Looking, Ep. 2.06: “Looking for Gordon Freeman” exposes Patrick’s crazy

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Looking, Season 2, Episode 6: “Looking for Gordon Freeman”
Directed by Jamie Babbit
Written by JC Lee
Airs Sundays at 10 PM on HBO

In Looking for Gordon Freeman, Agustin continually compares Patrick to Clarissa Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s seminal neurotic hostess. This is not an obscure reference for anyone with a cursory knowledge of American literature. Even if someone’s never read the book, they’ve probably heard the name before and know it has something to do with parties and flowers and tragedy. But, the reference is completely lost on Patrick. For Agustin – and perhaps for the liberal arts educated Looking viewership – this gap in knowledge is a bit surprising, but it says more about Patrick’s interests than his intelligence. So he’s not a reader. He knows a ton about obscure video game characters, and is shocked when no one recognizes his Gordon Freeman Halloween costume. Maybe Gordon Freeman is as basic a reference to programmers as Clarissa Dalloway is to English majors.

In any case, this knowledge gap serves to highlight that Patrick’s mind might not work in the same way as other people’s. He has a hard time reading social cues. He can’t understand why no one wants to do karaoke at a house party, or that if you ignore someone for hours you can’t just start making out with them, or that passing around a hat to raise money for a friend’s small business could possibly be construed as an insult. Maybe it’s reductive to say that video game obsessives are less in tune to human behavior than literature lovers are, but there’s something preventing Patrick from truly connecting with people, and the reason might be neurological.

The structure of Looking for Gordon Freeman is a familiar one, where a big event serves to get all the main characters in the same place and interact with each other, and then something horrible happens. In this sense, its closest antecedent is Game of Throne’s Red Wedding, and though Patrick’s party didn’t cause the violent extermination of an entire family, it is just as uncomfortable to watch. He wants so badly to be a “fun gay,” to let loose and have a good time at his own party, but he’s incapable of having fun, and instead of moping quietly in a corner he publicly humiliates every single person he cares about and then asks them all to feel sorry for him. And though Jonathan Groff is game – he’s loosened up in front of the camera a lot since last season – his speech is almost too disastrous to be believed. To bring up Dom’s money troubles, Agustin’s drinking problem, his distaste for Richie’s boyfriend, and if his friends didn’t literally drag him away from the microphone, Kevin’s infidelity – all in the space of about two minutes – seems contrived for a show that’s dialogue is usually so naturalistic.

It’s hard to mention anything besides Patrick’s insane self-immolation, but new relationships between Looking’s other characters are starting to come into focus. Doris is scared to emotionally commit to Malik, who says he adores her, and Agustin wants to be Eddie’s boyfriend, though he won’t admit that to either Eddie or himself. Unless John wises up and dumps him, Kevin does really look like he’s moving back to Seattle, so that gives Patrick an excuse to actively pursue Richie. The only problem is that Richie seems really into his new boyfriend Brady, who completely despises Patrick. In one fell swoop, Patrick ruins his relationships with both Kevin and Richie, and damages his friendships with Dom and Agustin. It will be interesting to see if going forward Patrick takes responsibility for his awful behavior, if he can begin to develop the introspection of a Clarissa Dalloway, or if he remains like Gordon Freeman, a blank slate shooting away at everything that comes into view.

Other thoughts:

So Malik dressed up like Cher. It was HIS IDEA to dress up like Cher. Is he just the chillest straight guy ever, or…?

So Richie shows up at another one of Patrick’s events and has a terrible time. Get your own friends, Richie.

Poor, poor John. You seem like a cool guy. Dump Kevin, move back to Seattle, and have a great life with someone else.

Someone needs to tell Dom that Tumblr is not the right platform on which to design a restaurant website.

“Only in America can a homeless kid complain about free pancakes.”

“What is your playlist, NOW 5?”

“Your idea of a fun gay is a character with so little personality he’s basically nothing.”

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