monique express their hope to be in the top two together, also noting the potential impact of a “highly melanated” top consisting of two black queens. Trinity is wary of a potential twist, hoping for her track record to speak for itself. Naomi is barely there, and it becomes painfully clear early on that she will not be making an appearance in the top two.

Todrick Hall makes his trademark appearance as his usual, somewhat curt self in the choreographing for the queens’ number, while appearances with Ru and Michelle also are interspersed. Trinity is somewhat worried about nailing her choreography; Naomi wants to show off her legs, as usual. It’s perfectly pleasant but ultimately forgettable.

Conversations on “What’s the Tee?” are almost always snoozefests, and everyone barring Monique continues this tradition. Miss Heart gives us an enlightening bit of backstory about her past as a seminarian who tried to “convert” herself and mentions that she was once obese. Considering Monique’s bubbly, expressive personality, reveals like these remind us just how powerful this show can be. For all its faults, it allows us to see queerness unfettered and unapologetic, and that sort of representation should never be taken for granted.

On elimination day, the final four are greeted by the “Drag Race” Hall of Fame: Chad Michaels, Alaska and Trixie Mattel, who reveal that they will be the ones choosing the final two. That is, until the commercial break ends and they reveal that no, they will not, and that it was a joke. Whatever.

Onto “Super Queen,” which is a curiously middling-tempo song for a “Drag Race” finale. Everyone’s verse is competently performed, with Monét’s standing out, but the entire number feels chintzy and underwhelming compared to the instant iconic status of “Read U Wrote U” of “All Stars 2” and the ambitious scale of last season’s “Kitty Girl.”

Next is the runway, in which the competitors put their best drag forward. Monét comes first in an ethereally gorgeous African-inspired purple fern-printed gown, completing the ensemble with matching chunky bracelets and impeccably tied blonde dreadlocks. For a queen who was criticized on season 10 for weak runway looks, it’s a fitting end. Monét has ambitiously elevated her game on the runway all season, and this number puts the perfect finishing stamp on a finale episode that, had it been judged as a challenge, would certainly have been a win for her.

Monique walks the runway second, but her black gown is all kinds of wrong. It’s got a daring neckline and a soaring slit, but the middle has too much embellishment going on in an unfortunate place. Somehow, the number simultaneously feels a little basic. The look is a disappointing end to the episode for the brown cow, stunning Monique, who has always aimed for admirably high concepts on the runway, even when the execution wasn’t always there. Still, she has shined brightly on “All Stars 4” and will come away from the season with legendary status despite a lackluster final episode.

Naomi Smalls, though she’s too young and two challenge wins short of a chance at the top two, ensures she will never be forgotten with a jaw-dropping, royal purple, coiffed rococo dress and mesh gloves and bonnet. She, of course, will tear all that business away to show off her legendary legs, and she owns the runway like the ’90s supermodel she is.

Miss the Tuck struts down the runway last, and she serves Delftware realness with a stunning structured gown reminiscent of Chinese designer Guo Pei. She tears away the top of the gown to reveal teacups covering her breasts, which is a wonderful touch to the whimsy she has developed in her time on “Drag Race.”

The queens step forward for the typical gushing judges’ critiques on “All Stars,” while Monique receives some negative feedback on her gown and Trinity on her performance in the dance. The queens go backstage, the judges deliberate and to the surprise of nobody who has been paying attention throughout the episode, Monét and Trinity are the top two. They will face off in a final lip-sync to Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter,” a long overdue LSFYL song.

Both queens serve fierceness and determination, and the lip-sync is an entertaining though not particularly memorable one. Highlights include a hilariously failed cartwheel by Trinity and an ironically smart pussycat-wig-under-pussycat-wig reveal by Monét, who probably wins the lip-sync. Still, Trinity also gives a strong performance. The song fades out, the queens take their place and Ru makes “Drag Race” herstory: both Trinity and Monét are crowned champion of “All Stars 4,” each winning $100,000. 

Both Trinity and Monét are supremely deserving queens. Trinity had four challenge wins to Monét’s three, but the latter certainly won the finale and the final lip-sync. The double crowning has a certain amount of thematic sense behind it: Monét and Trinity have somewhat inverse narratives in their “Drag Race” careers. 

Monét came in with boundless charisma and skill as a performer but lacked skill in crafting looks, and in “All Stars 4” she finally proved she was equally fierce on the runway. Trinity was a pageant queen through and through when she showed up to season nine. Two seasons later, she can lay claim to some of the most memorable comedy performances in the annals of “Drag Race, “from season nine’s Sister Mary Koont to her “How to Tuck” tutorial in the premiere episode of “All Stars 4.” 

If “All Stars” is about growth, then the double crowning could have been framed as a recognition of both queens’ evolution out of different styles of drag into versatile, transcendent drag superstars. But we get no explanation behind it, which leaves it feeling like a twist just for the sake of one.