When Looking debuted last year, viewers (and some critics) didn’t quite know what to make of it. It was in a comedy bloc on HBO, and it was in a half-hour format running with Girls. So it was comedy, right? The gay-men version of Girls?
But Looking was neither of these things, nor was it intended to be. Show creator Michael Lannan, and showrunner Andrew Haigh instead made a series that wasn’t a comedy or a drama, but simply a meditation on the lives of three gay friends in San Francisco that never feels niche. Hit the jump for how Looking has changed a little for its second season, but still remains beautifully slow and authentic.
Looking‘s second season picks up more or less where Season One ended. Or the themes, anyway, are the same. Patrick (Jonathan Groff) is still sweet, naive, and completely dorky. Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) is reeling from his breakup with Frank, and turning to booze and drugs to help him cope. Dom (Murray Bartlett) is settling down into a relationship (albeit an open one) with Lynn (Scott Bakula), and still dreaming about opening up his specialty restaurant.
Looking‘s first episode back touches on all of these things, even providing a meta, visual comment on criticism about its “prudish” first season (as in, expect some graphic sex). When the men travel to Lynn’s cabin for some friendship bonding time, Patrick would rather play Parcheesi than go to a gay rave in the woods. But go they do, thanks to the advent of Doris (Lauren Weedman), and each of the men have a sexual (or nearly sexual) encounter that reveals something important to them about themselves, and also charts a course for each of them that plays out throughout the new season.
But the show’s strength still comes, ultimately, from the natural, warm, and intimate way it portrays friendship, and the honesty that comes with that level of closeness. Patrick, Agustin, and Dom are three very different individuals, but they are able to be fully supportive of one another, while also feeling comfortable with the strength of their bonds to be honest, even when it hurts.
It is good-boy Patrick who finds himself in the most compromising situation this season, though, as he has an affair with his boss Kevin (Russell Tovey). Patrick’s neuroses, hypochondria, and justifications reach an all-new fever pitch in the first few episodes, but Groff has an amazing way about him that makes Patrick still charming, even through his self-interest and litany of avoidable mistakes.
But fans will be glad to hear that Patrick’s first season boyfriend, Richie (Raul Castillo) is not gone nor forgotten, as the two attempt to strike up a friendship. New characters, too, show a lot of promise, like Agustin’s HIV-positive friend (and love interest) Eddie (Daniel Franzese), as well as Doris’s own love interest, Malik (Bashir Salahuddin). Love is always in the conversation in Looking, and how the show deals with both the giddy and raw emotions surrounding it is refreshing.
Refreshing, actually, is the perfect word to describe the series. It gives a perspective on gay life that is not found almost anywhere else on television, and the show does so with incredible style (although, personally, I am missing Season One’s cinematographer Reed Morano). Looking is not easy to define, except perhaps to say that it is a series of vignettes about love, friendship, and life in one’s 30s. Though the men of Looking struggle to understand themselves, watching them do so is no struggle. It is, in fact, an unhurried pleasure.
Looking returns Sunday, January 11th at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.