After Looking’s season 2 premiere took a heavy-handed approach to pleasure over intimacy, the second episode dials it back a notch. Patrick’s emotional response steers much of the action, and so “Looking For Results” duly responds to the aftermath of having your cake and eating it. It might sound yawn-worthy, but it’s a fair assessment to say that diving into the “let’s analyze!” aspect of their affair doesn’t offer the same watchability as an impromptu shag against a tree from the season premiere. The consequences of his actions, however, cannot go without discussion.
Back to San Francisco after the trio’s sex-fuelled shenanigans in Russian River, Patrick’s doe-eyed routine opens the half-hour as he and Kevin laze in a sun-dappled hotel bedroom. Their afternoon of teasing one another with intimate details from their respective pasts is a tender moment that suggests there’s more to this couple than sex. But the result of their illicit affair weighs heavily on them both. Patrick in particular becomes convinced that a small patchy rash on his stomach means he has contracted an AIDS-related disease. Was it a bit obvious to have his immediate thought be focused on AIDS? Or was it a keen observation that this is still a very real concern? The jury’s still out for me on that one, but as ever Jonathan Groff captures Patty’s frantic worrying without being whiny.
On the flipside of the pleasure coin, Agustin’s descent into post-relationship chaos hits a new low. Unable to function like a coherent adult, he winds up high as a kite dancing the night away at a bear club, trying to track down his new friend from the last episode. The free-spirited, don’t-give-a-shit member of the gang who finds the answer in a bottle or a tab to the tongue, Agustin’s routine of getting fucked up doesn’t end well.
Bringing Patrick’s ex, the lovely hairdresser Richie, back into the fold as the chap who discovers Agustin asleep with a half-eaten tray of pupusas on his lap is a welcome reminder of that dangling plot thread. Whether or not Patrick would kick things off again with Richie or continue seeing Kevin was a large part of the show’s pre-season marketing campaign. Largely ignored in episode one, his appearance as Agustin’s knight in shining armour stokes that fire for Patrick after his health scare. Arguably the safer bet for his romantic future, there’s alas nothing more appealing to him than forbidden fruit. His decision to venture down the path of most resistance only adds further weight to his own self-imposed struggles. And that’s the rub with Looking, which makes its leading character so heavily dependent on his flaws that it’s impossible to imagine anything working out smoothly for him.
The best segment in the episode comes during a dinner between the three, when Patrick spills his guts about the affair and the trio take off to investigate Dom’s potential food vending set-up. The group camaraderie brings out the best, or truest parts, of the characters to life. They’re at their most fun, honest and raw when opposing each other’s life decisions. Dom spews wise cracks to Patrick’s painfully earnest aphorisms. Agustin shouts out Patrick’s biggest secret – that he’s schtooping the boss – to a street vagrant. Patrick and Agustin hold nothing back when Dom tells them his new sidewalk serving hatch is gonna set him back $80,000. While the episode meanders around Patrick and Kevin’s interactions a little too long, when it reaches the boys all together, the pace quickens and the show livens up considerably.
But this isn’t a fast-paced actioner. It’s a humble exploration of modern gay life in San Francisco, that honours its leading character to a fault, while leaving only a few scraps for those in the wings. Along with Agustin and Dom, Doris is given a brief moment as they descend on a bar for the evening, where again most of the chat orbits around Kevin. It’s a slower step into a season that started off with a bang. That premiere episode, a reactionary response to first season critics who bashed the Looking for being too slow, pushed forward the story and threw in some eye-catching visuals. “Looking For Results” feels like a return to the snail’s pace of its first stream of episodes, with plenty of character development but not enough excitement.