I've seen bits and pieces of those seasons, mainly great lip syncs (Manila/Delta Raja/Carmen etc) and Snatch Games and I think the 'Reading is Fundamental' mini-challenge that they do in each season, but not entire episodes of anything before season 4. I've heard... let's say 'mixed' things about them both, hence my hesitation in going back and rewatching them in full, but I'll take your word for it!
You're the first person I've talked to that likes Violet! Everyone else seems to find her personality completely toxic, albeit they admit she can polish off a good look! It's interesting what you say about the shift in focus. I started watching in season 4 so, to me, the comedy/crazy queens have always been the ones I've been more drawn to, knowing absolutely nothing about drag apart from this and Paris is Burning. I think maybe because the 'fashion' queens that went far in those seasons often had really nasty personalities such as Phi Phi and Roxxy, I tend to prejudge ones that have such an unrelenting focus on that side, rather than the other myriad of sides of drag. Which is bad, I know.
I like Violet, but that's more because I want to suck her off rather than her drag talent. Other than that, there's really no one else I want to root for. See, the problem that's been around for the last three or so seasons is that it's become far too focused on the comedy/crazy queens. There's just not a healthy mix and the challenges have changed to reflect that, these last four episodes being outlandishly, well, bad. There's not enough focus on the clothing aspect of drag. Season 6 for example had no fashion queens or really any other type of performer aside from the aforementioned comedy queen.
While I hate to use the term so unwillingly given to us by the Fonz, Drag Race has jumped the shark.
I wouldn't go 'awful' quite yet, but I definitely understand the frustrations. Normally by this point I have at least one queen that I like a lot, but there aren't very many that are standing out for me. Ginger Minj and Katya and Max are OK, but not a patch on where queens like Sharon Needles and Bianca Del Rio and even Jinkx Monsoon (although, admittedly, she didn't really shine until Snatch Game) were in their 'journeys' (bleh) at this point in their respective seasons.