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How HBO's 'Looking' Went from Boring to Brilliant

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! March 10, 2014 at 2:03PM

"Looking" began like most blind dates: awkwardly. It made introductions and exchanged pleasantries, but it was unsure of itself, and of us. With time, though, it eased up and leaned in close, becoming one of the best new series of the year. [SPOILERS below if you're not up to date.]
Russell Tovey in "Looking"
Russell Tovey in "Looking"

With the season's strong conclusion -- the penultimate episode's bracing triptych of fuck-ups, deftly mirrored by the moving finale's interwoven tales of forgiveness sought, given and withheld -- "Looking" can no longer be considered just a fount of untapped potential. Though I hope Lannan and Haigh shift the series' center of gravity in the future, letting Dom or Agustin steer the ship, for now "Looking" ends where it began: with Patrick.

Seduced by his boss, Kevin (Russell Tovey), into a steamy office dalliance, Patrick finds himself searching once again for the stranger's kiss. "So now what?" he asks. "I don't know, Patrick," Kevin replies gruffly, and as Patrick dresses he discovers the scapular Richie gifted him, tangled in his shirt.

He returns home in a daze to find Richie waiting on his doorstep, but as befits the series' fine, messy naturalism, the news is anything but clear. "I am this close to falling in love with you, but I'm not going to do that to myself, and you're not ready," Richie says. "I don't think you're ready."

With admirably precise detail, "Looking," as its title suggests, illustrates how common it is to mistake sex for intimacy, romance for love, satisfaction for contentment -- blind spots that follow no type. Indeed, it was in the midst of this sequence that I finally stopped worrying if my love of "Looking" was simple identification, a way of seeing myself. We're all just looking for the future, and it promises to be anything but boring.

HBO has picked up "Looking" for a second season, slated to begin production in San Francisco later this year. Season One is available on HBO On Demand and HBO GO.

This article is related to: TV, Reviews, HBO, VOD, Genres, Drama, comedy, Critics, Looking, Television

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.