By Kevin OKeeffe
Originally published on Advocate.com February 02 2014 11:21 PM ET
Amidst all the drama surrounding Looking's first two episodes was the unfortunate news that its ratings were fairly terrible. The buzz leading up to the HBO show's premiere hasn't translated into many people watching yet — and considering how slow and awkward the first two episodes were, in addition to the third episode's shifted time slot (it was moved to Saturday because of the Super Bowl), this might not be the ideal time to try and reverse the trend.
But that's a shame, because this weekend's episode, "Looking at Your Browser History," was actually really good. There were still bad moments: Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) is still stuck in dull, pointless storylines that essentially boil down to "Agustín and his boyfriend are cute and bitchy, Agustín acts like a dope, Agustín then mopes." But Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Dom (Murray Bartlett) both got great new characters to play off of, immediately making Looking more fun for us and them.
Here were some genuinely great scenes:
Patrick's unfortunate flirtation on a torpedo
Possibly the best thing this episode did was introduce Kevin (Russell Tovey), a young, British video game designer. Patrick meets him at his company's game release party for Naval Destroyer, the game they've been working on up to this point. Kevin is as brilliant as his ears are big, and Patrick decides it's a great idea to flirt with him while "straddling a torpedo," and asking whether he likes to play as a girl or guy character — a coded question about his sexuality. It is, of course, a terrible idea, as he learns that not only is Kevin taken, but he's moved from Seattle to San Francisco to work at his company and is likely to be Patrick's new boss. The two have great chemistry instantly, and it's fun to see Patrick scrambling over something other than a bad date.
Dom and Doris go to Zumba
In another dimension where Looking is a huge hit, Dom and Doris (Lauren Weedman) are the most quotable characters on TV, and this scene was the most GIF'd on Tumblr Saturday night. Dom is in too good a mood for Doris to believe, nailing his Zumba routine hard, and she finds out why: He wants to finally open his own restaurant. She clearly wants to be supportive, but she's left speechless — she even gives up on trying to keep up with his Zumba prowess, finally asking him how he's planning on doing it. He has no specific answer. In a way, this scene is what all of Looking should be: silly and fun, but still grounded in the reality that these characters face.
Kevin calls Patrick out
The day after the party, Kevin's already hard at work on his new project that's on the fast track. Seeing an opportunity to get on board, Patrick goes to apologize for his flirting, something Kevin waves off right away. But when Patrick mentions an interest in joining Kevin's team, he winds up getting called onto the carpet about how dedicated he can really be. Apparently, Patrick's been spending lots of time on OkCupid and "Mancunt," as Kevin "accidentally" calls Manhunt. In the middle of all the awkwardness, Patrick's phone goes off — the same ringtone as when his friends called him while he was cruising in the woods in the pilot. Somehow, this manages to be even more embarrassing for Patrick.
Dom makes an age-appropriate friend
After his chef friend turns down his offer to join the restaurant venture, Dom once again tries to find sexual release to make himself feel better. This time, it's not on Grindr; he goes for the throwback option and hits the bathhouse. It seems as miserable as you'd expect a midday bathhouse to be, and everyone looks pretty terrible. But then Dom meets Lynn (Scott Bakula), an older guy eulogizing the more fun bathhouses back in the day. He and Dom bond, with Lynn even encouraging him to get with a hungry younger guy staring at him, and it feels like the best relationship on the show so far. Bakula is great at this older mentor role, and Bartlett plays their connection — not sexual yet, but genuinely interested — in a smart, compelling way.
Patrick steps up in a big way
Completing the "Kevin is the best thing to happen to Patrick since this show premiered" arc of the episode, Patrick deletes his OkCupid account, stops pining for his failed flirtation with Richie (Raúl Castillo), and gets to work on a new build of Naval Destroyer with, yes, a female character. He gives Kevin a speech about both having a life and doing the work, which clearly impresses him. But, of course, his earlier browser history jokes were just that: jokes. "You were always going to be on my team," Kevin says with a smile. "But commitment looks good on you." Then he tosses a controller at Patrick and asks him to play the new build with him.
Everything about these two's interactions are enjoyable, not just because of the actors' chemistry but because Kevin prompts Patrick to do more in his work as a video game designer and actually strive for something more than a successful first date. For a show that cared very little about its characters' non-personal lives in the first two episodes, this seemed like a major course correction toward spending more time in the professional world. That in particular is what made this one so great. Well, except for Agustín.
BONUS: Seriously, did anything interesting happen in Agustín's plot?
Well, we got to meet this really hot escort, who made Agustín consider a significant career change after getting fired from his job. So at least there's that? God, Agustín's the worst.
Follow Kevin O'Keeffe on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.