The article below -- part of a series of recaps for the new HBO series "Looking" -- contains spoilers for "Looking At The Future" -- the February 16th episode.
For many folks waiting for that episode that often happens mid-way through the first season of a series where promise turns into greatness, that episode came last night for "Looking." The entire episode -- entitled suggestively "Looking At The Future" -- is devoted to protagonist Patrick and his love interest Richie over the course of one day they spend together. Patrick had met Richie on a bus in the pilot before going on to offend him with his racist assumption that he's uncut (because he's Latino) when they get into bed. But Patrick pseudo-apologized to Richie at the end of the last episode, which seemingly worked as they are now a few sleepovers into a budding relationship.
People will be quick to note that it feels temporally and thematically a lot like "Weekend," the film written and directed by Andrew Haigh -- the producer of "Looking" and the man who just so happened to write and direct this episode. But Haigh was very clever to inject this structure at this point in the series, and it works in an entirely effective way that feels unique to Haigh's breakout film. Unlike any film, this episode takes place 4 half-hours into a season of television series. We've gotten a chance to know these characters, and it feels for the viewer very much like how Patrick and Richie are questioning each other in the episode. We've gone a few dates with "Looking," and we weren't quite sure whether this was a long-term thing. But by allowing us to get so intimate with Patrick in particular, Haigh is giving folks that stayed invested in the first 4 episodes a serious pay off.
Patrick -- played perfectly by Jonathan Groff in this episode -- is after all the central character of "Looking." He's their Hannah Horvath or their Carrie Bradsaw, if you will. But up until now, we've just not felt like we've known him very well, which reduces our investment in "Looking." Which is what happens four episodes into a half hour series, especially one that occasionally feels like it should be a full hour. But "Looking For The Future" fleshes out Patrick so strongly through his interactions with Richie that the series seems to have achieved a considerable new level of development.
Here's a few things in particular we learned about Patrick last night:
His first time with a guy was on the bus home from computer camp. Or at least, his first sexual experience with a guy. When he was 15 years old on the way back from, yes, a computer camp in Salt Lake City, Patrick sat next to a "real stud" on the bus who takes Patrick's hand and gets him to jerk off his hard (and "enormous") cock. The stud cums in Patrick's hand, but that was suggestively the end of the affair. Patrick is unaware of whether his bus buddy ended up gay or straight, and was just happy that it happened in Utah and not his "home state of Denver," because it made him feel less ashamed for some reason. Though he tells Richie the story with a comic bent, it seems reasonable to imagine the experience was a bit more traumatizing than Patrick likes to remember.
He's sincerely (and rather adorably) a nerd. We kind of already knew this given he's, well, a video game developer, but this episode took it further. When Patrick finds out the diner he and Richie have breakfast at have cards from "The Goonies," he freaks right out and gives various impressions of "Goonies" characters, quite publicly, even though Richie clearly has no idea what he's talking about. It's a very unaffected state for Patrick, and one that is also his most endearing.
He was a fat kid. As I totally called in the last recap of "Looking," Patrick's body issues (he was ashamed to showoff his... incredible body at the Folsom Street Fair) had to be derived from him being fat at some point in his adolescence. Or "seriously chunky," as he calls it when he tells Richie about his first experience on the bus. Explains a lot.
He's a mild narcissist. Mild narcissism is fairly standard for any 29 year old in 2014, but "Looking" makes it all the more clear with regard to Patrick through the consistent way he only seems interested in conversations when they are about him (maybe he really is like Carrie Bradshaw and Hannah Horvath after all). Richie starts to explain him a Mexican tradition where a woman will rub eggs on your body and crack them into a bowl, reading the yolks to see if there's trouble ahead. Patrick doesn't take it seriously, condescendingly cracking rich white person jokes ("is she making a frittata?" "do the eggs have to be organic?"), until, of course, it becomes about what whether Richie has found out anything about their relationship via the eggs (he hasn't). Richie decides to take Patrick to experience it for himself, and all of a sudden its something he takes it very seriously. "What if she says something terrible like I'm a bad person," he says, freaking out. That this is Patrick's apparent worst fear makes it known he's aware of the various things -- perhaps the significant racist tendencies on display in his interaction with Richie? -- that might make him a bad person.