For all couples entering those initial heady stages of a blossoming romance, once the cavalcade of non-stop shagging and doe-eyed pillow talk ceases, the next phase is the all-important meeting of the in-laws. Sticking to the natural progression of Patrick and Kevin’s relationship, Looking now endeavors to explore their experiences during that pivotal event. Typically a rather mundane story development in any drama – well for this author, anyway – the acceptance of Patrick’s new beau by his mother is quickly over with. Thank goodness, because the last thing we need is another episode entirely dedicated to Patrick’s introspection.
Let’s back up, though. If there’s one thing the Doris spinoff episode imparted, it’s that everything since has paled in comparison. Much like an upcoming band would never want to follow the headliner, that notion is spun on its head as the show’s core component has been blown off stage by Lauren Weedman’s far more interesting sidekick. Weeks have passed wherein the show has strived to inject dynamism where there isn’t any, and compulsion into a snail-pace story. Is the choice to smooth over the fact that Patty’s mom digs Kevin a good idea? Of course! Because in this trade off, we instead we get to hear about her marital struggles.
Thus far on the season (and to be fair, the entire series), creator Andrew Haigh has delivered us week after week of unceremonious “real life” episodes, hankering to his penchant for naturalistic lighting, true locations and an overarching story that borrows from the sluggish reality of our day-to-day lives. The only problem in adopting this strategy is that the show’s loyalty to being a true representation of San Franciscan gay life anchors it in never-ending tedium. The ‘novelty’ of the show’s subjects doesn’t work because they’re hardly together.
This week, the trio are split once more, and left to fend for themselves in the vast, drab world of Haigh’s making. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of well-executed moments, fun stabs of dialogue and compelling sequences in the season, but they are heavily outweighed by material that’s just not enough. Where the season blasted open with the gang’s trip up to Russian River, that promise has now petered out. The few spikes of energy now emerge from supporting characters whose adventures we glimpse momentarily, wishing they would stay longer and not abandon us for their off-screen lives.
So, what does this week’s episode bring? As mentioned above, Patrick and Kevin are gearing up for a parental introduction, and dally with the possibility of moving in together. Over that same period, Patrick’s sister Megan arrives on the scene, who, together with their mother provide the only substantial female characters the series has seen besides Doris. It’s a shame that his belligerent sister behaves like a tyrannical mood hoover, sucking up any joy from Patrick’s mini-reunion with his family. Still, it’s a driving factor in forcing him to consider his future with Kevin as Megan’s husband is best friends with Kevin’s former boyfriend John.
What’s more frustrating is the bombshell his mom drops on the pair; revealing that she’s been having an affair and is eyeing up a divorce from their father. On one hand, it’s a switch up for another character to step into the spotlight and air their concerns. But really, her purpose in the episode is just a catalyst for pushing forward Patrick’s next move. She unburdens herself and has a heart-to-heart with her son that causes him to have a “Eureka!” moment. All the while, she emerges as a well-drawn, likeable and very, very interesting character, who I wish had meatier material to deal with before she’s ushered off into a cab perhaps never to be seen again.
Unsurprisingly, it’s Doris and Dom who counteract the obvious story turns, by navigating through their own friendship strife. An argument over ‘chicken window’ funding escalates; they stop talking; Malik smoothes things over… and they have an honest talk about the roles they play for one another. “We’re a co-dependent mess,” Doris tells her life-long friend, “A fag and his hag.” Quick to apply that label, it’s almost as if by getting in first with that assessment, the show will avoid the same tagging by audiences.
To be honest, their friendship is just a friendship like any other – regardless of their sexual orientation. What the pair decide after their chat is pretty damn heartbreaking. To summarize: the show’s most watchable duo plan to distance themselves from one another, while the show’s most mundane round out the episode by agreeing to move in together. With one episode remaining of Looking season 2, there’s not a lot of time left to turn things around.