This fifth episode of Looking is a wonderful exploration of a new relationship, the balancing of personalities and trying to persevere through awkwardness and odd choices.
There are two things that I want to address before looking at the episode in more detail. The first is that I was right to hope we’d get to see Patrick and Richie firmly dating/together; we get a whole episode dedicated to just that. Secondly, I have recently found out that some reviews of Looking have been calling it boring. Boring? Really?! It isn’t a shock horror action/drama but if you don’t find it enthralling and clever then you clearly aren’t paying close enough attention.
On that note, the episode on the whole was one of the most interesting so far. While Agustin (ugh) and Dom take a back seat, we follow a day in the life of these new lovers. My initial thought was that this was the morning after the night in the last episode and that Patrick was just going to sneak out to wrestle with his emotional state in the streets outside. I was therefore delighted when we got to see his bare ass this turned out to actually be one of many nights they had spent together.
In previous episodes we have only seen the surface of who Richie is, a glance at his personality. This time around we dig a bit deeper and flash out who he is and why he is the way he is. Certainly he and Patrick are very different people, coming from very different backgrounds, which makes it all the more fascinating that they would be drawn to one another.
After showering and getting dressed, Patrick kisses Richie passionately goodbye, has a quick fondle and leaves on the comment ‘You have an incredible penis but I have to go to work’’. Only seconds out the door and he changes his mind and comes back, well, why be on time for work when there’s morning sex to be had!
When Richie goes down on Patrick; with some serious mungry eyes, he begins to play with his…how can I put this…butt… Suffice to say Patrick isn’t usually accustomed to receiving this sort of play saying ‘I don’t really do that’. I found this quite interesting because I thought perhaps we’d get a conversation about how some gay(/bi) men don’t actually have anal sex. Unfortunately, this time it is leads to entirely different conversation.
Over breakfast they end up discussing safe sex and HIV, a serious topic albeit in a conversational manner. Patrick is what the average gay man that gay men’s magazines aim at. He is somewhat obsessed with being safe and knowing his status; getting tested very regularly, while being exceptionally safe. Richie asks him why he gets tested so often and he replies ‘just to be 100% sure’. I can’t say that people should be this paranoid but it’s importnant to promote keeping on top of your sexual health.
Richie takes an alternative stance. He is also safe; we can assume, but doesn’t worry about it. Of course, his sense of calm comes after having dated someone who is positive. Patrick flinches in reaction to this news, which is a perfectly understandable reaction in my opinion. Not because one should be afraid of someone who is positive but due to the way that Richie says it. He’s talking to someone who is clearly quite sheltered, and has turned their concern about HIV into an innate fear, and Richie lacks the empathy to understand how this would shock Patrick. Instead, in the first on many instances, he acts snappishly defensive, rolling his eyes and telling Patrick that he isn’t. Reassurance and judgement come in waves this episode.
Patrick decides in the end to skip work in favor of a quality day with his new boyfriend. Richie takes them to an astrology tower where they sit and stare at the (faux) stars. Here they continue to discuss the roles of people in sex using F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’s Ross and Rachel to expand on their points; scary to think some viewers might not know who they are.
While Patrick seems to consider himself a top, Richie believes that those labels only really belong on the internet and that until you are with someone you don’t know what you’ll be into with them. It’s definitely a philosophy I share and am grateful to the show for pointing it out. That being said, Richie isn’t very encouraging, instead he mocks Patrick for having, what he calls, ‘bottom shame’.
I feel as though Richie is suggesting that because he doesn’t enjoy anal sex, it must because of some need to be seen as dominant when that isn’t necessarily the case. The conflict between how these characters see the world is haphazardly clear. For the most part, they choose not to find problems with one another by either stopping talking about that subject or by changing it.
Coming to the end of the episode, Richie and Patrick take a walk overlooking the sea. Here, they begin to discuss the slightly mystical or religious beliefs that Richie has. He reveals that when he has questions, he seeks out a psychic who; and this comedy gold, rolls eggs over the person’s body then cracks them to read the future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tarot cards but Jonathan Groff’s timing and the lines about bringing your own eggs made me laugh.
Again, we find that when Patrick genuinely enquires about Richie’s beliefs, he gets knocked back by defensiveness and borderline rudeness. Richie is fine with judging Patrick but doesn’t want to be judged himself. My reasoning tells me it’s because of what he’s been through, yet, he doesn’t ever apologize for his outbursts and that could be a deal breaker.
By focusing just on just these two characters, this episode of Looking has a much more explorative feel, making you question and see the subtle nuances in each person’s manner and actions. Neither is flawless, neither is abhorrent, they are both people with complicated histories. Without knowing everything about them you cannot fully judge who they are. Yet, when we meet new people and begin the dating process there is an element of snap decision making. Knowing when to persevere and when to give up can be the real test for when two people are meant to be.
I look forward to this being explored further in the final three episodes. Only three left!
What did you think? Did you enjoy the different style of episode? Are you a Rachel?
Quote of the episode: Patrick to Richie
‘‘I love ex fatties, I always feel like they’re nicer people’’
Also featured in this episode, Jonathan Groff’s “O” face. About a minute in. Nice.