After some reflection, I’ve decided this episode of Looking is the best so far. Written and directed by Andrew Haigh, part of the show’s creative team and director of the indie hit Weekend, this episode was by far the series’ most light, raw and realistic offering and it felt most like Haigh’s signature flick. The plot of the episode was simple: Patrick calls in sick to work to hang out and have a full-day date with Richie, who he has been hanging out with lately. What made the episode really work was that it stuck with one set of characters for the whole episode and let us finally get to know them, for better or for worse. The episode could exist as a stand-alone short film, and I didn't find myself missing other characters like Dom, Frank, Doris or Augustin (especially Augustin).
When gay men connect and get to know each other, romantically or casually, there are a set of questions that inevitably come up in conversation. Over the course of a romantic San Fran day date, Patrick and Richie manage to cover many of them: When was the first time you had sex with a guy? What do your parents think of your gayness? What do you think about gay marriage and kids? While the insight here isn’t revelatory, it does give us a better understanding of Patrick and Richie. Patrick comes from a very middle-class background, and his parents are mostly okay with his sexuality, but he’s shockingly apologetic about it and not very open to sharing his life with his family. He could be into having kids, and the first time he had sex was an awkward backseat-of-the-bus handjob when he was a fat teenager. Richie admits that his family is less than thrilled by his sexuality and that he, too, used to be a fat kid. The pair bond because at this point any similarity helps.
Ross, Rachel and other sexual awkwardness
This episode manages to be the sexiest of the bunch as well. The opening sex scene between Patrick and Richie maintains a claustrophobic intimacy and sensuality the show has struggled to capture with its sexual content. And finally we see Patrick’s bum, but, of course, Patrick ruins the vibe with talking, premature ejaculation and his hang-up about being rimmed (really? at his age?), but it’s the hottest interaction we’ve seen. When Richie cheekily serenades Patrick with a Spanish-language song in the morning, cradling his bass guitar nude, it’s the show’s most charmingly erotic moment. Aside from his sex appeal, Richie is definitely the best character this show has. He’s cool, calm, collected and full of life experience and words of wisdom, and it’s hard for me to believe he’d put up with Patrick’s smug wankery. Richie’s quick takedown of Patrick’s slut shaming, AIDS panic and ignorance of sero-opposite relationships is beautiful to watch. Richie never seems to be preaching but always has the right way to call Patrick out about his hang-ups. The sequence where Richie casually brings up top-and-bottom dynamics with Patrick using Rachel and Ross from Friends as the foil is pretty hilarious and will likely make me never see that show the same way again. When the topic of bottom shame comes up, Richie asks the best question, along the lines of “Do you think your mother would be disappointed that you were bottom?” Many young guys have issues about masculinity and sexual positions, and I actually found this moment a joy to watch as Patrick realizes the depth of his sexual baggage.
Cultural differences and stuff or whatever
Richie’s cultural roots come up again in this episode in a few different ways, and again Patrick’s response is pretty dismissive and off-putting. Richie talks about his traditions and the fact that he occasionally sees a fortune teller. Patrick prods him with questions that seem pretty judgmental, but ultimately, he agrees to go to the fortune teller with Richie. When they get there, they realize the experience can be done only in Spanish, and Patrick whines that he’s uncomfortable with Richie playing translator for him, as he would apparently hear all the bad things about him first. It’s really sad how generally constipated Patrick is as a character. We know he is trying, but I’m almost jealous that someone as casually put together as Richie has the patience to deal with a naive man-child like Patrick. The episode ends with Patrick’s very vanilla admission that one day, but not today, Richie can fuck him. I can only wonder how long Richie’s patience will endure.