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Double the Looking: Looking for Gordon Freeman & Looking for a Plot

Hello everyone, Manuel here to recap Looking's newest episodes. We took a little break last weekend since it was the Holy Night of Awards (may this be your daily reminder that Julianne Moore has an Oscar!) and so we’re back this week with two brand new episodes. And boy were they good! I’m actually happy I can talk about these two episodes in tandem. One a comedic showcase the other a dramatic detour, one a sprawling ensemble set-piece, the other an almost bottle-episode character-driven piece, they exemplify the strong work Haigh & co. have been doing this season.  More...

I’m actually happy I can talk about these two episodes in tandem. One a comedic showcase the other a dramatic detour, one a sprawling ensemble set-piece, the other an almost bottle-episode character-driven piece, they exemplify the strong work Haigh & co. have been doing this season.

Looking for Gordon Freeman

Where did we last leave off? Oh yes, me neglecting our last episode to rant against another attack on the show on its representational merits. So, let’s avoid that and focus on this “messpisode” (I saw it referred to as this somewhere and now I can’t help but think it’s the perfect way to describe what we just witnessed). It was funny. It was cringe-inducing. It advanced various plot strands. It referenced Mrs Dalloway!! And it brought us Dom-as-He-Man and so this is, for my money, Looking’s best episode to date. At least I thought that until I saw “Looking for a Plot” but they function on such different levels that choosing between them is nigh-impossible. This series just keeps getting better and better.

I loved that the entire episode was motivated by Patrick’s desire to be the “fun gay” a label that he hilariously explains by saying he wants to be a hashtag #instagay. Already he understands it as a social media performance rather than an embodied experience. But don’t mind me, I’m a bit obsessed with Instagram and its potential as a queer public sphere. Appropriately, HBO’s marketing team uploaded some amazing #instagay pics to their own Instagram account, including this one of Dapper Master of MY Universe, Dom:

He-Man with a ‘stache. #Looking #Wigs

A photo posted by Looking (@lookinghbo) on Feb 25, 2015 at 1:03pm PST


“The article is called, ‘Why I take PrEP”

In the long list of put-downs our Patrick has been subject to, this has to be the best if only for its factual simplicity. Yes, Pato, you do need to read the entire article to get the gist of it (and don’t let clickbait sites convince you otherwise!). If you needed another reason to believe that Looking is well aware of Patrick’s shortcomings as the voice of the gay generation (or a gay generation, to borrow its fellow Sunday HBO comedy’s moot tagline), these two episodes were it, precisely because he’s both clueless and entitled. Seeing his every self-deprecating yet self-emboldening line create ripples of eye-rolls within the show’s ensemble has been a delight and this fascinating conversation about promiscuity, safe sex and HIV was a welcome set-piece that feels both palpably contemporary yet all too dated and familiar (it’s basically the show’s Normal Heart moment).

But let’s be honest, this episode was all about that scene. Patrick, drunk after sharing shots with his ex (and his adorably sex-positive ginger boyfriend) -- don’t we love that they went as Max & his “wild thing”? -- and having had to endure coming face to face with a drunk John who’s eager to be friskily playful with Kevin, took the mic and proceeded to give everyone second-hand embarrassment. Look, Patrick's a mess but what worked so well about his drunken tirade was the way it spoke to the various plot and character developments we've seen this season (his affection for Richie, his pride in Agustin, Dom's window chicken, and of course, his vexed relationshiop with Kevin who continues to pine away even when holding onto his muscly boyfriend).

Best line of the episode I wish I could off-handedly use:

Tie:  “Hey, come help grandpa with the clicker”
& "Hey what do you think about dom’” (Yes, the link is live, people!)

Best Doris moment: Her bemused look when she shows up at the party dressed up as Sonny (to her “not-boyfriend”’s Cher!)

Best gif-worthy moment: Again, this episode wasn’t just the most quotable but it had so many gif-able moments (plus, it had a Tumblr shoutout so they clearly know their audience). I’m gonna go with this one, though John playing with Kevin’s balls was a close second.

And how does one follow that?

Looking for a Plot

Every week I’ve highlighted “Best Doris Moment” so I was delighted to see that we’d be spending an entire episode around her. I’ve noted before that Dom & Doris are the real-life, West Coast version of Will & Grace and “Looking for a Plot” gave us every reason to double down on that thesis. The moment in the pool where we learn Dom thought they used to have great sex (“No it was FUCKING NOT!”) tells us everything about how this is no multi-camera sitcom. Just like we might wish to categorize all the boys Looking offers us according to Patrick’s own card game categories, Doris as “the fag hag” works on screen because she inhabits and exceeds the stereotype. She may be “Dom’s Grace” but within every punchline that lands is the awareness that theirs is a messy history.

We begin with the aftermath (read: hangover) of the party where, while Patrick commiserates and apologizes, Doris gets a text from her aunt telling her her dad has passed away. Much like the overall structure of the episode itself, it makes you comfortable in the mundane trappings of a diner breakfast only to hit you in the gut before you know what happened. And so, with Patrick in tow (for he is nothing if not preternaturally self-obsessed, seeing a funeral as a chance to get away from his own embarrassment), we go to Modesto, the place Dom and “Big D” have since escaped. (Am I the only one waiting for the inevitable if narrow-minded thinkpiece about Looking’s bias against non-urban gay centers as viable living environments for young upwardly mobile gay men?)

It was a brutal episode mostly because it focused, just as the series has done constantly, on the small moments (a backrub, a casual coming out at a funeral, a chicken bucket at a pool). Outside of the Patrick storyline, there were no hysterical wails nor life-changing epiphanies. Dealing with grief is getting through the meet and greet with the family, appropriately text back your perfect boyfriend (“Thinking of you,” he writes) and trying to not get whiplash from seeing where you were and where are now. It’s also what made the collision at the end of the episode all the more surprising (I may have jumped out of my seat). I wish I could say the same about the Kevin/Patrick rom-com reunion moment for it felt both touching yet facile. I still think John was never enough of a presence to make us feel Kevin’s decision to be all that dramatic (the “Beer” tee and the dunce hat he wore to the Halloween party didn’t do him any favors, either). Am I the only one not as invested as I feel the show wants me to be about their pairing?

But really, the episode was an amazing showcase for Lauren Weedman. Props to her for a fantastic episode; more so than that Oscar speech, her stoicism when receiving the text and later during the funeral (so much sadness wrapped up in those lip quivers and witty quips) made me want to call my mom.

Best line of the episode I wish I could off-handedly use:

"Oh god, would you please take these away from me after I have one more, and then when the nausea passes give them back to me?”

Best Doris moment: How to choose just one? Here goes, though: Doris offering her father’s inheritance to Dom (“There's no one I'd rather invest in more than you. Because you're my family.")

Best gif-worthy moment: The boys and Doris dancing.

Previously:  2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5

What was your favorite Halloween costume at Patrick’s #fungay party?
Did you also begin sobbing uncontrollably like Patrick during that funeral scene?

Was it in part because Mary Kay Place is so gosh darn talented and underused?

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Reader Comments (19)

patrick's fast surpassing augustin as my least favourite character and the way he was shoehorned into 'looking for a plot' did him no favours; a dom/doris bottle episode would have been perfection

(now let's all get working on the lauren weedman emmy campaign)

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I do think Patrick really had no place in Looking for a Plot but I think that might be because Groff is essentially the lead. It would have been nice to have a Patrick-less episode. What did he really add? Plus, geez, i'm noticing much more these days how Patrick is so self-centered.

I love costume episodes on shows because it's always interesting to see what the characters pick for themselves. What was Agustin's though? lol.

Tovey and Groff definitely have chemistry (I kind of swooned when they kissed) but I honestly can't support their pairing. Both of them were totaly shitty towards their boyfriends and they basically began on such a wrong note.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

My favorite costume was probably Augustin's just because it managed to be a really odd clusterfuck but kinda hot? Idk he was committed I felt. Lol. But Dom's was amazing too.

The drunk party speech is one of the best TV moments I've ever seen. I was cringing, wincing, covering my eyes, pausing it because I couldn't handle, and finally laughing through it out of discomfort. That look Richie gives Patrick at the end of the episode though! Ugh.

The crash in this episode really caught me off guard. This episode managed to be reeeally dramatic, but it still had laughs throughout. I liked that Doris never really broke down (I thought she would with Dom at the end, and I agree that her "you're my family" line was the best) until she saw her "not boyfriend." It was a really smart way to further their relationship and finally get some release.

I feel like the episodes have consistently been getting better and better, the last few weeks have been so good that I don't think they could've even topped it this week, so just doing something completely different was smart. And refreshing. It was nice to get away. But god dammit, everything deflated for me at the end when Kevin showed up. I agree that I'm not invested in them at all. I'm tired of it. I was never really a fan of Kevin (especially with how neglectful to others they were with their affair...which I mean is true of affairs, but that's why affairs are shitty), but now I really feel blah towards him after Russell Tovey's recent homophobic comments on how he's happy to not be "one of those effeminate gays." I also feel like Kevin as a character has become kinda two-dimensional at this point, it's all about Patrick, and I feel like their romance has done everything it can do. They've done the affair, they've had romance, sex, shared cute stories, and even a break up. Where else is there to go? I feel like I'm watching a real life friend couple continue to break up and get back together and just rolling my eyes as I'm forced to watch it. lol

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I love Mary Kay Place. I said it before and I will say it again.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

i loved the halloween episode so much. and the added screen time for Doris this season is definitely also improving Dom as a character.

I personally like that Patrick is becomign less likeable. The character has been written very consistently but it's funny that it took people so long to notice and i think the secret is that Groff's adorability blinds people. He's very much a "Carrie" -- really charismatic on the outside but hot mess on the inside.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

As a former small-town southern gay, Looking for a Plot was a great little time capsule.

I guess I still like Kevin--I mean, he is dreamy and less self-serious than Richie. Tovey's comments this week were a real turn-off, though. There is a real femme-shaming problem in our "community."

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBD

I guess I'm still onboard for the Kevin affair, although I don't expect it to go well and must admit that it feels like we have already seen the different 'beats' of their relationship. However, it's the first romantic relationship in the show that has genuinely interested me and I would like to think that that is because of more than Tovey's inherent dreaminess. Yes, his recent comments were unfortunate though. Rather than articulate his personal struggles with gender as it relates to sexuality, his remarks came across as aggressive femme-shaming.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom

This season's episodes of Looking have been almost too real for me to process fully. In every single episode, there has been at least one moment that has cut right through me, so true it hurts. This week's episode was almost too much. So, so many moments that just felt so right and true to life. I found my lying on my couch after watching it last night, almost unable to move for about twenty minutes, talking to myself about a hundred things. And I'm lucky enough to not have lost a parent yet.

That gif of Jonathan Groff is EVERYTHING. Everything about the party was great, but that particular scene was so brilliant. We've all been on one side or another of a scene like that in real life, and it captured everything in all its slow-motion-car-crash blaze of glory. The scene with Patrick and Kevin at the end, interrupted by Jon, slayed me. As did the quieter moment Patrick and Richie shared shortly thereafter.

Also, Dom should be required to wear nothing but that He-Man costume for the entire rest of the season. If we don't see Doris in the She-Ra costume at some point, I will be severely disappointed. Although the Sonny and Cher costumes were FLAWLESS.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I feel like this whole season is careening toward a massive Patrick breakdown, especially considering the little bits of biography we get from Looking for a Plot.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

I genuinely hope that Lauren Weedman manages to somehow snare an Emmy nomination. I think she is brilliant. This latest episode was easily my favourite of the series, and mostly thanks to her. Doris is one of my favourite characters on TV these days, and I have my fingers crossed that the Emmys do right by her, and acknowledge her incredible work in this show.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTroy

I'm actually surprised so many found Patrick shoehorned into the more recent episode and that he's self-centred (I won't say unlikeable because that's still so wholly subjective).

That scene at the gay bar where Patrick is imagining the younger boy as him as a teen justifies it all for me, "Getting drunk, probably snuck out of his parents’ house, wearing his sister’s jeans, thinking about killing himself, obsessively listening to Evanescence…God, I was so fucking lonely back then." I think there's still that inclination to regard Patrick's experience as not being so bad and his obvious issues as being indicative of his selfishness and not actual issues, but I think there's still so much unexamined there. The way he started crying when the eulogy of how good Doris' father only seemed to reiterate how unhappy he must have been as a child.

(Incidentally, the lack of perspective is an even bigger thing for Kevin - we've seen much of him, but the show has still only givenus Kevin from Patrick's perspective (deliberately so). We've gotten two episodes of deep Richie's perspective, but no one full one on Kevin which makes me think/hope the writers are working towards something with that.)

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Tovey, part one: “Tovey thinks carefully about what he’s going to say next. If I had to guess, watching him fidget, I’d say he’s weighing up whether to be honest at the risk of causing offence, or whether to divert and say something bland. He chooses to risk offence. 'I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.'” (The Observer)

Tovey, part two: “I surrender. You got me. I’m sat baffled and saddened that a misfired inarticulate quote of mine has branded me worst gay ever. If you feel I have personally let you down, I'm sorry, that was never my intention. I’m proud to be who I am and proud for others. We’re in this together, I want you to know whatever you think I meant, I didn’t. I'm gonna ride this out, and one day we will all look back on this moment with a half smile of fascination and amusement. Until that day I'm gonna carry on being me.” (Twitter)

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

For me, Tovey's comments are a mixture of stupid ("inarticulate" as he says), assholic and immature. But not homophobic (definitely "femme-shaming" as BD and Tom say). But I wonder if there would have been any reaction if a drag queen had thanked her parents for making sure she didn't turn out like one of those posturing, neanderthal macho clones.

Anyway: onscreen, Tovey still makes my mouth water and I'm still Team Kevin, although I am not necessarily Team Pevin or Katrick or whatever. And I'm with Andrew K: more of Kevin's perspective without Patrick please.

The notion of Dom and Doris as the real Will and Grace tickles me. Does that make Agustin (ugh, still ugh) and Eddie the real Jack and Karen? Never mind.

I paused the episode when Patrick went into his tirade at the mic, took a walk around the house and came back to the screen, it was that painful to watch. But in the best way possible. I have disliked Patrick as a protagonist pretty much from the first episode, but I have always liked Groff's commitment to the role, and he keeps getting better and better.

DOM. Dom. DOM. That is all. (Well, okay, I saw a photo of Murray Bartlett without the mustache at the recent Paley panel and I was not entirely amused. I prefer him as the second coming of Tom Selleck.)

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Thank you so much for these, Manuel. So good to read level-headed, smart takes on the show.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Looking for a Plot is the best episode so far. It seems like the creators have finally gotten the tone of the show, and the necessary balance between comedy and drama, right.

Doris is my favorite character on TV right now. I know that woman, and want to know her better. I so appreciate that she feels like a real person, not just some fag hag caricature. Such a real, funny, sometimes sad, lived-in performance from Lauren Weedman in this episode (definitely award-worthy). Having attended too many funerals in my time, I have to say she nailed it. Sometimes stoic, sometimes sad, inappropriatrly funny, breaking down at odd moments (but only with the right person...Hi Malik! ).

Speaking of great actressing, I've loved Mary Kay Place since The Big Chill. Always a pleasure to see her on my screen!

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

Best Doris line:
"Talk to Dave Walker. They talk to each other here" ha ha ha ha

I really enjoyed this episode. So so good. And Yes for the Emmy campaign for miss Lauren Weedman!

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Manuel: (Am I the only one waiting for the inevitable if narrow-minded thinkpiece about Looking’s bias against non-urban gay centers as viable living environments for young upwardly mobile gay men?)

I would like to say: "Yes, you are."

I really enjoyed reading this piece because there was no noise getting in the way. Remember, you have the right to avoid the thinkpieces (or at the least, ignore them) because, truth be told, most are nothing more than keyboard masturbation on the part of the thinker.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Love love love love love love this write up. And the scene when Doris, Dom and Patty hit the dance floor is everything. Everyyyyything.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Lauren Weedman deserves Emmy Love, idem Raul Castillo, even if People in Team Kevin won't agreee

March 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

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