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Looking For Home: I am a simple man

Manuel here, back from a week away to chat up last night’s season’s (series?) finale. Thank you Nathaniel for filling in, though I’m sorry you had the unlucky job of recapping my least favorite episode so far! We’re clearly of one mind of the way the show hit a low-point mostly by telegraphing rather than embodying its own story beats. Thankfully, the season finale worked wonderfully as an introspective examination of the fraught ride to successful gay intimacy.

By the second episode of what turned out to be a self-assured and all-out fantastic second season, when the illicit domesticity of Kevin and Patrick took center stage, I noted that the HBO show was great at asking the following question:

What does intimacy look like within a community that is still encumbered by secrets and closets, even as it prides itself on openness and honesty?”

That question could just as easily work as preface for this episode...

Honesty, of course, was the operative word in this episode as Patrick’s moving in day slowly turned into a nightmarish bickering match where he’s forced to look, not for home as the title of the episode suggests, but to look inward during this nightmarish fairy tale set in a modern castle filled with enough trickster homos and magic potions that worked overtime to upend our hero’s seeming happy ending.

As if in a fairy tale, Patrick bumbles his way into a tower with no exit where he’s asked to face demons both imagined and real about who he is and who he’s with. The bliss of moving into what seems like an elitist gay enclave is dashed after he figures out Kevin is on Grindr and the latter admits he’d slipped up several times while dating John. Oh, and that he would like his relationship with Patrick to be more open and honest, ultimately making an odd if passionate argument about intimacy removed from sex (“it’s a handjob, it’s just a hand on someone else’s penis!”). Patrick, ever the buttoned-up good boy whose innocence frame him as our entry point into this alluring if dangerous territory doesn’t take this very well and so ensues a thrilling pseudo-one-take fight in this labyrinthian “torture chamber” of a building. Will our hero emerge unscathed from this fortress, especially after he’s made so many sacrifices to get what he thought he really wanted?

Shoutout to TFE fave Wes Taylor (guys, remember Smash?) and Whedon alum Sean Maher (guys, remember Firefly/Serenity?) who were pitch perfect as the hosts of that Gays White Shut party.

Props to Tovey and Groff (and the show’s D.P. Xavier Grobet) for making this scene so visually and dramatically interesting; it was like watching a gay Sorkin walk-and-talk where I half-hoped someone would scream “like you but sweeter!” (sorry, Julia’s on my mind). The fight, like the best Looking scenes this season (the PrEP convo at the Halloween party, for example) was effective in the ways it interlaced character-specific details (nut butters) with broader cultural conversations (open relationships).

Patrick says he’s looked in the mirror and only found his hair lacking (“I look like a middle-aged lesbian”), but it wouldn’t be stretch to say he didn’t really enjoy the young man looking staring right at him. Patrick’s family’s moral compass may have been broken (and somehow liberated him in the process?) but that doesn’t make Kevin’s accusations of his willful denial about the relationship he intruded in, the affair he embroiled himself in, and the life he’s about to build in this new Field of Dreams/peanut-butter loving apartment any less damning.

And so, if this was indeed a fairy tale, was "Looking for Home" basically a reveal of Kevin as the Big Bad of the season? Pardon me for borrowing Whedonspeak but Kevin’s seemingly reasonable arguments against monogamy (“have you ever wondered why that is so important to you?”) presented in decidedly emotionally manipulative ways (“well, your own mother doesn’t believe in monogamy so…”) begun to take darker undertones once you factor in the ways he’d been aligned with the Gays White Shut partiers downstairs. In many ways, he was the one pushing Patrick further and further away from his friends and the more diverse world of San Francisco the show was so lovingly portraying even as he clearly belongs more squarely in the world Patrick grew up in. There’s a fascinating argument to be made about the fact that Patrick and Kevin’s relationship takes place in these closed quarters while the world of Richie, Agustin, Dom, Eddie and Doris flourishes in the outdoors, in the streets and in the parks all over San Francisco.


That last scene, prompted by the return of a talisman of sorts (yes, I won’t let go of the ‘fairy tale’ angle given the fact that the season precisely begun with an actual flouncing fairy!), becomes all the more telling, but what to make of it? Is Patrick mimicking Kevin and becoming yet another white clone from the party who indulges in slip-ups and considers being honest about them doing the right thing, or is he willfully shedding it all and implicitly choosing Richie’s grounded sensibility over Kevin’s towering bravado? I have always found this romantic triangle to not be quite as gripping as perhaps Haigh & co. think it is, but the ambiguity of this final shot suggests that if the show does come back for a third season, it might be able to mine the Richie/Patrick friendship in interesting and surprising ways.

Elsewhere, we saw that Doris/Dom spat resolved while Agustin and Eddie are shown enjoying their newfound life choices (a wreathed-house and a Santa-ish boyfriend, respectively). Oh that we’d have spent more time with each. Who knew Doris and Agustin would emerge as the most level-headed characters of the season?

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

 “Or do you want to go downstairs and join the KKK butt orgy?”

Best gif-worthy moment: Richie messing up Pato’s hair. Such a small gesture that echoed their “are you ready?” conversation from season 1.

Best Doris moment: “So we’re going on a walk? Is this gonna be like The Godfather or something?”

Previously:, 2.72.8, 2.9

And so we bid goodbye to these boys. We began the season in the woods and ended it in a concrete building; we went from diverse queer outlaws to cookie-cutter gays and great props for the show for making that juxtaposition (or development?) necessarily a troubling one. Must we begin flooding HBO with escapularios (or juicy chicken?) to convince them this quietly briliant series deserves another season? Will you be satisfied if this is the last we see of Patrick & co?

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Reader Comments (22)

This is a great write-up... and I hope you'll have the occasion to write more if/when the show gets renewed! I was bearish about Looking until a couple of episodes into this second season, which was just wonderful. Someone around here predicted that the final scene would involve Patrick and Ritchie, and while that came to pass, I thought the scene was rich in silence and ambiguity. What, exactly, is going through Patrick's head?

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDusty

lovely conclusion and observations.

i love this show so much. it needs a season 3. even if HBO wants to say to Haigh & Co... you can have one more short season - wrap it up. That would be swell with me. Just don't cancel it. There's more to see and learn and be moved by.

March 24, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

frankly, if patrick was locked away in a tower forever more it wouldn't worry me in the slightest

the doris/dom scene was a zillion times more affecting in the criminally short time allotted to it than the endless patrick/kevin to and fro (also true of the entire season)

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I worry we're losing this show. I worry we're losing a show in which two gay men can talk so openly about sex as the lead characters and as the predominant emotional thrust of the series. It'd be such a shame for HBO to let it go, but if they don't it'll be in good bedfellows with another two-season wonder of theirs, Enlightened.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I really, REALLY hope this show doesn't get cancelled, if only because this finale episode was so beautifully open to interpretation about what's going to happen to Patrick that I NEED to know what actually does come next. Those points about Kevin are all well-taken, but also remember that it's Patrick who wants to stay and be a "looky-loo" at the Gays Wide Shut (LOVE) party, and Kevin who doesn't. Yes, Kevin has been emotionally manipulative with Patrick, BUT he also gave up a big part of his life to be with Patrick and clearly didn't make the decision to do so lightly. Meanwhile, Patrick has been so prim and prissy, but finally says he feels liberated of all that... only to freak the FUCK out at the very first mention of an open relationship. By the end, it's clear Patrick knows what he wants (or at least thinks he does, since we really never can be sure with Patrick), but what is that? Is it Richie? Kevin? Neither? I NEED TO KNOW!

Thanks for these reviews. Manuel. They have been absolutely wonderful to read!

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I say it before & I'll say it again (I love to repeat myself) this show work's best when Patrick & Kevin don't. So to me this was one of (if not THE) best episode of season 2. Although I'm critical of the show, I hope there is a season 3. If not I think the ending was good both as a season or a series finally. The writing of this show (flawed as it is) was always to me is strongest suit.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Seconding and thirding what others have already said: thanks for the wonderful recaps, Manuel. I hope you get another ten episodes to write about next January.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJS

I have enjoyed (mostly) reading these, so thank you Manuel for your effort. I hope it continues.

Why do you think the ratings are so low?

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I don't think it would be a good series finale at all, in terms of plot and characters, so I hope there's one more season. Just to wrap everything up a bit more.

I'm glad Kevin finally came out as the villain, if you will, because I felt that lurking underneath the entire season. I never felt he was trustworthy. He always felt like such a skeez.

I thought the huge Kevin Costner poster was a funny way to be like "wow, they reeeally don't know each other...nice to realize as they move in with one another" lol.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

@ Henry -- I can think of a few things:

1) No big stars.
2) Low key, quiet tone that seeps in rather than bursting out of the gate and therefore often deemed boring, especially when compared to its fellow HBO shows.
3) Unapologetically, unabashedly about gay men.
4) Related to 3, no strong women until this season.
5) 30 minute episodes lead most people to think that it's comedic in tone, and while it has funny moments, it is decidedly not a comedy.
6) Much of its press before the threat of cancellation were vicious think pieces from gay-friendly outlets that implied watching this or supporting it was a great moral failing because of one of its flaws.
5) The reactions I've seen online, particularly in the first season were variations of this: "It doesn't represent me! I don't know anyone like that! They're all white! The Latino is white passing! The Asian is token and stereotypical! There are no black people -- oh wait -- they're only recurring characters! The woman is a token and stereotypical! What, did lesbians in SF all go through a black hole? Gay white men take over the culture and gloss all over the nuances of gay culture with their whiteness! The show is bi/trans/homo/lesbo-phobic! It's also ****ist!" Some of that is fair, some of it isn't, and it just goes to show how starved the LGBT community is for representation that hopes are pinned on this one tiny show with very specific goals. As someone who caught up this season, I had to consciously push all those thoughts out of my head and try to appreciate the show for what it was trying to do, not what people expected or wanted it to be.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterF

Well-put, F. I had/have criticisms of the show as well but overall I enjoy it. People will complain about everything - just yesterday a lesbian pal was complaining on FB about the lack of lesbians on the show and I thought, "well I never complained about the lack of gay men on The L Word." I thought this last episode was riveting. If it is renewed for a third season I will be happy to watch. Maybe the creators will forge on ahead and introduce more women, etc. - even as minor, recurring characters. It would give the show more flavor, depth, nuance, gravitas. Also. more Dom, please, I think he's a really interesting character. I have a little Dom crush.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Thanks for reading, guys! I too hope we will have a chance to see how the show would follow up this fascinating second season.

Glenn, why would you remind us of Enlightened, another series that had a pitch-perfect second season that was criminally underwatched?! Now all I wanna do is write fanfic about Amy somehow stumbling onto Patrick & friends while on a San Francisco trip for work.

Henry, I think F put it quite well and I have very little to add; much like Patrick himself, the show's imagined audience is precisely one which doesn't particularly enjoy looking in its own mirror (mostly because of vanity but because we always wish we were represented as we hope we are and not as we might be).

Rob, you and I both. Dom's endlessly crushable; it does seem like the show lost interest in him after Lynn and I'd definitely ask for more of him should we see a third season.

March 24, 2015 | Registered CommenterManuel Betancourt

Patrick: it's not your hair that looks lesbian, it's the fact that you hauled your life into this man's apartment after a month of dating.

I've never particularly trusted Kevin, though Tovey plays him with great sincerity; we're meant to believe that he has fallen in love with Patrick and can't live without him. But Patrick is such a half-formed man-boy, emotionally stunted in so many ways (remember that drunken speech he gave, insulting everyone who cares about him?). Why has Kevin put all his emotional chips on someone this immature?

During the amazingly shot monogamy argument, everything Kevin says about sex outside of the relationship is perfectly reasonable, worthy of discussion, but the fact that he's waited to say it until they're moving in renews my distrust of him.

It's a hard relationship to root for -- which is lot like life, when your friends get involved with someone and all you can think is, Run! But it's not a lot like television, which usually smoothes things out so the viewer doesn't have to sit with discomfort or ambivalence about the protagonists. Looking is artistically brave that way, but maybe to its own detriment.

Manuel, thanks for the updates.They've been great.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Manuel, so glad at least one other person shares my Dom luv. He's a remarkably poignant character to me. The last shot of him in the finale, standing on the sidewalk, face illuminated by the neon sign of his still-not-yet-opened restaurant front, hopeful and alone, was really well done. It quietly evoked the sense of mid-life crisis he's struggling with.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRob

If they can give Treme four seasons -- a show that no one watched or gave any awards to -- they can certainly give a couple more seasons to Looking, one of the best shows on television.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAkash

I'm crushed over this news but it appears "Looking" has been cancelled (confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter). But at least HBO will be giving it a special movie to wrap up the storylines.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStan

Well, damn.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Also: F summed it up pretty well above. Also: Treme was an amazing show created by HBO veteran David Simon featuring a lot of HBO veteran talent about the aftermath of a disaster in an iconic and diverse American city, Akash. It was always going to get more slack than the show with all the gay guys talking about gay stuff and having lots of gay sex.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Akash -- Treme was very good.

P.S. Comment du jour? Really?

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Cancelled :(

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Even though I'm not a huge fan of "Looking" for several reasons (though I don't hate it, per se) I really hope it gets a third season to end on its own terms and wrap up the various storylines. I hope it leads to more shows like it...or rather more open-mindedness when it comes to green-lighting shows and what kinds of characters we tell stories about, etc. One of the good things about "Looking" (and, despite my reservations, there are many things about it that I like) is that it doesn't remind me of many other shows on television and it feels specifically rendered. More of this, please, HBO.

Well, darn.

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