When HBO decided not to renew its warm, funny, honest, and charming series Looking past Season 2, fans were rightfully devastated. Michael Lannen’s series (often written and directed by the fantastic Andrew Haigh) was a beautiful series about relationships — both of love and friendship — had a unique voice and inclusive appeal, with a focus on the trials and tribulations of three gay men in San Francisco. But you don’t have to be gay — or a man — to love Looking’s storytelling and find something retable in the way it portrayed love gained and lost over the course of its short run.
The series returned, briefly, as a movie to wrap up its story, and it did so pretty perfectly. The framing device of Patrick (Jonathan Groff) returning to San Francisco for Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Eddie’s (Daniel Franzese) wedding gave an excuse to catch up with Dom (Murray Bartlett) and everyone else, and to go to their old haunts. And yet, Looking: The Movie didn’t linger too much on catching up — it didn’t have time to. But it did spend a lot of time on Patrick’s personal journey and what he learned (or hasn’t) since moving back to Denver. That came at the expense of more time with Dom and Agustin (which may irritate some fans), but the truth is that Looking has always been Patrick’s story, so it’s fitting that the finale was his, too.
A refrain oft repeated during the movie was, “maybe it doesn’t work out, but at least we tried.” Agustin said it to Patrick before the wedding, and Eddie repeated it later. Kevin (Russell Tovey) said the opposite to Patrick — that the point was Patrick didn’t try — and Patrick said it to Richie (Raul Castillo) after their heart-to-heart about their future. In some ways it was a reflection of the show itself. After two short seasons and a wrap-up movie, Looking tried to find an audience. But it didn’t work out.
Sometimes that’s ok, like in the case of Agustin and Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), who remained friends. But when Patrick tried that with (a newly blonde!) Kevin, on the advice of his one-night stand, it wasn’t the same. But those moments when the two met — Kevin casually negging him with “you didn’t have to dress up,” and later — were filled to the brim with genuine emotion. The relationship was done, and yet, feelings lingered. Though Patrick, who has become exceptionally grounded and confident since we last saw him, knew that the trust Kevin broke between them was too much to overcome, Kevin still tempted him slightly by telling him he loved him, and calling him out for not trying to make it work.
But Patrick’s heart was elsewhere, and probably always was. Looking paced Patrick and Richie’s reunion very well, starting with their casual catching up, to the two of them lingering and talking together, and always being drawn to the other one when the group meets up. Patrick makes an effort with Brady (Chris Perfetti) but Brady sees the writing on the wall. When Richie left with Brady but then came back for Patrick in a moment when Patrick was alone in a room full of lovers, it was a beautiful moment.
The aftermath brought things back down to Earth though, with Richie saying he was ready to leave San Francisco just when Patrick is considering staying. Richie seeming to capitulate, ultimately, into staying in San Francisco to be with Patrick (and Patrick ready to move there) was a little disappointing, just because it felt like Richie making yet another sacrifice to be with Patrick. And yet, as the show clearly set up in this finale, California is home now for them because of this group of friends.
The finale gave some closure with the Agustin and Eddie’s wedding (and their mutual freakout, though at different times and about different things — and Patrick’s advice in that moment shows a lot of growth for him), as well as Doris (Lauren Weedman) looking to have a baby (it also showed that Dom and Doris were back in a pretty good place). The hookup between Dom and Patrick felt a little overboard, but at the same time, Patrick trying to rationalize why they might make a good couple while there were both high was such a real moment, especially after they kissed and Dom said it was like kissing a brother. When single, haven’t you ever gone through your mental rolodex of friends and thought, “was there something I missed?”
Patrick still has a ways to go, but he’s trying, and Looking leaves him in a more secure and confident place than we’ve ever seen him. (Speaking of which, the conversations had with his one night stand were some of the most casually honest and raw and best of the series). He’s always been a character that’s both endlessly frustrating and relatable, but Looking ultimately set him and his friends on positive paths. You can choose to believe they all lived happily after ever, or that the couples (some of all) broke up, and moved on. But as far as we were able to see, Dom was looking for love and found success in his business, and pivoted his feelings and energy towards it. Agustin was looking for trouble and found the most stable relationship of his life. Patrick has always been looking to find himself, and to accept himself, and to do that before he could be in a relationship that went the distance. He was ready with Kevin, but Kevin wasn’t. And now, in a full circle, he found his way back to Richie, who always accepted him as exactly who he was.
It’s all that fans could have asked for — except for more episodes, of course. Saying goodbye to this group is exceptionally hard. The finale was ambiguous in some ways, even though it concluded, in that moment, in a good place. It will always be about searching. But for those of us looking for a happy ending, we got it. And thank goodness, because we needed it.