In Looking's early days, many a comparison has been drawn to Girls, the popular Lena Dunham show that precedes it in HBO's Sunday schedule. But as we reach the halfway point of the gay dramedy's first season, that parallel is proving particularly flimsy. The more apt comparison is between Looking and Sex and the City: friends in different places in life and love, with an iconic city as both background and character. This week's episode even included several moments this week that felt downright Carrie-esque.
Here were some of our favorites, phrased as only Carrie could:
"Patrick's choice left me wondering: Is it fair to yourself to skip Folsom for work?"
Sure, Ms. Bradshaw never went to a leather fair. But Patrick (Jonathan Groff) making the choice to avoid the Folsom Street Fair and stay in with fantasy work boyfriend/new boss Kevin (Russell Tovey) feels like a very Carrie thing to do. They stay inside and giggle at the scene, with Kevin in a far flirtier mood than he was last week. They've clearly settled into a comfortable place with each other, yet Patrick agreeing to come in on a Saturday for Kevin indicates there's still a not-so-platonic power dynamic going on. Eventually, as most men with real boyfriends do, Kevin went back home to greet his just-in-from-Seattle man, while Patrick agreed to keep doing Kevin's work. It was a sad state of affairs, but Patrick agreeing to go out to Folsom — and getting a leather vest for himself — only made it worse.
"I wondered to myself: Could Dom and Lynn's lunch really just be cool when they met in such a steamy situation?"
Normally, Dom (Murray Bartlett) has the meatiest plots in Looking (with Agustín left to be boring in Oakland by himself), but our very own S.F.-style Samantha Jones had his eyes on something much more permanent than his hookups: a business investment from Lynn (Scott Bakula), the florist he met in the bathhouse last week. Dom is still trying to put together his Portugese chicken eatery, so he asks Lynn out to lunch to talk about it. They have an uncomfortable moment when Lynn maybe-pretends that he's offended it's not a date, which only gets less comfortable when Dom offers to make Lynn dinner. Their non-courtship feels wonderful and even romantic, which seems to throw Dom off. But Lynn agrees to look over the plan, so Dom gets what he wants. It remains to be seen if Lynn will too.
"And then I found myself wondering: Can Agustín really avoid hooking up with the hooker he's paying for?"
At the Rentboy.com tent at the fair, Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Patrick meet C.J. Agustín is talking vaguely about a new project he wants C.J. to be a part of. Proving once and for all that Agustín really is the worst, he practically drools all over C.J., even eating meat right out of his hand despite being a vegetarian. He also agrees to pay C.J.'s ridiculous hourly rate to, well, do something with him — Follow him around? Draw him? It's unclear to both Patrick and the audience — but lies to his boyfriend, Frank (O. T. Fagbenle), about why C.J. gets involved with the project. God, Agustín is such a Miranda.
"I couldn't help but wonder: If Kevin hadn't craved fried poultry, would Patrick still have chickened out?"
After Patrick and company make a pit stop at his workplace (and Agustín pays the price for eating meat in the bathroom), Kevin returns and says his boyfriend needed some sleep. Soon enough, they're flirting over work again — Patrick doffiing his vest — and there are major sparks flying. But then Kevin begs for them to get dinner — fried chicken, he pleads, because his boyfriend never lets them eat it. Slowly, you can see it dawn on Patrick's face: Kevin considers Patrick his fantasy work boyfriend as much as the reverse is true. With that realization, he quickly draws the boundary and makes a very mature, cool-headed exit. It was disappointing, however, that things with Kevin went sour. Our hero needs someone with a good head on his shoulders who can be a positive influence, like we saw last week when Patrick strived to work harder to achieve more professionally. Regardless, let's hope this isn't the last we'll see of Kevin. He's the better of Patrick's love interests — the Aidan Shaw you root for when Mr. Big keeps popping up.
"When Patrick saw Richie across the room, I wondered: Would they give love a second look?"
Speaking of: Like a circa-season-3 Mr. Big, Richie makes his return, showing up at the same bar as Patrick. Patrick, once again wearing his leather vest, begins to pine across the room for his failed romance. Richie last graced the Looking set when Patrick was in bed with him and the uncut penis-shy Patrick seemed disappointed that Richie was cut. He ribs Patrick for that ("Still cut," he snipes) while Patrick simpers that he wasn't really looking for sex and that, more or less, he deserves another chance. Richie seems like a fine guy, but he seems totally wrong for Patrick. Still, we'll see if he can't prove himself the worthy paramour next week, when they go on an adventure through San Franciso together.
Follow Kevin O'Keeffe on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.