Of Season One, anyway.
And it’s time to think about what we’ve been Looking at all this while.
Looking began with a would-be hookup in broad daylight in a public park. It was a bit of a fake-out — a nod to the gay past — but still. It set a strange tone for the show, a series that wanted to be not about sex but still kinda sexy, about a group of gay men who are all over the place in terms of age, race, their sexuality, their facial hair, and where they are in life, but still somehow are meant to be friends. Supposedly they’re a tight unit, but we saw a lot more of them as individuals in their own lives than we saw of them together. And when they were together, they were mostly bitching at each other’s life choices (valid) or listening to the messy fallout of a vegan eating meat in the bathroom (totally not valid because no one does this).
We started off not really knowing who these guys were. Then, through a promising all-day date with Richie, we figured out a little more about Patrick; eventually we realized that Augustin is just a bratty jerk, and we don’t have to like him, and maybe that’s okay. The Season One finale “Looking Glass” borrows its title from Lewis Carroll, an homage to the topsy-turvy craziness of Wonderland. In a show as muted and low-key as Looking, I guess this is about as fucked up as it gets. Which is still not that fucked up, by HBO standards; I mean, last night’s Girls finale had Hannah in a blonde wig, donning a variety of accents, pretending to be a married woman cheating on her fictional husband with her actual boyfriend, with her tits out most of the time. That’s a level of fucked upedness that Looking has never broached (and likely will never broach). That’s fine. In comparison to the lackluster and eventless first few episodes, “Looking Glass” is positively wacky with conflict. Compared to most TV series, though? It’s still rather tame.
“Looking Glass” begins with Patrick stopping by Richie’s work, where he’s met with a cool “Can I help you?” Richie is still pissed that Patrick wouldn’t let him bring weed to his sister’s wedding, I guess. (I know, I know, it’s more than that, but that was the tipping point.) Richie asks for “space,” which is never a good sign, unless he means the kind of “space” that you find on a cute date at the planetarium, but we’ve been there and done that. And that’s not what Richie means at all.
If Richie and Patrick are left up in the air at the beginning of this episode, Frank is very clear about the status of his relationship with Augustin: finite. Splitsville. Dunzo. And a good thing, too, since Augustin is truly in need of a comeuppance. Frank adds insult to injury by telling Augustin that he’s not a talented artist and never will be — a scorching burn that also holds a lot of truth, since we’ve seen what Augustin’s vision of “art” is. And that’s real life. A lot of people enter adulthood thinking they’re artists; many fewer end up making a living that way. Augustin is going to have to figure out something else to do with himself now that he’s got no man, no job, no artistic cred, and no place to live — it’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for him, until I remember what an obnoxious child he was in the last seven episodes. And then I just say, “Haha, you got told, Augustin.”
Does this mean no more Frank? I’m not that attached to Frank, though he’s clearly the better half of the Augustin+Frank=4ever equation. Patrick and Dom can’t exactly hang out with Frank now that their bud has dumped him, and the relationship seems over enough that there won’t be a “Will Frank take Augustin back?” arc in Season Two. (Or at least, not for a while.) Assuming this is it for O-T Fagbenle (what a name!) on Looking, let us say: so long Frank! We hardly knew ye.
(But we hardly know any of the characters, really.)
Meanwhile, Dom is still freaking about the Great Chicken Shack Experiment, or whatever they’re calling it. Lynn is MIA after Dom snapped at him (and made an unwise “daddy” comparison) in “Looking For A Plus One.” Yes, all three of our boys have been spurned after last week’s outbursts, with Dom’s being the least dramatic but perhaps also the most poignant. Again, I must point out that Looking‘s idea of high drama is having Lynn show up slightly late to Dom’s pop-up chicken restaurant; Macbeth this is not. There’s no yelling, no Lynn demanding his money back, no Lynn not showing up at all. Lynn does show up with a very San Francisco-looking (read: bearded) stud he claims is “just a friend,” but that can never be taken as gospel. After all, we met Lynn in a bathhouse.
Dom acts all jealous and Doris has a terrific scene where she practically begs Lynn to go easy on Dom’s heart, telling Lynn that he’s “worth it.” Then again, this episode also has a moment where Doris says she wants Lynn’s date to sit on her face, then corrects herself and claims she should be the one sitting on his face, but doesn’t sound too convinced; either way, I’m down to watch a Doris spin-off no matter who is seated upon whose visage. HBO’s Face-Sitting is bound to be more eventful than HBO’s Looking, especially if it stars Lauren Weedman, who I still say needs her own show (and, perhaps, her own country).
Anyway, it doesn’t seem like Lynn is taking Doris’ words to heart — I mean her words about Dom being worth it, since I don’t think he overheard that bit about his pal sitting on her face — until Dom desperately pulls him aside and apologizes like a grown-up, rather than the petulant teenager he was impersonating last week. Meanwhile, Lynn is really, really anxious not to keep his “friend” waiting, which is why I suspect he’s more than a friend, because real gay men don’t care if they keep their friends waiting. (Especially if it’s only for a few minutes.) Dom goes for the kiss, and this time, Lynn seems to like it — but we don’t know for sure because that’s the last we see of Dom and Lynn this season. I think we can feel reasonably confident that Scott Bakula will return to Looking next season… unless Face-Sitting somehow snaps him up instead. (Even better!)
Augustin decides to take (unspecified?) drugs, which actually make him a more tolerable character, as I suppose they do with a lot of people. He and Patrick stop by the One-Night-Only Chicken Shack Spectacular to show their support, where they discuss their respective breakups and Patrick cops to a surprising and somewhat alarming armpit fetish. (I thought Patrick was a little too vanilla for that?) Augustin must already have been aware of Patrick’s penchant for pit, because he doesn’t react at all; or maybe he’s just too fucked up on his drugs still. (He’s functionally eating chicken, so he can’t be that far gone.)
Then Patrick gets a call from Kevin demanding his presence at work. (Patrick is way more agreeable about working nights and weekends than just about anybody on the planet.) Augustin and Patrick leave the chicken shack with full glasses of wine abandoned on the table, which is another reminder that Looking is fiction, because real gay men do not leave full glasses of wine on a table. Ever. (Especially if they’ve just been called in to work.)
But just joking — Kevin didn’t call Patrick in to work, he called him in for a beer and another rapey kiss, because apparently last week’s “no” screamed “Yes!” when translated into British. Being called into work late at night and being forced to make out with one’s boss would be hell on Earth for 99% of Americans, but because he’s rather cute and from England, I guess Kevin gets away with it, because despite some feeble protests, it’s not long before you-know-what is happening…
And now it’s time to say our second good-bye this episode. Farewell, Patrick’s supposed bottom shame! We hardly knew ye, either!
Following that naughty office fuck (and, presumably, some armpit-licking), Kevin says he “doesn’t know” what this means for Patrick and Kevin in the future, which is probably code for “I’ll never text or call you again, I’ll avoid eye contact whenever I see you, and in six months or so I’ll find a lame excuse to lay you off when what I really want to do is forget all about this little episode. But thanks for bottoming!”
Patrick returns home to find Richie (of course!) waiting for him outside his apartment, which is something people on TV still do… because texting “hey can I come over?” and not getting an answer is too undramatic, even for Looking. (Have you noticed how people on TV are always dropping by unannounced? Seriously, no one in real life does this. TV characters are the only people who have six hours to spare to wait in front of someone’s apartment, just hoping they’ll find their way home eventually, without bothering to call or text.)
Patrick is understandably guilty about his naughty office fuck with his all-but-married boss, which is basically a porn-level escapade — and technically, he did kinda cheat on Richie. (It wasn’t exactly clear whether or not Richie’s “space” included a room to fuck one’s boss in.) Rather than confess, Patrick hears Richie out, and Richie says he’s “this close” to falling in love with Patrick (which is heartwarming) but he won’t, because he doesn’t think Patrick is ready (which is heartbreaking). Patrick’s unpreparedness for Richie’s jelly has just been confirmed on a sofa at Most Dangerous Games, so it’s time for Patrick to say his tearful good-bye to Richie and his armpits. (I, however, will bid neither Richie nor his armpits farewell, since this ends on an uncertain enough note that I’m sure Patrick and Richie’s saga is ongoing in Season Two.)
After that unhappy confrontation with Richie, Patrick returns home to find Augustin’s severed head impaled on a spike in his bedroom — ahh, sorry, I was just fantasizing about what might happen to Augustin if this were Game Of Thrones. On the less decapitation-happy Looking, Augustin is curled up asleep (in a drug-induced coma), snoozing to an episode of Golden Girls. Patrick picks up where Augustin left off, which is both a sweet moment and also a reminder that the tremulous gay bonds of friendship and occasional minor half-smiles engendered by Patrick, Augustin, and Dom of Looking are nothing compared to the pals, confidantes, and outright chuckles of Dorothy, Sophia, Rose, and Blanche. (But that’s a pretty high standard to live up to.)
The season finale of Looking essentially resets Season One back where it began. Patrick is single once more, Augustin is (probably) living with Patrick again, and Dom is (probably) still having age-related issues, except now he’s dealing with them by hooking up with a much older man instead of a much younger one. I imagine, with that Golden Girls theme music playing us out, that Looking is trying to be all about the friendship, and I still think that eight episodes in, these friendships seem totally arbitrary. We haven’t had any truly meaningful interactions between the three leads. Doris and Dom manage to have a poignant scene in nearly every episode; if the show were about their bond, I’d buy it.But Patrick has not impacted a single one of Dom’s storylines. Nor has Augustin. Nor have Patrick or Dom had any significant hand in either preventing or provoking Augustin’s meltdown. Augustin had some effect on Patrick and Richie’s courtship, but it’s Patrick’s boss Kevin who ended up being the bigger threat (along with Patrick’s insecurities). These characters exist in this same universe, but only occasionally interact. Their friendship is not integral whatsoever to the show, and that should probably change if the show’s writers want to keep using Golden Girls as a reference. Would anyone have watched Golden Girls if all the old ladies were just off in their own corners, hanging out with other people every episode, barely seen together?
And that’s our show. Looking took a while to warm up to. I still wouldn’t call it appointment television. Girls was extremely sharp for the majority of this season, and True Detective was a much richer and more enticing HBO debut. I’d rate them higher than this one. But I will say that several Looking fellas (not necessarily the core cast members) made their way into my heart this season, and I do want to know what happens to them next. Will Lynn and Dom give it a go? How long will Richie’s armpits go unlicked? Whose face will Doris sit on? I guess you could say I’m Looking forward to the second season, more for the fringe benefits of the supporting characters than anything relating to Patrick or Augustin. But that’s still something.
So. I’ve seen him eight times now, and that’s a lot. After our first three or four outings, I was unimpressed, but I must have seen something to keep me coming back. Some… potential. And then there it was. On our fifth date, I witnessed something truly special. I felt something. Granted, it wasn’t something I’d never felt before — in fact, it reminded me very much of something I’d seen a couple years back — and it was better and fresher then. But still.
After that fifth date, I was willing to cut him some slack. He still frustrated me at times. I wanted him to go further; he was always holding back. It was like he was afraid to go too far, so he kept moving forward mere inches. And after so many weeks, I wanted more. I wanted to love him! Instead, I only liked him a little. But there were moments, little sparks, that made me believe he might be worth putting some more time into. And so I did.
Now he wants to take a break. I don’t know when I’ll see him again. Sometime next year, maybe? And who knows how he’ll change by then? Or how I will? I know there will be others to help me while away the hours in the meantime; soon, I’ll barely think of him. But when he returns, I’ll be glad to see him again, ready to pick back up where we left off. I wasn’t sure at first, but after these past eight weeks, I guess I’m ready to make a commitment.
Looking, I like you. I certainly don’t love you… yet. Maybe I never will. Maybe this is the peak of our… relationship? You are nice, and sometimes a little bit funny, and slightly sexy, though not nearly as promiscuous as I was expecting you to be. You are genuine, and at times endearingly awkward, and it takes time to get to know you. A lot of my friends didn’t like you when they first saw you, but I kept hoping for the best.