You've got to have some sympathy for the minds behind HBO's “Looking.” It's not easy to create three-dimensional characters with less than 30 minutes of story over eight episodes. Especially, when you have – in theory – three “main” characters whose stories you are trying to tell. Patrick, the centerpiece of the show, has been expertly crafted by co-creators Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh as well as star Jonathan Groff. As we reach the conclusion of the first season, his BFF's Dom and Agustin finally beginning to feel almost as real.
Having had the opportunity to watch “Looking Glass” twice, the series leaves us (for the moment) with our heroes trying to pick up a broken puzzle of misread signals.
After Patrick (Groff) and Richie (Raúl Castillo) plans to attend a family wedding together went up in smoke last episode, Patrick visits him at work to see why he hasn't been returning his calls. Frustrated that Patrick would visit him at work and clearly not ready to talk about it, he asks for some “space.” Richie's reaction leaves Patrick wondering what kind of “space” exactly? We shouldn't date space? Or, let me call you when I'm ready space? What is Richie really saying? This leaves Patrick dumbfounded for most of the episode (And listening to advice from Agustin, of all people, is probably not the best idea). It also finds him dangerously open to Kevin's advances later that night, but more on that later.
Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), on the other hand, has seriously misread that he can save his relationship with Frank (O.T. Fagbenle). After Agustin concocted a three-way with CJ for his “art” and not telling his boyfriend he paid the escort, there is no going back for Frank. He bluntly rips Agustin, “You don't know who the [expletive] you are.” Just the “Musings of a bored rich kid. You're never going to be an artist. And if you ever do follow through with something it's going to be mediocre at best.” Cue Agustin's drug induced spiral through most of the episode (and could have been much worse).
The third member of the pack, Dom (Murray Bartlett), has completely misread his own feelings for Lynn (Scott Bakula). He tried to make an advance once, but complicated their friendship because he'd already let Lynn think it would never happen. Now, with his pop-up restaurant finally opening, he's more concerned about losing the chance at something more with his new business partner. We leave this storyline with Dom taking the initiative and kissing Lynn. However, and importantly, we don't see Lynn's reaction. Is it a mutual attraction or has Dom completely misread Lynn's own interest?
[Spoiler: Lannan confirmed that Bakula will be back for season 2 even with his NBC pilot in the works that has the potential to go to series. Read into that what you will.]
But, let's get to the moment everyone will be talking about. In an episode of many dramatic moments, the hookup between Kevin (Russell Tovey) and Patrick becomes one of the more lustful moments of the season. Both men know it's not a good idea. Kevin knows he has a boyfriend that we “think” he loves. Patrick has already turned down Kevin's advances twice before. But, “animal attraction” takes over. The consequences of this from both a personal or professional level will be interesting to explore next season. After Patrick asks, “Now what?” Kevin replies, “I don't know Patrick.” Is that an ominous or hopeful response on his part?
And, just to put the love triangle in complete motion, a dazed Patrick returns home to find an emotional Richie waiting for him. Surprise, Patrick has misread Richie's intentions. He still wants to be with him…he thinks. Richie says, “I'm this close to falling in love with you, but I'm not going to if you're not ready and I don't think you're ready.” If Patrick had known Richie felt this way would he have been able to avoid sleeping with Kevin? In interviews with both Lannan and Groff I joked I expect Team Richie and Team Kevin fan bases to spring up between now and the series two premiere. And yes, this appears to be the main storyline for season two (maybe).
Some other notes from the series finale…
Doris gets a nice dramatic moment
Lauren Weedman's has been “Looking's” secret weapon over the past three episodes. Her character Doris is so intertwined in the gay community she instinctually throws out snappy one liners a gay man would say, before correcting herself (“I wouldn't mind if he sat on my face. I mean, I sat on his face”). But, she helps make Doris a hero and an insanely great best friend when she stops Lynn and says, “Dom's worth it. He's just…he's worth it.” I expect Weedman to become a guest judge on “RuPaul's Drag Race” season 8 and that's meant as a compliment. [Check out a great interview with Weedman here.]
“Golden Girls” shout out
For most of its eight episodes “Looking” avoided as many stereotypical gay pop culture references as possible (I don't think we ever got a Lady Gaga, Madonna or Beyonce mention during the entire series, did we?). It was a smart way to try and avoid dating the show although, let's be honest. All that facial hair isn't going to help. But, closing on Patrick finishing the episode of “The Golden Girls” Agustin was watching before he fell asleep was a nice touch. “Golden Girls” is a cross generational favorite for most gay guys and brought just a bit of levity to the previous scene between Patrick and Richie. It will be interesting if the show opens the door, like “Girls” did, to more references in season 2.
What did you think of the series finale and season one overall? And are you Team Richie or Team Kevin?