Looking, Ep. 2.02: “Looking for Results” gives Patrick a scare

Looking 0202

Looking, Season 2, Episode 2: “Looking for Results”
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Written by Andrew Haigh
Airs Sundays at 10 PM on HBO

The second season of Looking began last week with a strong episode focused on the friendship between Patrick, Dom, and Augustin. The second episode, “Looking for Results,” switches gears a little bit, concentrating on Patrick’s relationship with Kevin, a worrisome sign for someone who felt Patrick’s romantic entanglements were given too much emphasis in the first season. But Looking is a much more confident show now, able to focus on secondary characters without losing sight of its central trio. The result is a totally entertaining half hour of television and a sign that Looking is beginning to know exactly what kind of show it wants to be.

Looking is a show concerned with the little moments, throwaway lines, and occasional silences always present in conversations between friends and lovers. At the beginning of the episode, Patrick is treating his relationship with Kevin like any other new romance, making pillow talk about first crushes and boy bands. But Patrick soon realizes this relationship is not normal, it’s dishonest and secret and could potentially be devastating for both Patrick and Kevin, not to mention Kevin’s boyfriend. His apprehension about the affair – yes, it’s an affair Patrick – manifests itself in a health scare.

At some point in his life, every gay man thinks he has AIDS. Whether it’s a weird rash or a cough that won’t go away, the threat of HIV has been drilled into us since we were children, and the only way to feel better is to go get tested. Obviously, HIV is a real threat, and any unsafe sexual act is risky, but there’s often underlying guilt and moral panic that manifests itself in an irrational fear of getting sick. Sex and death will always be intertwined for gay men, and if someone feels like he’s doing something wrong sexually, whether it’s an unsafe encounter or cheating on a boyfriend or a regrettable drunken hookup, the guilt-ridden brain will always assume the worse, and partially think he deserves it. This ugly truth might not be obvious to the straight world, but it’s almost universal among gay men and Looking depicts it beautifully.

Looking came out of the gate last year in the unenviable position of following Girls, a show that, love it or hate it, has an extremely distinct voice. This, coupled with the fact that the show is centered around a group of gay men, who are still underrepresented on television despite the great strides made in recent years, set expectations very high for both critics and viewers. Looking has none of the cringe comedy of Girls or the aspirational farce of Sex and the City, its two most obvious antecedents at HBO.  It also has very little of the soapy elements that made Queer as Folk and The L Word so addictive, if critically ignored. But a show so lacking in flash – not counting the virtuosic camerawork of Andrew Haigh and his cinematographers – needs to have characters that viewers can invest in. Most of the first season did a poor job at that, rarely digging below the surface to make viewers root for (or against) its protagonists. Now that Patrick’s neuroses and Augustin’s self-hatred and Dom’s commitment issues are being fleshed out and taken seriously, Looking can finally become the show both its creators and its viewers envisioned.

Other thoughts:

Augustin to Patrick about Kevin: “Now you have someone to bring home to Mommie Dearest.” As usual, he’s so much more perceptive about his friends’ failings than his own.

Top Trumps is real, I Googled it.

I don’t know what was more awkward, Patrick’s weird confessional to the man giving him his STD test, or practically begging Richie to go out to lunch with him.

No one speaks Spanish more patronizingly than Augustin to Richie.

“He was in SOMA passed out by a pupusa cart.” At least he got to eat a delicious pupusa before losing consciousness.

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