At first, “Looking in the Mirror” appears as though it’s meant to focus on Dom’s 40th birthday and subsequent party in Dolores Park, but the most compelling moments again center on Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Richie (Raúl Castillo). The series has not been afraid to bluntly depict those uncomfortable moments when ethnicity and social class clash and, sadly, nothing that occurs during this half hour is out of the norm for the Gay community. There are two moments in particular that are clearly painful for Richie.
First, Patrick introduces him to his boss Kevin (Russell Tovey) and Kevin’s boyfriend Jon (Joseph Williamson) noting he cuts hair. Kevin seems surprised that’s all he would do which prompts Patrick to add Richie eventually wants to get his own place (business). Richie is stunned because he’s clearly never said that to Patrick. Granted, Patrick was put off guard having just discovered Jon has permanently moved to San Fran (something Kevin has purposely not mentioned), but it was a mistake on his part nonetheless. Tensions are therefore high when Richie overhears Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) asking Patrick why he’s “slumming” by dating him. Agustín, of course, is an unemployed artist who seems to be going through a late 20’s life crisis so he’s the last one who should be dishing out criticism. Especially something so cruel and biased to someone who is “supposed” to be his best friend. But, more on Agustín later…
Arguably, this all leads to the best moment of the episode when our Romeo and Juliet walk back from the park and Richie vents his frustration. He’s clearly hurt and cannot understand why his new “boyfriend” wouldn’t stand up for him. Patrick knew it had gone badly and how he lets Richie know he’s “in” is the most touching scene of the series so far. Groff has been the standout performance among the cast, but the relatively unknown Castillo is giving him a run for his money. Assisted by some excellent material, he’s turned Richie into a more interesting and three-dimensional character than either Agustín or Dom.
Even with two episodes to go the series’ producers aren’t going to let questions over whether Patrick and Richie’s relationship can survive die, however. We end with Patrick looking into the mirror fiddling with the good luck charm Richie bought him. Somewhat ominous, no?
Some other thoughts about tonight’s episode…
Dom’s anti-climatic 40th
It wasn’t the best birthday for Dom (Murray Bartlett), but it wasn’t the worst either. His jokes about facing forty were certainly funny (“Do you know at 40 Grindr E-mails you a death certificate?” “I’ll be the Ghost of Christmas Past walking through Gay Beach tomorrow”) and he gets a boost of confidence when a younger guy spots him the park and flirts with him. What wasn’t great for Dom was getting turned down by some of San Francisco’s gay high rollers as continues to try and make his dream restaurant happen. He also mistakenly discovers Lynn (Scott Bakula) isn’t interested in more than just a business relationship. Frankly, it’s not the worst storyline of the series. Unfortunately, what isn’t working is Bartlett. He’s somehow made Dom something of a bore. The show consistently tells us Dom’s supposed to be a guy who is sweeping young bus boys off to bed one by one. Even if he were five or 10 years younger and built to the max Dom hasn’t shown a glimmer of the charisma needed to justify his reputation. Maybe it’s the mustache?
Agustín continues to lose all perspective
I could write a 2,000 word essay on the dangers of open relationships or occasional three-ways within committed relationships. Whether you’re gay or straight it doesn’t matter. Hey, it certainly works for some couples, but it rarely works for most. Every expression in Frank’s face during their video taped sexual escapade with CJ (T.J. Linnard) — especially when he turns his face away from both Agustín and CJ — demonstrates that “the artist” is in the middle of painting a disaster. That, along with his inappropriate digs to Patrick, displays just how out of touch Agustín is to his boyfriend, his friends and life around him. He’s not a happy camper and it will be incredibly hard for series creator Michael Lannan and his writing staff to make him likeable again. Especially if the series returns for season two.
Not to nitpick, but…
Having hung out in Dolores Park myself a number of times over the years, where exactly in the park were they? Certainly not where you’d expect, the “Gay Beach.” Were they hanging in “Hipster Valley” or the “Straight but not Narrows”? Suggestions anyone? Can you place the locale of Dom’s party?
What did you think of “Looking in the Mirror”? Share your thoughts below.