Looking has wrecked me. Like writer/director/producer Andrew Haigh’s devastating relationship drama Weekend, it believably captures the complexities, joys, and difficulties specific to being a young gay man right now, and miraculously situated them within universal realities such as living and loving.
The season finale builds upon the relationship mishaps magnified in last week’s episode by showing their impact in real world terms. Dom, Patrick, and Agustin all need a little bit of help in the relationship department. Unlike Sex and the City, the show to which it’s most commonly compared, Looking has a more nuanced and organic understanding of the love lives of its protagonists. True, it’s easy to see how Patrick’s gun-shy tendencies are comparable to Carrie’s, and the ways in which Dom’s early-mid life crisis mirrors Samantha’s relationship with Smith Jerrod, but at this point I’m genuinely unsure if Patrick will end up with Richie, or if Dom will get out of his own way and realize that Lynn is good for him. (I’m throwing a little bit of unnecessary shade here: Sex and the City is a sex-positive display of complex, independent women that was and would likely still be groundbreaking, and which I emphatically loved. Looking’s comparisons to it are both understandably flattering and reductive in equal measure.)
Following an impromptu and overdue display of truth last week, Agustin returns to the home which Frank has politely asked him to vacate. Frank brushes aside his sincere apologies by telling him about himself: “You don’t know who you are” is the most damning of his exhortations, and it seems pretty clear that this chapter of Agustin’s life is over and he’s now forced to face the realities of who he is and the consequences of what he’s done. Frank is right, of course, and Agustin’s new rock-bottom status is likely the only and best thing could incite some self realizations. From the outset Agustin was the most grating character, by design, because his emptiness is masked by wit and bravado, and that takes some time to establish. He’s a lost soul who has emerged as the most tragic of the three leads, masking insecurity with hipster bravado in a Gen Y display of ennui instantly recognizable to the show’s core audience.
Dom brushed off Lynn in the anxiety of his pop-up prep, and Lynn reacted accordingly by stepping back and letting Dom take the lead in their restaurant endeavor. On opening day Lynn is nowhere to be found, and when he finally arrives with unexpected arm-candy in tow he’s pleasantly curt in an obligatory appearance. Doris, wondrous badass that she is, notices the coldness between them and advises him that “Dom is worth it.” In Doris we trust, so I’m taking her lead here. Lynn maintains caution by brushing Dom off at the end of the night when Dom asks what their next steps are. He kisses Lynn, and they continue kissing and it’s a beautiful moment. But it’s also an uncomfortable moment because, as an audience member, you know that Lynn is good for Dom but you’re not really sure if Dom is taking this step out of professional self-interest. I hope not, but expect this quandary to dominate Dom’s story in season 2.
After last week’s pre-wedding kerfuffle with Richie, Patrick extends an olive branch by visiting Richie’s work to gauge the extent of the damage. Richie isn’t ready, and coldly says he needs time and will reach out when he wants to talk. Fair enough. In the meantime, Kevin tries several times to apologize for his drunken advances, but Patrick tells him, equally as coldly, that it’s unnecessary and water under the bridge. Coldness is the best/worst cover for fiery passion, and this comes to a head when Kevin in no uncertain terms lures Patrick to the office and professes his indefatigable lust. Sexy, sexy, sexy kissing ensues, as does a very meaningful act of anal sex in which Patrick is the recipient. If you’ll recall, he mentioned to Richie that he’s not comfortable with anal sex, but that he wanted eventually to do it with him because he trusts him. Well to hell with all that, because Kevin goes right into the ass on his first try. Does Patrick getting butt-fucked actually carry a lot of implications about which guy is a better match? It just might. (Though I hope not because Richie is amazing.)
Richie stops Patrick on his way home and tells him with heartbreaking candor that he’s this close to falling in love but that he doesn’t think Patrick is ready for the commitment. Haigh frames the scene perfectly with no cutaways or reverse shots, focusing with precision on the emotional stakes. Patrick starts crying as Richie kisses him on the cheek and walks away. It’s a crushing display of truth that hits close to home for anyone who’s ever felt they’ve not been worthy of the love that someone has been offering. In my heart, I feel like Patrick belongs with Richie, but, like Agustin, and maybe like Dom, he’s just not made enough progress to avail himself to what he deserves.
Patrick returns home to find newly homeless Agustin asleep on his bed. We hear that he’s watching an episode of Golden Girls on his laptop, and Haigh lingers on the dialogue of Blanche and Dorothy for a considerable amount of time. It’s a melancholy and particularly uplifting way to end the season, as it’s virtually impossible not to have the “thank you for being a friend” theme song in your head as the credits roll. It may’ve taken a minute for Looking to find its rhythm, but thank you to Andrew Haigh and HBO for creating such an intimate and finely observed display of the human condition.