If there were any complaints that Looking was dragging its feet over the last couple of weeks, those were quickly put to rest in this week’s episode. At a breakneck pace, the show threw its three major characters into states of upheaval and uncertainty, one right after the other. Let’s break it down, piece by piece, shall we?
Patrick starts the day a nervous wreck because he’s about to show Richie off to his family for the first time, at his sister’s wedding. He lets his panic and worry get the better of him, snapping at his boyfriend at every turn. By the time they’re over the Golden Gate Bridge, Richie takes off. Can’t say as I blame him either after being told to “stay” like he’s a lapdog. At the wedding, Patrick tries to pawn his boyfriend’s absence off on his mother, claiming fear at her potential disapproval. She rightly shoves it back in his face, reducing him to tears. Where things get even more complicated is when a drunken Kevin (his boyfriend is friends with the groom) kisses Patrick in the bathroom.
Dom, on the other hand, is also in full-on freak out mode as he and his friends try to turn a former Chinese restaurant into a pop-up peri-peri joint for one night. Poor Lynn bears the brunt of his abuse and tension, and, like Richie, understandably hightails it.
The most heartbreaking storyline tonight, though, is Agustin. Unsure of where his art project is going, he pulls out of an art show set up by Frank. But things take a nasty turn when he admits to his boyfriend that he’s been paying C.J. this whole time, even during the tryst that ended last week’s episode. Frank is justifiably angry and hurt, and ends the relationship on the spot.
At the end of it all, this episode revealed a number of things about Looking. For one, with the breadth of the stories they are trying to tell here, 30 minutes each week hardly seems like enough. Especially tonight when the action kept whizzing by and ground to a quick halt before I knew what hit me. Letting these characters breathe a lot more could bring even more life to an already wonderful show.
Too, the inherit selfishness of all the main characters coming to a boiling point here provides a nice counterpoint to a similar failing with the characters of its lead-in, Girls. Difference is, you get a sense that the men of Looking might actually learn from their mistakes and try to improve their station. I grant you that growth like that doesn’t necessarily make for good comedy, which is why we might not see much of that from Lena Dunham and company. But knowing that Patrick, Agustin and Dom might actually find ways to move forward as human beings is what keeps me returning to, and praising, Looking.
The concern is that with the first season wrapping up next week, there’s also the possibility that all three will end up exactly where they were in episode #1: Patrick and Agustin sharing an apartment, and Dom still waiting tables at the restaurant, and all three trying to make sense of where their lives are heading. I’m hoping for the best, and steeling myself for a full circle return.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.