Looking Review: “Looking in the Mirror” (Episode 1.06)

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<i>Looking</i> Review: &#8220;Looking in the Mirror&#8221; (Episode 1.06)

With the lovely interlude of last week’s episode behind them, it’s now time for Looking to reintegrate viewers back into the world of the full cast. And what better way to do so than with a birthday celebration for Dom.

As has been set up in the previous weeks, the budding restaurateur is turning 40. In some regards, that’s viewed as the end of their life, something that apparently Grindr reminds its users, sending them a death certificate on their 40th. But for Dom, it’s another reason to feel edgy about where he is at in his life: a professional waiter for the past decade, still reeling from being run through the ringer by his ex and subsisting on random sexual encounters where he can find them. His plan to celebrate: a sulk in the park with friends.

The party isn’t so bad for Dom. Patrick is the one who stumbles through it, bringing his newly minted boyfriend Richie along to meet many of his friends for the first time. At every turn, Patrick messes it up. When he introduces his boyfriend to his boss, his immediate reaction is to place Richie’s work as a hairdresser in careerist terms. And when Agustin confronts him, accusing Patrick of “slumming,” Richie overhears and rightfully gets angry.

Trouble is that Patrick doesn’t make any steps to defend his new boyfriend. He absorbs the blows and then scrambles to make things better later on. You can see the conflict playing in actor Jonathan Groff’s face as he attempts to reconcile his need for some regular affection with a worry that maybe Agustin has a point. By the end, there’s some sense that Patrick has reconciled himself to committing to Richie, but I don’t hold out any hope for this relationship now.

Where the show is really entering into some interesting territory is in what’s happening between Agustin, his boyfriend Frank, and the central figure in his latest art project, CJ. Agustin introduces the two at the birthday celebration, and all three fall into a comfortable and playful rapport. By the end of the episode, the three are in bed together, trading off between canoodling and manning a Pixelvision camera. But as Agustin watches his boyfriend and CJ fuck, the camera almost falls from his hand, as he is both aroused and terrified by what he has wrought.

My favorite moment of the episode, though, came toward the end with Dom arriving on Lynn’s doorstep on the night of his birthday. As the two share a joint, they set up a plan to do a pop up restaurant to introduce the “old queens of San Francisco” to Dom’s Peruvian chicken, with Lynn footing the bill. Encouraged by this generosity, Dom leans in for a kiss, which is quickly rebuffed. As Lynn says, it will be hard enough for them to work together without sex mucking things up more. It was another beautifully human and real moment in a show that has so far been full of them.

Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.