Heading into the final stretch of season one of Looking, we can officially start looking forward to season two! Last week’s announcement also came with news of the upgrading to main cast of Russell Tovey as Kevin, Lauren Weedman as Doris and Raul Castillo as Richie.
The bump-ups certainly aren’t unexpected, however, if the next season still has only eight episodes then we could find that stories get rushed and characters are forced into a scene unnaturally. This isn’t necessarily a given with Looking, as it has certainly strayed from the usual full-force drama of most shows but with a main cast expansion we must be cautious. Also, I want more episodes per season!
I found this episode more controversial than any of the previous ones, with certain elements grating on who I try to be as a person within the LGBT community, while still recognizing that the actions and words of these characters are pretty true to life. Overall, there is too much to talk about so I want to look at just some of the parts that stood out to me.
The events take place on Dom’s fortieth birthday. Naturally, he is feeling resistant to it, claiming that ‘‘Grindr emails you a death certificate’’ when you turn forty (just for libel’s sake, that’s not true). Lynn hosts a dinner, with two of his wealthy investor friends, to introduce them to Dom and allow him to chance to pitch his idea of a peri-peri chicken restaurant.
Unfortunately, Dom lacks professionalism, a serious character flaw that causes him to accidentally mock Mama José; a real figure from San Francisco history, in front of people who know all too well what amazing work she did as Mama José and as José Sarria. Worth a Google.
Dom appears to have the drive to change and move forward, but he lacks the skills and practice. It’s apparent in this episode more than any other that this is a common link between our three leads. They all wish to grow as people and become who they want to be, but lack the experience needed to get there. They are having those experiences but with more knowledgeable people around them who guide, but don’t teach. Agustín wants to be an artist but knows only how to judge other’s art not create his own. Patrick wants to have a boyfriend, be a boyfriend, but has only had one six month relationship.
In the end, Dom finds himself stuck in life limbo. The investors he met don’t want to do business with him and while Lynn dissuades his advances; which we can kind of blame Doris for encouraging, he is reassured by a young man who passes by his party and flirts with him, that he could still seek the younger man. While trying to become something else, his past reminds him that he could just simply put off change. Luckily, Lynn steps in with the idea of a pop-up night to showcase his restaurant’s concept; a brilliant idea, which only furthers to muddy the waters of will they/ won’t they.
And then there’s Patrick. While I’ve always been aware of his human flaws; despite my hopes, they now become obvious. His ideals of what it means to have a boyfriend aren’t necessarily how others see it; or rather there are many bridges he hasn’t crossed in a relationship. While Patrick knows what he wants but isn’t sure how to get it, Richie knows who is he and what he’s about, how he gets it is simply by being. He doesn’t strive for certain material things or life objectives, he prefers to live and love as freely as he can; monogamously of course.
Richie and Patrick’s relationship is far from solid. While Patrick is happy to introduce Richie as his boyfriend, at the party in the park; which is met with across-the-board acceptance and surprise, he seems to lack a protective instinct.
After establishing that they are actually boyfriends, Richie bestows Patrick with a scapula (good luck charm). Sadly, that is about as invested as he gets in Patrick’s life. He is protective but not personable; at least from what we see. While the group laughs about how ‘‘gay’’ Patrick’s voicemail is, Richie lays off to the side, bored.
This scene threw me massively because of the way that the characters use and accept “gay” as slang with semi-negative connotations. They accept that it identifies many of them by their sexuality but when Patrick says ‘It’s not gay, it sounds completely normal’, I flinched. This is how people in the LGBT community speak, this is accepted. But I don’t think its right. The only reason I’m not up in arms about this as a hurtful portrayal of our community is that this show deals with but isn’t preaching about the causes of our particular time. The same has been said of the way it deals with racial issues and stereotypes. This show has an honest portrayal rather than an idealistic one.
When Agustín starts brooding, because CJ (his hooker) seems more interested in Frank; when he joins them at the park, and Patrick asks him what he thinks of Richie, Agustín says ‘its slumming and it ain’t cute’. For which he thoroughly deserved a punch in the face. For better or worse Richie is looming nearby; as seems to be how he acts like a good boyfriend, and upon hearing this confronts Agustín. Initially Agustín elected not to use his Spanish, choosing English instead to reply, but he now defends himself to Richie in Spanish as though trying to buddy up to him.
Though Patrick doesn’t defend him, by choosing not to engage Agustín in an argument he is rejecting it. If Agustín were my friend I would either quickly get some distance between us or take nothing he says seriously.
Rightly, Richie takes issue with this and asks Patrick why he didn’t stand up for him and whether he is taking being boyfriends seriously. Patrick immediately knows he’s made a mistake, he wants to learn from it and so asks Richie to attend his sister’s wedding with him in two weeks time. Now, I’m not sure how long they have been dating but you have to be pretty sure of someone to take them to a family wedding so while this is a romantic and relationship asserting gesture, I can’t say I’d do it.
Finally, we see Agustín in a strop plonking himself in between Frank and CJ; who are very much enjoying one another’s company but not necessarily flirting. Seeing Agustín miserable, CJ asks ‘Augy’ if there’s anything they can do to help.
And sex scene…
But this one is not without a purpose. While CJ films Agustín straddling Frank, you see the disconnect between the two. Frank is awkward and acutely aware of CJ being around; Agustín is desperate and tries to force sexual chemistry. This becomes all the more apparent when Agustín swaps with CJ. Frank and CJ exude passion together, only aware of each other and their bodies; they forget Agustín is even there. Their sex has an intimacy that Agustín craves but can never produce. Agustín realizes this.
In the final scene we see Richie and Patrick have made up. While Richie sleeps, Patrick examines his scapula in the bathroom mirror. Obligatory shot of naked Jonathan Groff and it’s done.
I enjoyed this episode of Looking as much as many of the rest but for more serious reasons. There was less background comedy in this episode and more gritty realness which I found intriguing and thought provoking. For the final two episodes, I expect the next to be leaning back to more casual and funny with the final dealing a twist in the tale; such as a kiss between Patrick and Kevin. Wishful thinking?