A defining characteristic of our humanity is how we deal with emotionally trying issues or periods of our life. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to process the internal agony with ease; the rest of us, though, cope as best we can while likely finding our frustrations and fears manifesting in one of a dozen different ways. In the world of Looking, the primary pathway is a long period of denial, with both Patrick and Agustin shoving their anguish deep down, lest they have to own up to it.
Unfortunately, Patrick has this turmoil come back to haunt him in the form of a rash on his side, a small, physical representation of his conscience nagging him over the fact that he’s sleeping with another man’s boyfriend. It just takes the poor guy forever to figure that little fact out. Instead, he goes down an emotional and hypochondriacal spiral that threatens to drag Agustin and Dom with him. It gets so bad, that he convinces himself he has HIV and goes to get tested (he doesn’t have it, by the way).
It takes, of all people, Richie to snap him out of this mental whirlwind, when he shows up at Patrick’s door dragging an incapacitated Agustin with him (more on this in a moment). The scene between the two of them is as tender as it could be under the circumstances, but at least it helps Patrick do the right thing to confront Kevin about what their illicit actions are doing to him. Of course, he gets the assurances he wants… but at a huge cost. As is the case with most affairs, the flings are fun and somewhat fulfilling but there’s no real “relationship” there. That’s true no matter how many Take That dance routines are involved.
Now, let’s get back to Agustin. For as much as he tries to differentiate himself from his friend and roommate Patrick, they are quite similar when it comes to dealing with deep seated issues. He still denies the hurt of his breakup with Frank, and the feeling that he’s lost his path in life, assured as he was that he was meant to be an artist. So, he seeks out the physical pleasures: some drugs and a hopeful hook up with his new friend Eddie. He gets the former in the form of some liquid joy (the name got muffled in the version of the show I watched), and it proceeds to knock him the hell out. By the end of the night, he’s passed out on the street near a food truck. This has to be Agustin’s nadir, because I don’t know how much lower he can go.
When I think back on this episode, the thing that I get stuck on is the ease at which one can get an HIV test in San Francisco. No doubt about it—this is ignorance on the part of someone who lives about 12 hours north from the city in which the show takes place. The more I considered it, the more sense it made: the disease is still prevalent, particularly within the gay community. Of course a part of the world with a huge population of homosexual men would have easy access to testing. As I talked about a little bit in last week’s write-up, I think that’s one of the interesting challenges that the writers of Looking set up for this second season: how to weave in the concerns still facing the LGBT community, even as they are gaining wider mainstream acceptance. Their efforts don’t seem to be towards proselytizing, but rather acknowledging these troubles in ways that are as subtle as they are affecting. So far they’ve been succeeding, but it’s a long tightrope walk to get them through 10 episodes.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.