After the first criminally boring episode and second totally asinine episode, this one is by far the best of the bunch and probably should have been where we started out with these characters. There may be hope yet for Looking; the second episode gained viewers over the premiere and even beat out Girls by a few hundred thousand viewers. That being said, better than bad isn't enough to make this show a must-see yet.
Mancunt at work
This episode starts off with Patrick and his “I always need to point out I am an Asian guy by saying I'm Asian” work friend celebrating their company's newest video-game release on a giant ship full of seamen, much to Patrick's delight. There they interact with an outgoing, scruffy, British guy while discussing how women are an often-ignored demographic for video games and gay men's predilection for identifying with female characters in video games, as they represent the outsider in the medium.
Patrick earns points for hitting on an interesting aspect of video-game culture but ruins it because, of course, he immediately makes fun of the Brit, obsesses over him, points out that he has a “really gay laugh,” then bets his friend $1,000 that the guy is gay before rushing off drunkenly to find out. Somewhere in the bowels of the ship he finds Kevin, the Brit, alone, playing their newest game and quizzes him to find out if he's gay before awkwardly insinuating they should hook up. I adore watching any character put the smug Patrick in his place, and Kevin quickly points out that he actually has a boyfriend and that, starting the next day, he will be Patrick's boss.
Kevin eventually teases Patrick during his kiss-ass apology at the office and then criticizes Patrick's working habits by pointing out his internet use of Manhunt (accidentally calling it Mancunt) and OkCupid on company time. Poor misguided Patrick insists “he's not that kind of guy,” giving us yet another self-hating statement that proves how conflicted he is about his harmless behaviour when it comes to sex and dating, not to mention his perpetual worry about how he is being perceived.
Kevin, played by the dead-sexy openly gay Russell Tovey, is a welcome addition to the cast and may be a grounded voice of reason for Patrick, because his friends just aren't.
When in doubt, mystery hustler
My least favourite scruffy wanker, Augustin, loses his job this episode after telling his boss that her art is shitty. She deliciously digs into him for not being in a position to judge because he doesn't even bother to make work before cutting him loose. He waxes poetically about being a phony wanna-be artist before heading to a coffee shop to sulk.
What comes next wins the award for Most Ridiculous Stupid Moment Yet for Looking. Augustin is sitting and sighing when the guy next to him quizzes him about having a bad day. When Augustin points out that he has lost his job, this bearded stranger, with no qualms, points out that he is a hustler, reveals how much he makes, discusses how totally unashamed he is about telling strangers about his sex-work career, gives Augustin his new printed hustler business card and suggests he consider a career change.
Augustin is so mystified by the interaction he spends the rest of the episode silently pondering the idea and cradling the business card like it is a magic bean. I do not look forward to the development of this story line because a show that doesn't understand sex is not going to have anything interesting to say about sex work. Already the topic is a ridiculous cartoon, and I don't buy one minute of it.
Dom, newly empowered by telling off his ex, announces he is going to try to open a restaurant and spends the episode trying to get the ball rolling but doesn't make much headway. Looking to get head as a distraction, he heads to the bathhouse for a little fun.
Surprise, surprise, it's a relatively unsexy, boring trip, but it does yield a great dialogue scene between Dom and local business owner Lynn, played by a shirtless, sweaty Scott Bakula. The pair have a friendly conversation wherein Lynn mentions that bathhouses used to offer food, music and a community atmosphere. It's a great idea to remind the younger generation that sex and a sense of friendly camaraderie used to go hand in hand, but it doesn't really get fleshed out.
Before the pair can continue their chat, a sexy random eye-fucks Dom, and so off he must go. Before he exits, he tells Lynn they should go out for dinner and hang out sometime in what must constitute the weirdest way to ask somebody for a friend hangout ever. Dom would love to get to know Lynn, but he's got to run off and have some impersonal sex with the first person who walks by rather than continue a conversation.
Something tells me Dom missed the point Lynn was trying to make. IMDb says Scott is in only one episode, so I guess that's the end of the intergenerational insight we'll get. It seems to be indicative of the way this show likes to handle its subject material: tease us with substance and dramatic potential, then just dismiss it.
Matt Thomas reviews Looking every Monday on Daily Xtra.