For a show that is so invested in the experience of living and loving in San Francisco, it’s interesting that its finest half-hour yet took place almost entirely outside the city limits. All it took was pulling some of the core cast out, sending them to Modesto, and forcing them to face mortality and the past, to stir up a wealth of emotion and beautiful sentiment.
At its essence, this week’s episode was a reiteration of the show’s core themes of friendship, love, and acceptance. Obviously the first of those three elements was the dominant one as we were able to get a full glimpse into the long relationship between Dom and Doris. As all of us likely know, finding a friend can be hard enough, but finding one that is going to have your back for two decades is nigh on miraculous. What made this episode so lovely was how much those two were still leaning on each other after all this time, with no questions asked. We have already seen the lived-in quality of their friendship. This allowed us to view the root structure.
The visit to Modesto also provided a reminder for the two—and in turn, Patrick—about how lucky they were to get away from that town and become the people that they are today. This is, obviously, especially true for someone like Dom who needed to own his sexuality, but as anyone who has grown up in a small town will attest, if you have ambitions that your home base can’t support, your only hope is to break away and take on the big city.
For Patrick, I think the experience of seeing his friends in their native land and feeling the weight of the death of Doris’s dad on his shoulders was important. Partially as a way of shrugging off his embarrassing, drunken antics from his Halloween party, but mostly as a final goodbye to the small town boy that would, as he admits, sit in a donut shop with a box of glazed and a copy of Out magazine tucked inside a copy of Sports Illustrated. The climactic car accident that caps off the last part of the episode was a final metaphorical smackdown to his self-consciousness and immaturity. That might just have been the kick he needed to throw himself towards love when he arrives home to find Kevin waiting on his doorstep.
If nothing else, tonight allowed Lauren Weedman to finally take the spotlight in Looking, after being stuck in the margins for far too long, in the role of Dom’s snarky “fag hag.” She tried so hard to hold on to that persona throughout the trip back to Modesto but slowly, understandably fell apart. Weedman did a spectacular job subtly revealing the cracks in her steely facade, and then breaking our hearts when it all shattered around her feet at the sight of her boyfriend Malik. She provided the emotional foundation this week, and I daresay it was a welcome addition to this fine, multi-layered show.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.