Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Not to Say When You're Breaking Up and More Thoughts on the First-Season Finale of "Looking"

Patrick and Richie

Is anyone actually rooting for these two?

Unlike Patrick's mom (as Patrick sees her), I have nothing against Mexican-Americans with no career ambitions. But I just don't get Richie -- neither his enduring appeal (to Patrick, if to no one else) nor the guy himself. Yes, Patrick is maddening, and he's probably not ready for a serious adult relationship, but is Richie?

I've lost count of Richie's issues, which include extreme insecurity, a condescending attitude (likely born of that insecurity), taking himself way too seriously (Aside from black women railing against unfaithful men on Cheaters, who says "disrespected"?), a frustrating tendency to be hot and cold, and lousy timing. Watching him and Patrick tentatively embark on a romance throughout the course of Looking's first season has been like watching two babies trying to walk.

I miss the Richie that Patrick first met on the BART train in the Looking premiere. He was a sexy, confident flirt with a certain live-in-the-moment charm. What happened to that guy? He's the one that Patrick was describing to Agustín at Dom's pop-up. The one we -- and Patrick -- have been saddled with since then is standoffish, self-conscious and judgmental. He doesn't know what he wants any more than Patrick does. In the season-one finale, one moment he was telling Patrick that they were moving too fast, the next he was telling Patrick that he's falling in love with him.

Rather than allowing Patrick a second to process that revelation and respond to it, Richie immediately inserted a caveat: But Patrick isn't ready. Clearly he's not, but the rest of the scene played out like Richie was just clearing an easy exit in order to sidestep possible rejection. Better to blame Patrick's lack of development than to face the possible truth that maybe Patrick doesn't feel the same way yet.

Agustín and Frank

I have a steadfast break-up rule: No matter how tense things are between you and your soon-to-be ex, unless he's done the unforgivable (which wouldn't include anything I saw during Looking's first season), resist the urge to dump him unceremoniously. Yes, break-ups are personal, but there's no need to get too personal with the parting shots. I've done it before, and I've lived to regret it, and I'm sure a few of my exes would say the same.

Frank had every right to cut Agustín loose, but it's not like there wasn't full disclosure regarding what CJ does for a living. His final words -- "You're never going to be an artist, and if you ever do follow through with something, it's going to be mediocre at best.... Leave the key under the mat" -- were not only unnecessarily harsh, they devalued the entire relationship by suggesting that Frank never respected Agustín in the first place (what disrespect!). That makes Frank just as deceitful as Agustín was when he hired $220/hour CJ Hooker to have sex with Frank without telling Frank. (I wonder if part of Frank's umbrage stemmed from his damaged ego: Clearly he was connecting with CJ while CJ was on top of him, but was there an actual connection on CJ's part, or was it just a job?)

Call me crazy. Call me stupid. Say I have a small penis. Say I'm bad in bed. But dismiss me as a mediocre writer, even if it's true, and you've blown your shot at having a civil rapport with me in the future. This may not mean war, but it means that you are forever eliminated from my life, which is tantamount to getting blocked on Facebook.

Patrick and Kevin

I used to know a Kevin in New York City who was just like Kevin on Looking. My Kevin, a pre-med student who was always peppering our conversations with subtle innuendo, was blond and so good looking that he didn't need a British accent. What if he'd had the guts to hand me a beer, look me in the eye, and say, "Do you know how much effort it takes to be around you every day?... It takes all of my willpower not to lunge and kiss the fucking shit out of you, and I can't seem to stop thinking about you, and it's becoming a real fucking problem"? Like Patrick, who tried and failed to resist the Anglo charms of his Kevin, I probably would have thrown up my hands, put them on his ass, and given in, too.

Patrick and Kevin's office sex was everything the first time with someone you've been lusting after for weeks should be - hot, sweet, tentative, kind of awkward -- but why didn't Jonathan Groff (who plays Patrick) take his shirt off to get under fully unclothed Russell Tovey (Kevin)? I thought it was interesting that the show went there with the top/bottom thing because that's one crucial element of gay relationships that's pretty much ignored in TV's depictions of them. Also, I saw no evidence of condom use (as opposed to Sunday's episode of Girls, in which Adam threw the rubber on the floor after pulling out of Hannah).

Poor dumb Patrick, though. I'm pretty sure that for Kevin it was just sex, while Patrick will misinterpret it as more, which to me, is particularly cruel of Kevin and so typical of "partnered" gay men. Yes, Patrick was a consenting adult, but since Kevin is in the position of power professionally, the onus was on him to know better. Getting into a relationship with an underling would be risky enough (and I'd be extremely shocked if Kevin has any intention of dumping his sports doctor beau for Patrick), but willfully engaging in a one-timer with one is not only careless but unprofessional, too. If Patrick were a woman, what would we think of Kevin's actions in the last two episodes?

I wouldn't be surprised if the season-two premiere is called "Looking for a New Job," with Patrick scouring the help-wanted ads in the opening scene. Hopefully, sex with Kevin was worth it.

Dom and Lynn

Though he's saddled with the Looking's C storyline, and he could use a crash course on how to be a better friend (more on that later), for me, Dom might actually be the most compelling and complex of Looking's primary trio of characters. That might have something to do with our closeness in age, which means we have overlapping concerns, but throughout his season-one career arc, his experience with his ex, and his blossoming relationship with Lynn, he's the guy who has shown the most character development. One gets the feeling that he's learning from his mistakes.

I can't help but think that Lynn might end up being another one, though. For a guy in his 50s, Lynn acts a lot like he's still in his 20s. He's a good guy, but he's been playing games with Dom since the moment they met, sending him purposely mixed signals. I could understand why he was upset with Dom after the last episode, but rather than saying nothing was wrong while acting like everything was, he should have just told Dom how he felt. When Dom apologized, Lynn said he had nothing to apologize for. So why was he pouting then, acting like a wounded puppy?

Of course, emotional honesty would have given Lynn away, shown Dom that he really cares. He'd already carefully displayed his lack of caring by showing up late for the pop-up and bringing a hot date, then he proceeded to be curt with both Dom and Doris (Would it have killed Lynn to have a two-minute conversation with Doris rather than trying to brush her off?), which was like something Brenda would have done to Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210. As for Lynn's bearded arm candy, "He's just a friend," always means he isn't or you're trying to make the person you're saying it to jealous.

Lynn was right when he said that he and Dom have no business doing business together. I'm hoping that their kiss (once again instigated by Dom but not resisted by Lynn this time) means we can move past the childish games and get a good season-two romance featuring two grown men who know what they want and are ready to go for it.

The final scene

I feel like such a gay cliche, but I loved that Looking's first season ended with Patrick watching an episode of The Golden Girls while Agustín was passed out beside him. It's my all-time favorite TV show, as much for its portrait of unconditional friendship as for the zingers that keep me laughing 22 years after the series was cancelled as if I'm laughing at them for the first time.

I get that ending the first season with a Golden Dorothy and Blanche moment playing on the soundtrack while the camera focused on the two friends since college was a way to pay homage to a gay TV institution (and the blueprint for subsequent TV shows revolving around a small circle of friends, from Designing Women to Living Single to Sex and the City to Desperate Housewives to Hot in Cleveland to Girls, and probably including Seinfeld and Friends, too) while underscoring the concept of friendship that is the cornerstone of Looking. My only problem with this is that I'm still not convinced by the friendships on Looking. The individual character arcs are too isolated, and Patrick is the only one who strikes me as being a decent friend.

He's self-involved for sure, but not so much so that he can't show up for his best friends. Dom and Agustín  though, are so obsessed with their own internal drama, that it's hard for them to see past it. Does Dom know about anything that's going on in Patrick's life? Did he even notice that Agustín was high and low low low at the pop-up? Does he even realize what a great friend he has in Doris?

Ah, Doris. If I ever go to San Francisco looking for love and/or friendship, I hope I find someone just like her.
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