Looking Back: Where Things Stand Heading Into Season 2
BY Kevin OKeeffe
March 10 2014 1:14 PM ET
Bad: The Patrick-Richie-Kevin Triangle
Yes, the big plot twist this episode is a bit of melodrama even Douglas Sirk might roll his eyes at: Kevin and Patrick (Jonathan Groff) have sex. It's a bit hard to swallow — Groff's performance this episode is kind of all over the place, partially because Patrick is at such different energy levels depending on the moment. But while the moment of truth is hot — Tovey's ass is a beautiful sight – the scene feels really strange. As Patrick's boss, Kevin's stepping over all sorts of lines, even calling him to the office late at night and not letting Patrick go when he says he wants to. Patrick's reaction to all this is strangely muted — we don't know where he is by the end of it. Making things worse is when Richie shows up at Patrick's door. He'd been ignoring his calls and refusing to talk to him, but when they're finally face-to-face, Richie confesses his concerns about how fast their relationship was progressing. "I am this close to falling in love with you," Richie says. "But I'm not gonna do that to myself if you're not ready. And I don't think you're ready." Patrick cries at this, but the scene ends abruptly — we don't quite know where they are, either.
Life isn't easily solved at the end of a 30-minute episode, so it's fine for things to be left in a vague place. That fits the realism of the show. But we have higher hopes for Looking than to devolve into a brawl between Team Kevin and Team Richie. This isn't Twilight, and frankly, Richie deserves better than Patrick, while Kevin's violating all sorts of HR codes. The correct answer here would seem to be neither, but with both actors coming back full time next year, we're not sure the show will let that happen. Still, this plot has a chance to come together. Agustín's, on the other hand ...
Potentially Irreparable: The Agustín Problem
It's become a running joke in these recaps that Agustín is The Worst, no ifs, ands or buts about it. But despite Alvarez's strong work making Agustín sympathetic, the show has done nothing to help him. He's a terrible character — we've not seen one positive quality of his since the beginning of the season. He's a borderline sociopath whose only friends are Dom, a guy with plenty of his own problems, and Patrick. The central relationship between those two is alarming at best and destructive at worst. In this episode alone, Agustín goes on a drugged-out bender, is inapproprate with Patrick both verbally (he eggs Patrick on to have sex with Kevin) and physically (his intoxicated kiss on the street). How does the show treat this? By ending on the image of Patrick smiling as he snuggles with a passed-out Agustín and watches Golden Girls.
The show doesn't leave a whole lot of room for ambiguity. Richie and Kevin are the sources of drama in Patrick's life, but he can come home and be with his good friend Agustín — unconscious because of his drug use — to make it all OK. The episode even rolls the credits as "Thank You For Being a Friend" plays. All this adds up to the feeling that the writers don't get what an issue Agustín is. His and Patrick's friendship makes no sense, because we've not been given a hint at any point this season as to why Patrick would keep Agustín around. We have no context of their past — did they have sex at some point, to which the show keeps alluding? The fact that Dom has been so stranded in his own plot only makes this more frustrating; Patrick and Agustín is the closest thing to a center that Looking has, and it's poisonous. Alvarez is returning full-time next season, which is good — again, the fact that the character is in any way tolerable is entirely to his credit — but as they prepare for season 2, Haigh and Lannan need to figure out how you solve a problem like Agustín. Because in a show that's managed to resolve a lot of its issues so far, this one stands out.
Bonus: Some of the Best Shots on TV
Through its good parts and bad, Looking is still doing some amazing visual work. We'll close out the season by showing how Haigh used a far shot in three really interesting ways this episode. See you all in season 2!
Follow Kevin O'Keeffe on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.