What a relief "Looking" is getting another season. Because while "Looking Glass" satisfyingly hints at where Patrick, Dom and Agustin's lives might be going, nothing feels totally finished. Every episode of "Looking" has followed much the same pattern, with forward-leaning final scenes pushing viewers toward what's next. What an apt way to close out the season, especially given how often characters in "Looking" keep scanning for the future as well.
What an apt episode name too, with its clear allusion to "Alice in Wonderland." Lewis Carroll's young protagonist wanders through an unfamiliar world, lost and lonely. Eventually, she figures out her own identity, casts off her fantasy world and returns to reality. Then, six months later, she ends up in a slightly askew version of where she started. That's essentially what happens to Patrick over the course of eight episodes.
At the start of "Looking Glass," Patrick tries to atone for pushing Richie away. He heads to Richie's turf, tracks him down at the barber shop and tries to apologize. Richie isn't having it and asks for some space. The camera stays on Patrick's face as he figures out how badly he has screwed up. That he has lost Richie seems unthinkable.
Kevin goes through a pretty similar realization. Patrick makes every effort to keep his distance after rejecting his boss' advance, a point driven home by the isolating long-shot of the pair on the roof. But Kevin is determined to find some closure after his inappropriate drunken kiss, and he's incredibly awkward about it. Both he and Patrick try to act like things are normal, so much so that Patrick won't even let him apologize. "You really don't need to say anything," Patrick says, apparently having not learned anything about the price of silence from Agustin's downfall.
But Kevin's suppressed thoughts eventually come out in "Looking Glass" — as do nearly everyone else's. Richie finally voices things to Patrick he'd been leaving unsaid. Doris speaks her mind to Lynn, and so does Dom. Agustin and Frank have it out in an ugly, painful confrontation. After spending last week with Patrick's constant monologuing, he's uncharacteristically quiet during "Looking Glass." Instead, his actions (and Jonathan Groff's expressive face) do most of the talking. Dom and Agustin finally get a bigger share of the spotlight.
Which actually makes for compelling television. After weeks of masking his feelings by pointing fingers, Agustin finally names his sin, admitting that paying CJ and lying to his boyfriend were wrong in every way. Last week, Agustin seemed to regret the inevitable fallout of his decisions more than the decisions themselves. But once he is faced with the possibility of losing Frank, he seems to be contrite.
Too bad Frank doesn't want to here it. In an argument that's painful to watch, he cuts Agustin deep, rubbing salt into every wound. "You don't know what you've been, because you don't know who the [f--k] you are," Frank says. What a perfect summation of an artist who doesn't make art and a boyfriend who made a commitment without really committing.
Whether Agustin truly understands what Frank means is dubious. Rather than deal with his issues, he tears down the unicorn painting that was a clear symbol of Frank's support for him and gets high. At Dom's pop-up, he begs a concerned Patrick to let him go back to the good ol' days before boyfriends and complications. (Who knew Agustin was so co-dependent?) That Patrick hedges on an answer to Agustin's request shows how much Patrick thinks he has grown and how much Agustin clearly hasn't.
It looks like Dom has matured too. Hours before Dom's peri-peri pop-up debut, Lynn is nowhere to be found. But his presence certainly is. Lynn's flower arrangements offer a visible reminder that, fight aside, he and Dom are still business partners. That Dom accedes to Lynn's suggestion and stays in the front of the house even shows that Dom wants their relationship repaired.
Then, when Lynn finally shows up on the later side, he has a date. Dom goes from relieved to deflated in an instant when he meets Lynn's companion. Somehow, in the midst of a night during which his business venture will live or die, it's losing Lynn that finally sends Dom into a frustrated tizzy. That's when Doris steps in, going from busy worker bee to well-intentioned busybody.
(An aside: Lauren Weedman, even at the periphery of "Looking," has brought delightful comic energy to an often muted show. Her promotion to series regular in Season 2 is a welcome development, and Doris' refusal to let Lynn brush her off, her forceful assertion that "Dom's worth it," proves exactly why. But when she points out that Dom was at the front of the house all night, I groaned. Some things ought to stay as show-don't-tell moments.)
Apparently, she gets through. Dom's insistence he wants his business partnership with Lynn to continue is a transparent ploy to keep the man in his life. The eager, hopeful look on his face when he suggests they venture into "something more permanent" puts the romantic subtext in the open. And when Lynn — who used the pair's business relationship as a reason for them to spurn romantic attachment — objects, Dom launches into another kiss. This time, Lynn doesn't seem to mind.
What's hanging in the balance, though, is the planned restaurant that Dom held up as his goal all season. Peri-peri night at Punjab Chinese appears to have been a smash success, but there is no permanence. Putting his professional life in order was a major part of Dom's quest for self-improvement, and there's no indication he has done so. The stability of his romance with Lynn is shaky too, although it's an improvement on the stress/Grindr/self-pity cycle he'd been repeating when "Looking" began. But making out with the man who signs his paychecks might come back to bite him.
At least he'll have company in Patrick. A very high Agustin, in his weekly quest to project his own problems onto his friends and thereby bring everyone down with him, suggests to Patrick that Richie might just be done with him. Patrick blanches at the thought this genuinely nice guy who just is who he is (in a way both Patrick and Agustin have never been) might be kicking him to the curb. But the seeds of doubt are planted enough for Patrick to finally succumb to the sexual tension underlying his relationship with Kevin.
That Patrick is willing to bottom for Kevin is another kind of betrayal of his relationship with Richie. Given how much Patrick prizes being perceived as dominant and masculine, his willingness to let Kevin do what Richie couldn't (at least, not on camera) places both men on an important hierarchy. It speaks to where Patrick positions himself on that continuum too: Better, manlier than Richie, but not quite at Kevin's level.
Following the (rather steamy) sex, Patrick is reeling. After crossing the work-sex boundary, he wants to know what's going to happen now. But Kevin can't give him an answer about their future; his boyfriend is apparently still in the picture. Playing in the background and offering one suggestion: Arthur Russell's "I Couldn't Say It To Your Face," a song about a de facto breakup never made explicit. "I need some space," Russell croons, a brilliant reminder of Richie's words to Patrick exactly when Patrick tucks Richie's escapulario into his shirt. At the moment, he looks more unsure of himself than we've seen him all season.
When a bewildered, mortified Patrick he runs into Richie outside his apartment, things get worse. "I thought you said you didn't want to talk to me ever again," Patrick tells Richie, vocalizing one justification for sleeping with Kevin. And while that's not what Richie said, he does want to lay a few things bare. Richie feels disrespected, he can't deal with Patrick's obvious issues with Richie's background and he thinks the pair moved way too fast – though to his credit, Richie takes some of the blame.
"I am this close to falling in love with you," Richie says, "but I'm not going to do that to myself if you're not ready." Patrick's silence and emotional outpouring is enough of an answer. Between the guilt in his eyes and tears streaming down his face, the whole exchange is heart-wrenching to watch. Knowing the situation is mostly of Patrick's creation must be unbearable.
Back in Episode 3, Patrick told Agustin he didn't think either of them were particularly adept "at being who we think we are." When it came to Richie, though, Patrick tried. For a few weeks, he succeeded. But at his sister's wedding, the facade really started to crumble. Sleeping with Kevin, the kind of man Patrick always thought he ought to be with, was the nail in the coffin. Richie has always known what he wants. He made that clear when he rejected Patrick in "Looking for Uncut," and it's the same reason he wants distance from Patrick – though perhaps not an outright split – as season one comes to a close.
And thus, Alice steps back through the looking glass. Patrick enters his apartment by himself, where he finds Agustin passed out on his couch after watching "Golden Girls" in the dark. In one night, his romantic life is chaos. Three episodes ago, it looked like he might have found exactly the relationship he was looking for. Then, following a series of self-inflicted setbacks, it vanished. That he'd be downhearted is understandable.
Still, there's hope, maybe. "Thank You For Being a Friend" plays "Looking" off, and with Agustin next to Patrick, it reads like a reminder Patrick's not entirely alone. The trouble is, he now has fraught relationships with near everyone in his life. What happens next, for him and for "Looking," is anyone's guess.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun