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Looking at Looking, Week Eight
Ellen Cushing | Photo: Courtesy HBO | March 11, 2014
Thank you for being a friend in the season finale.
After all hell broke loose last week, this week's episode of Looking finds its characters trying to make amends—to varying degrees of success. As an episode, it was satisfying, but as a season finale, it was superb.
It mostly wrapped up the season's threads, but not so neatly it felt like a sitcom. It left us hanging emotionally—but not fully dangling from a cliff. After so many separate story-lines, it returned to the show's central relationship—that is, the friendship between Dom, Agustín, and Patrick. It reminded us how much these people have changed over the course of just four hours.
The episode opens with Patrick showing up at Richie's barbershop. Richie is cold and Patrick is dopey and the scene ends with Richie tells Patrick he'll call him "when he's ready." Which: YOU GO, RICHIE. The show wants us to believe in Patrick and Richie (I think), but it also wants us to have to work for it a little bit, which is smart writing—if Richie were to jump into Patrick's arms again after what happened on the way to the wedding, it would ring false. As we saw in episode 5, there are significant barriers to their relationship—barriers that the show's been admirably, unflinchingly honest about, and that Richie handles maturely in this scene.
Kevin apologizes to Patrick for kissing him, and Patrick tells him not to worry. Patrick is polite as ever, but his voice is curt—he's not just telling Kevin to forget about it in order to spare Kevin's feelings. It seems like he really does want both of them to forget it. It may be the case that Patrick's still holding out hope for Richie, but whatever flirtation he and Kevin may have had seems to have dissipated, at least for Patrick.
Meanwhile, at Frank and Agustín's house, Agustín apologizes to Frank—for paying CJ, for lying, and for, generally, being a bad boyfriend—but it sounds hollow and forced, like he speed-read "How to Apologize for Dummies," and Frank is not having it. Finally, he snaps: "You don't know who the fuck you are."
The divide between who we are and who we think we are has been a central theme this season, and no one's been more tormented by it than Agustín, as he's been forced to completely rejigger his self-conception as an artist. It's as though he—and Frank—have been using Agustín's being an "artist" as justification for his shitty behavior for so long that once it becomes clear that Agustín's moody, self-centered, and irresponsible not because he's an artistic genius but because he's just moody, self-centered and irresponsible, their relationship can't take it. At any rate, Agustín decides to deal with this the mature way, by taking some pills (which he washes down with kombucha, OF COURSE) and riding BART over to the Mission for Dom's peri-peri pop-up.
Speaking of which: Turns out opening a restaurant basically out of thin air is hard, and Dom is freaking out. Something about potatoes? Doris is, as always, an angel sent from above, and manages to calm Dom down a little bit without totally letting him off the hook for being a grade-A crazo. This has always been a show about friendship, and it's nice to Doris—who is so often relegated to the goofy sidekick role—turn serious when she tells Lynn, legit tears in her eyes, that "Dom's worth it." Like so many moments , it's unclear what she means—worth it as a business partner? Worth it as a partner partner?—but it kind of doesn't matter. When Lynn and Dom kissed later, I yelped—even though, AS WE'VE SEEN, sleeping with someone you work with is clearly inadvisable, I'm rooting for these two: After two decades spent hooking up with people progressively younger than him, maybe Dom needs someone like Lynn.
Anyway. When Agustín and Patrick roll through, the place is still half-empty, which isn't a great sign, but they all try to put a positive spin on things. At the table, Patrick and Agustín debrief each other on their respective relationship issues. Agustín, now homeless, asks Patrick to move in, promising "Golden Girls marathons." It's a sweet moment to watch. They have known each other since college, and there's a kind of unconditional friendship you make when you're eighteen and in a new city. Agustín is unequivocally awful, to be sure, but there's something comforting about their relationship.
Agustín then accuses Patrick of being into Kevin and it becomes yet clearer that he definitively is not. Which is why what happens next is so heartbreaking and strange, the closest thing this show will ever have to a real holy-fuck moment.
Kevin calls Patrick into work, and he comes running, only to find Kevin drunk in the half-darkness, whatever work-related BS he used to lure Patrick back to the office somehow no longer an issue. Kevin tells Patrick he wants to "lunge" at him—and then he does, and before you know it they're having sex in the office.
It's a curveball given the affection we've seen between Patrick and Richie—and what we've seen between Patrick and Kevin of late. Patrick is passive, sure, but if he has a problem with anything, it's over-thinking sex, not under-thinking it. And when Patrick allows Kevin to top him—something we know he's uncomfortable with from episode 5—it's all the more sad and weird given that this was something he was unwilling to do with Richie. But even sadder and weirder is their exchange afterwards, when Patrick asks what's next and Kevin brushes him off like Don Draper disposing of a secretary. Kevin is, after all, Patrick's boss, and there's a real power differential there. In cheating on his boyfriend, Kevin has shown his sexual unscrupulousness already, but it's still surprising, after all this buildup, to see the way he treats Patrick. (Russell Tovey is signed on for season 2, so I'm guessing the aftermath of this encounter will be drawn out.)
Patrick walks of shame back home and runs into Richie, who tells him, essentially, that he's "really close" to falling in love with him, but he doesn't think Patrick is ready. Which is obviously true, but it didn't stop the members of #TeamPatchie from letting out a little sob.
This is a nice bookend to the pilot's rejection scene: While that one left Patrick temporarily bummed, you're left to think that this one might really make him reexamine his choices and his behavior. We hope, at least. The season ends with Patrick and Agustín in bed, watching The Golden Girls, and it's pretty perfect.
See y'all next season!