The sophomore season of HBO’s Looking has a lot riding on its success. Last year’s first season opened to a chilly reception due to its naturalistic aesthetic and slow-burning character development. It took a few episodes to crank up the dynamic, until eventually earning the critical acclaim it rightly deserves. With only eight half-hour episodes under its belt, it impressed by painting a detailed picture of its main leading trio albeit to the detriment of a fast-paced storyline. Undoubtedly season one gained momentum towards the end by assembling a solid core of theme, story and performance with a big dash of soap opera dramatics. The biggest query for season two is: will series creator Michael Lannan continue to chart their tale with a mightier punch?
For a show that concerns itself with modern day San Francisco living for three gay men, the season opener wipes the slate clean by veering away from the familiarity of the city. Instead, we find Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) hitting the road for a weekend with Dom (Murray Bartlett) at his new boyfriend Lynn’s country retreat. Swapping out Lannan’s fresh depiction of a real San Francisco – bye bye, painted ladies – for the calm of SF getaway Russian River works as a great catalyst to elicit new perspectives on the boys. Again, the main focus is on Groff’s idealistic romantic Patrick, whose arc last season involved a relationship with brooding Latino hairdresser, Richie, and his out-of-bounds English boss, Kevin. The scenery might have changed but the game remains the same for the doe-eyed video game designer. Where his ultimate goal is to embark on a relationship that lasts for more than a few months, his struggle continues to be weighed down by the love vs. sex debate. Richie offered him a chance at a long-lasting union. Yet their relationship crumbled due to Patrick’s wandering gaze toward Kevin.
For all three, the obstacles blocking their path to true happiness stem from the same origin – immediacy. In spite of the show’s appeal to its key demographic – the gay community – there’s still plenty on offer to anyone with a pulse based on this sole idea. No-one has the answer to combating the now-now-now urges of the digital age, where sexual fulfilment is but a few smart phone swipes away. Even out in the sticks, a perfect location to exploit Patrick’s desire to be more ‘at one’ with nature that’s hilariously mocked by his peers, there’s no distraction from the same carnal trappings of the city. At this point the show is threatened by aimless wandering in the hopes of stumbling across a worthwhile plot development (that the first act of season one suffered from), so this new direction holds great promise for the future of the season.