If there’s one point that bears repeating with Andrew Haigh’s San Franciscan series, Looking, it’s that the variety of situations the show explores is at times, limited. Understandably, this is not a sitcom. It’s a naturalistic slice o’life drama and by definition, everyday life (sadly) isn’t normally fuelled by high-action stakes that demand the suspension of disbelief. The sometimes-repetitious feeling permeating the first five episodes owe a lot to the same sense of history repeating itself that real life offers. Still – this is television!
As luck would have it, the pace picks back up this week, bringing it in line with the excitement hinted at in the season premiere. Halloween marks the occasion for the lads, who strap on the costumes for a party at Patrick and Agustin’s apartment. Spearheaded by the former, it’s the perfect opportunity for the skeletons in his closet to get a good airing. And they certainly do.
Before anyone takes a sip, the separate strands of the story are established. Off to the side are Dom and Doris, who are faced with the nature of their evolving friendship in light of Doris’ new boyfriend, Malik. Dom’s suggestion that they unite for a double-costume ensemble winds up with him donning a He-Man outfit, a moment that Doris uses to amusingly describe him as “a mentally-ill Barbie doll.” The light-hearted moment continues with Agustin and new beau, Eddie, as they carve pumpkins and toy with the idea of spending the night together. As before, their relationship is corralled as a sidebar of sorts, a mere set dressing to allow for witty banter at the coming party.
And so, to the party itself. But first, a quick recap of Patrick’s emotional landscape. Last week’s episode contained sweet throwback moments between Patty and Richie – a reminder of their season one first date. As the former couple traded the San Francisco bay for Richie’s old neighborhood, the time seemed ideal for them to rekindle their romance. Especially after Kevin had failed to break up with his long-term boyfriend, John. The prospect of any hook-up whatsoever for Patrick is all but forgotten with the onset of alcohol.
The whole purpose of the boozy bash seems designed entirely to permit Patrick the chance to air his grievances with the world. With all of his former love interests under one roof, the situation is ripe with expectation: will he reunite with Kevin, or Richie? As it turns out, he does nothing with either, as they both attend with their respective partners in tow. But judging by his bratty behavior, it’s unlikely anyone would want to even have a conversation with him nevermind a breezy fumble.
While Patrick’s drunken antics transform him into someone who’s rather unlikeable, his behavior does provide one of the season’s most entertaining scenes. Upset that no-one likes his playlist, signs up for karaoke or recognizes his super-geeky outfit, he silences the crowd and issues a ranty, self-involved soliloquy that offends most people in the room. It’s an effective plot gimmick that broadcasts a ton of bothersome dynamics that have thus far prevented the show from becoming a soap opera. With everything out in the open, he succeeds in bad-mouthing all of his friends while nearly ruining Kevin’s relationship by outing their affair.
Again, it’s a fun scene to see play out – but at what cost? The repercussions of his outburst seem to risk the chance of a future with anyone. After he spots Richie and Brady cuddling up on the dancefloor, he half-heartedly resigns himself to one of Eddie’s friends who had eagerly pursued Patrick all night. Thankfully, the guy acknowledges his own self-worth and tells him to push off. Will the young video game designer ever learn about karma? Or does his inflated ego offer him the misguided belief that he can treat people however he likes and still get what he wants?
If anything, “Looking For Gordon Freeman” confirms the notion that for television to grip viewers, sometimes characters end up behaving like dicks. It’s a shame to witness Patrick airing his emotional dirty laundry – and in public, no less – because it simply makes it harder for us to care about him.