Looking, Ep. 1.05, “Looking for the Future” on one long date

Looking S01E05 promo image

Looking S01E05 promo image

Looking, Season 1, Episode 5: “Looking for the Future”
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Written by Andrew Haigh & Michael Lannon
Airs Sundays at 10:30 PM on HBO

When Looking premiered five weeks ago it was purportedly the story of Patrick, Dom, and Agustín’s friendship. This bottle episode, following Patrick’s day-long date with Richie, posits that this burgeoning romance is actually the central relationship of the show. “Looking for the Future” shows the awkwardness and passion of new love and all of its flirting, disclosing, playing it cool, and wanting to spend every minute with the new person in your life.

Patrick is obviously falling for Richie. There’s a small time jump since the last episode, and we’re brought back to the action after they’ve been dating at least a couple weeks. (Richie mentions that he’s stayed over at Patrick’s house three times.) Patrick is slowly becoming more comfortable around Richie. Much of his physical and verbal ungainliness has subsided, and though he’ll never win an award for his wit – that “opening up” double entrendre is especially cringe-worthy – he’s at least able to express coherent thoughts on everything from family to marriage to sex.

Speaking of sex, we get the most explicit scenes yet in “Looking for the Future”. Early in the episode there’s a blowjob that’s framed within an inch of its life, and fans of Jonathan Groff’s butt finally have reason to celebrate. Looking’s camera is almost always close to its actors’ faces, and its shots of other body parts are equally intimate. But the camerawork is so beautiful it never looks trashy, more European art film than soft-core Cinemax.

If there’s anything pornographic about this episode, it’s shot after shot of San Francisco looking every bit as beautiful as it does in real life. The creators are smart not to show even one cable car or, God forbid, the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead they shoot at the Sutro Baths and the Morrison Planetarium, equally stunning but slightly more obscure locations.  Viewers used to seeing Alcatraz and Coit Tower in every onscreen depiction of the city will have new locations to lust after. This works on a character level as well – no self-respecting San Franciscan takes a date anywhere tourists outnumber locals.

Richie and Patrick’s conversations are so realistic as to seem ripped from the collective dating unconscious of every urban American gay man born in the 1980s. We’ve all told the coming out to mom and dad story, recounted our first gay hookup, had the HIV and the marriage talk, and negotiated preferred sexual positions after what seems like far too short a getting to know you period.

Looking should be commended for getting these aspects of gay dating so exactly right, but there’s something overly studied about everything this show does. The creators seem to prize realism over everything else and equate their anthropological exactitude to the quality of their storytelling. While this is the best episode of Looking since the pilot, it still needs to loosen up and take more chances in order for it to become appointment viewing.

Other thoughts:

Richie is almost too perfect. His one flaw: blindly following the advice of a weird psychic who smears his body with raw eggs.

Bottom shame. It’s real.

Brushing your teeth with your finger while searching for pills in a medicine cabinet was my 20s in a nutshell.

“You can’t tell me that that little boy isn’t completely hot.”

“Even if they are meeting a boyfriend they’re just picturing that dick up your ass.”

“Fucking Keith & Marie, you have no idea.”

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