Looking, Ep. 2.04: “Looking Down the Road” kills its idols

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Looking, Season 2, Episode 4: “Looking Down the Road”
Directed by Ryan Fleck
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Airs Sundays at 10 PM on HBO

Looking has often loved its secondary characters more than its leads. Patrick, Dom, and Agustin have continually paired off with people, in both romance and friendship, who are smarter, nicer, and more together than they are. Richie, Lynn, Doris, and Kevin have been the voices or reason, of patience, and of exasperation throughout the show’s run. They’ve shared their advice, which has usually fallen on deaf ears, and have tried to form meaningful bonds with the central trio of characters, with varying degrees of success. This intelligence gap, or empathy gap, has been detrimental to the success of the show. Why follow the lives of a group of emotionally stunted, unambitious babies when this rich tapestry of noble humanity is one degree away? Why can’t the show spend more time with Richie in his salon, or Lynn at the flower shop, and follow characters who are worth following? Perhaps just like in real life, the more time one spends with somebody, the more he sees them for who they really are, warts and all. Because if Looking Down the Road teaches its viewers anything, it’s that Richie, Kevin, and Lynn can be just as clueless, stunted, frightened and petty as anyone else on the show.

Take Richie, for instance. Yes, during their initial fling, Patrick acted like an idiot and Richie was right to break things off. But ever since reconnecting with Patrick and his friends, Richie has acted like he’s doing them a huge favor just by hanging out and spending time with them. Everything he says is in a disapproving, judging tone, like he’s the only adult in the room. If Patrick makes an obvious, slightly inane comment about the state of artisanal ice cream in the Mission, just play along and pretend it’s a sharp observation. That’s what having a conversation is. And if Patrick tells you about his messed up relationship with Kevin, give him a little friendly advice instead of immediately calling him a home wrecker. There’s a big difference between having an opinion and being cruel. And if Richie is still so miffed by Patrick’s past behavior that he can’t settle down and be nice to him, be honest and say so instead of passive-aggressively negging him at every opportunity.

Kevin’s failure of courage is more sympathetic than Richie’s meanness, but it’s no less damaging to Patrick. No one thinks Kevin is actually going to break up with John, definitely not Patrick or Patrick’s friends.  The thought of losing Patrick makes Kevin realize how unhappy he is with John and he becomes ready to end it, but the actual act of honesty is ultimately too messy and hurtful. And perhaps he’s making the right decision, not necessarily for himself but for Patrick. Because staying in an unhappy relationship might be safer in the short run, but resentment and boredom rarely go away over time, and they’ll have to break up eventually. But Patrick dodged a bullet if he actually walks away from Kevin for good. If Kevin did leave John for Patrick, Patrick would become the scapegoat, the reason for the breakup, and Kevin would constantly compare him unfavorably to his tragic, martyred ex. Any difficulty with Patrick would become nostalgia for John. So Patrick does the smart thing when Kevin comes in crying to Esta Noche. Seeing Kevin that confused, that ineffectual, that scared, makes him realize that he doesn’t want to be with someone even more screwed up than he is. And for Patrick, that’s a step in the right direction.

Now Lynn obviously has been to hell and back dealing with his partner’s illness and death, so it’s perfectly natural for him to be terrified of falling in love again. But this episode is the first time Dom, and the viewers, see that Lynn’s decision to not get serious with anyone is ruled by that terror, rather than the calm, practical, left-brained persona that Lynn projects. If Lynn really wants Dom to be happy and find someone to love, why is he continuing to date him? Selfishly, he wants to be loved without having to love back or be vulnerable. Lynn loves being a mentor, a giver of advice – he loves being worshiped. But a romantic relationship in which there is one lover and one loved is no relationship at all. And if Lynn has no love left to give, he shouldn’t ask Dom to stay with him.  Dom and Patrick both start this episode thinking that their boyfriends are better than they are – smarter and happier and more successful. But their eventual disillusionment can only help to give themselves the confidence that they know what they want in a partner and deserve to get what they want.

Other thoughts:

Doris, obviously, is still perfect.

So is Eddie, so far. Daniel Franzese has such a specific energy and he and Frankie J. Alvarez work well off each other. It’s also nice to see Agustin having a little fun.

“It’s like having your own personal Mrs. Madrigal.” Patrick has read Tales of the City or at least seen the miniseries.

Esta Noche closed in real life too. I hope Looking continues to address the unaffordability of San Francisco for anyone who’s not a millionaire.

“Are you trans?” “Do I look trans?”

“Ok good, lets get you a bag of dicks to eat.”


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