I haven’t kept up with enough of the TV series that focus on the lives of LGBT characters to feel completely confident in saying this, but I think tonight’s episode of Looking will prove to be a monumental one. The poignancy and intimacy of this half-hour, which followed a day in the still-new relationship of Patrick and Richie, felt so unlike almost anything else that has come before it. And that’s not even thinking of the clear-eyed, non-leering glimpse into the couple’s sex life.
Nor is it about the unabashed discussions involving their first times with men and coming out to their families. What made it feel so stunning was how the episode almost entirely focused on those types of conversations that all new couples have. You tend to only get glimpses of those in episodic TV, but rarely do you get an entire installment given over to two people getting to know each other more deeply.
As I’ve mentioned before, Jonathan Groff’s work as Patrick is so great to watch week after week. You can see every bit of the hesitation and relief that washes over his face as he opens up to Richie about wanting to get married and his discomfort with being a bottom. These are things that aren’t easy for him to reveal, and the more he lets them out, the calmer and looser his body language becomes.
Raúl Castillo, on the other hand, maintains Richie’s steady confidence, while letting the cracks to his façade become apparent. Considering the weirdness that happened between the two when they first hooked up, his reticence is understandable. Yet, he’s the one who is most comfortable in his own skin, willing to serenade Patrick first thing in the morning. It’s been lovely to watch those two personality types play off each other as they did tonight.
The long, lingering conversations would be enough to mark tonight’s episode as the high water mark of this first season. Respect though must be paid to the brief sex scene that happened early on in the half-hour only elevated it more. It was as explicit as you can get without any full-frontal nudity and incredibly steamy. Unlike Dom’s random fuck of the show’s second episode, it was a couple full of lust devouring each other’s bodies figuratively and, ahem, literally. You almost never see that kind of raw sexual energy expended between two men on a prestige network like this. This likely isn’t a signal of a sea change, but it’s enough of a push against the grain to be worth applauding and encouraging.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on “Twitter”: https://twitter.com/bob_ham.