It was a not-so-typical night in New York City when Robert Lee (RuPaul Charles), also known as Ruby Red on the drag scene, entered his shared one-bedroom apartment with his longtime friend, Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley). The retired queen was just given the worst news of his life. He was robbed by his boyfriend, Hector (Josh Segarra). The goofy yet charming grifter took off with his heart and the startup cash he raised to open his brand new nightclub “Queens” in the borough of the same name. Robert reluctantly turned on his vintage lamp and lumped down into his velvet armchair with a look of defeat. “I’ve lost my modus operandi,” he said. “My reason to get up in the morning.”
Louis responded without hesitation, “We’ve got to give you a new one.” The blind drag queen then reached for his glittering, red thigh-high boots to give to Robert. He prodded Robert to get up. To allow the glamor of the nine-inch heels to seep into his soul. To feel alive again.
A smile dawns on Robert’s face as the two fall into an acoustic rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Robert comes to terms with the fact that he has three things to look forward to now: the unconditional love of his dearest friend, his “fabulous” boots and the money he just received from his last performance.
Coco Butter is the real star of AJ and The Queen! ??
— MARIOTHEARTIST (@MarioTheArtist) January 11, 2020
Only he does not have that to look forward to because the 10-year-old orphan from apartment 3A just swindled him for the second time in 24 hours.
“AJ and the Queen” is a raunchy yet wholesome television series telling the shared narrative of Robert and his neighbor, Amber Jasmine (Izzy G.). The young girl is a mouthy survivor who accidentally finds parental guidance in the arms of an iconic drag queen.
But the show tends to miss the mark with its questionable one-liners and sometimes, offensive material. For starters, AJ has the mouth of a sailor and has no issues demonstrating as such. Another instance had something to do with the 10-year-old getting plastered on grapefruit juice and vodka while Robert unknowingly watched.
Despite the show’s minor flaws, the 10-episode series on Netflix has a way of charming its viewers. One thing that was done significantly well is the blooming relationship between Robert and AJ. Robert has no clue what to do with the kid that stowed away on his RV during his cross-country tour to Dallas, Texas. AJ wants to make it to her grandfather’s house no matter what gets in her way. Robert just wants to make it to Miss Drag USA and win the pageant money to continue pursuing his dreams of having a nightclub. It is slowly approaching, and Robert can’t turn back now. So, he allows AJ to travel with him against his will.
The two begin to learn a lot about each other such as the reason why AJ was left alone to fend for herself in the first place and how Robert is somehow still in love with Hector. They bicker and bond until the two are completely inseparable. It is a quirky and unsuspecting love story that transcends the ordinary.
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) January 15, 2020
In fact, the entire show transcends the ordinary. As the plot develops over the course of the season, it becomes apparent that Robert and AJ are not going to make it to Dallas so easily. Hector has learned that Robert reported him to the police, so he embarks on a journey to get back at him no matter what the cost. His one-eyed accomplice, Lady Danger (Tia Carrere), tags along to assure the queen won’t be a further threat to her plastic surgery business. The two resemble dumb and dumber on their chase to getting revenge. Not to mention the two absolutely despise one another.
Another aspect of the show that was done well is the forthright way in which the cast dispels knowledge not only about drag but what it means to be gay, less fortunate and a minority in America. While there is not constant streams of hate placed on the characters, there is always an underlying message of accepting people for who they are. In one episode, Robert even tells AJ that people are complex and one can never assume a situation will only go one way. Also, Robert struggles with wanting to stick labels on others himself. He has an issue identifying exactly who AJ wants to be because she dresses in more masculine clothing than a little girl typically would; however, he figures out it is not up to him to decide who she is.
But that is not all.
“AJ and the Queen” takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride filled with life lessons and Oprah. Yes, Oprah Winfrey. The famous talk show host is Robert’s “lifeline” and helps him come from the brink of what seems like depression during their road trip. What he does not know is the key to moving on comes in a fun-sized package of unrelenting wit and sass. The longer AJ is in the queen’s life, the more he realizes exactly how much he needed her. And in turn, how much she needed him. Together, “AJ and the Queen” are a storm waiting to be reckoned with.
While the narrative of the story is all over the place, it comes together in the season finale of the show. It is, arguably, the best episode of them all. Robert and AJ have just arrived in Dallas for the Miss Drag USA competition. Although the stakes are now much higher, the two find solace in one another especially over a meal of greasy chicken and biscuits. The plot makes a near 360 in terms of development, and the viewers finally get a taste of what is in store for Robert and AJ.
It can easily be said that “AJ and the Queen” will not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, it is a show that (much like AJ) people can grow to love despite its mind-boggling nature. It was a series full of fun, which RuPaul mentioned was the ultimate goal.
— Netflix ANZ (@NetflixANZ) January 10, 2020
“The accomplishment was to have fun and create and collaborate and do something that was really unique,” he told Hollywood Life. “Then after that, it’s in the hands of the public, whether they embrace it or not, I hope they do. But the main thing is that we had a lot of fun doing it.”
“AJ and the Queen” is now streaming on Netflix.