It’s taken a good long while for Looking season 2 to step up the drama, mainly due to the show’s slow, unraveling pace. Three episodes down, however, and we’re greeted with a smidgen of compelling content akin to the end of season 1. Let’s not forget, though; this isn’t a half-hour updated version of the razzle-dazzle Queer As Folk, that carnival of gay tropes packaged for popular consumption. Looking has never clung to those same mainstream aspirations, so, it might be unfair to judge it based on the idea of ‘how fast does the plot move?’ because it’s not an action-packed soap opera. But it’s still a welcome change when events switch up a gear.
At last, the emotional implications of Patrick and Kevin’s affair are addressed in this fourth episode. Up until this point, the pair have kept up their relationship via hushed hotel stays and carefully-planned trysts, without ever truly weighing up the repercussions. But a happy shag and a fumble behind the bleachers could only power them through for so long. Coasting on the fumes of those early honeymoon days has now brought them to a point of reckoning; will Kevin tell his long-term boyfriend, or will Patrick walk away?
The answer to that question arrives at the end of the episode, which, for the most part tackles the varying stages of Patrick, Agustin and Dom’s respective relationships with gusto. Stepping further into a sort-of romantic relationship with the quippy shelter worker Eddie, Agustin’s journey from gutter drunk to contributing member of society picks up the pace. As per usual, he introduces the episode’s best prop early on with his “I Heart Anal” mug, before heading to work with Eddie.
An artist first and foremost, his earlier ambitions – dashed by his former boyfriend – are thrown by the wayside when he opts to take a job at the shelter. There’s only a few scant scenes where we’re able to get an idea of the pair’s relationship and whether or not that’s something to be explored more in the future. Based solely on Eddie’s attitude and social mores, he seems to be a grounded, funny guy who would likely do Agustin a lot of good. Much like Dom’s bestie, Doris, Eddie’s quick snatches of comedy bring an air of levity to the show. More of these two, please.
The crux of the story revolves around Patrick and Kevin and Dom and Lyn. The former duo open the episode in domestic bliss, until Patty brings up the matter of Kevin’s boyfriend John. How they’ve avoided even discussing this beforehand is crackers. Especially considering Patrick’s guilty and over-anxious nature. Another product of the show’s slow-burning nature is that there’s no definite sense of passing time so it’s anybody’s guess how long they’ve been at it. As Kevin confesses that their situation isn’t making him happy he vows to “sort it.”
Meanwhile, Patrick pops off to meet his ex-Richie for a casual catch-up. Of course, anyone who’s dated anyone (i.e. most people) knows that meeting an ex to ‘catch up’ is code for finding out if they’re over you or dating anybody new. Inevitably, their banter is ripe with subtext concerning loyalty. They chat amiably until Richie delivers a real stinger to Patrick, who states he’ll never get his haircut by anyone else. “You have a stylist,” the barber says, “Stay loyal to him.”
While there might have been a hint at their potential future, both reveal to the other that they’re dating new people. A second sting for Patrick, who later meets Richie’s new beau and struggles to mask his uncomfortable reaction. Still, his chat with Richie prompts him to confront Kevin about their future. “We’re stealing from your life with John,” he says, feeling guilt over fantasies about a life together. At last, Kevin responds by saying he wants the same life and will talk to his partner… which doesn’t happen. In fact, his inaction causes Patrick to storm out of a bar, leaving the Brit alone to decide what his next move is. It was always going to happen, and now that it finally has, it’ll be intriguing to see whether or not Patrick remains firm on his feelings or caves to Kevin’s charms.
Similarly for Dom, the matter of being happy with one’s lot in life arises for him. His open relationship with Lyn is tested from the opposite end of the spectrum. When Dom pays him an unexpected visit and finds the much younger Matthew in the jacuzzi with Lyn, the realization finally hits him; they will never be more than what they are now. A truth which Lyn confirms later on – their current situation of sexual freedom and no-ties means Dom cannot plan for a future. It’s a decision that both Dom and Patrick are having to comprehend. Do you stay with someone who wants a different life, sacrificing your own happiness to be with the person you love? Or do you leave? For both it seems like there is no option but the latter. For Looking, this might mark a return to the spikier themes of season 1.