From the first shot of the season-two finale of Looking, it’s clear Patrick is in serious trouble. He is holding a box of his belongings marked “Valuables,” standing outside of the forbidding-looking apartment building he is moving into with Kevin. And he can’t seem to get in the door until two very flip and over-it gay guys let him in. “Thieves don’t usually bring valuables in,” says one of them, and the other says, “Unless they’re genius thieves, you never know.”
These guys talk with a certain kind of superficial gay guy sound that hasn’t been featured much on Looking: drawling, sarcastic, “fun,” but shallow and empty. Patrick seems to like it at first, especially when they squeeze into an elevator with him and one of them quips, “Nice and tight!” The guys introduce themselves as Milo and Jake, and Patrick seems slightly thrilled by their flirting and hopeful about his new life.
But once Kevin lets him into their apartment, it becomes obvious right away that Patrick has made a mistake moving in. It starts with little things, like Kevin insisting that Patrick take off his shoes, telling him gruffly, “No footwear here.” But things quickly get worse from there when Patrick turns around and takes in an enormous poster on the wall of Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, at which point he really should just walk right out of that apartment with his box of valuables and never look back. “I fucking love it,” Kevin says unironically. “It’s the best film ever made.” This poster gets across the weirdness of Kevin because Field of Dreams is very much an embarrassing straight guy movie for a straight guy who has daddy issues.
As they walk into the bedroom, Kevin says he loves getting to live “above everyone,” and thinks about the guys he used to know back home in England. “If those fuckers could see me now,” he says. After these unpleasant musings from Kevin, they try to have sex but get interrupted by a doorbell ring from Milo and Jake, who invite them to a party they’re giving. Patrick reminds Kevin they have to go to Agustín’s mural opening at the shelter. “Do we have to go to that?” Kevin asks. Patrick reminds him it’s a fund-raiser, but says maybe they can stop by the party for a drink. Kevin tells him he already said yes to the party, without asking Patrick.
“Everyone is white,” Patrick says, as they survey the party. “And not one ugly person,” Kevin adds. They are told that they are “new meat” for these partygoers and therefore of special interest, and they are also told the party gets “wilder” as the night goes on. Patrick drinks a little too much and says that maybe they can stay for a little “looky-loo” if the party does indeed turn into an orgy, but then he goes up to Milo and Jake and looks at their phone as they are trying to match Grindr profiles to guys at the party, and his face falls at what he sees. It’s clear right away, even before he says anything, that Patrick has seen Kevin’s Grindr profile.
When Patrick confronts Kevin about it, Kevin says he just looks at the other profiles, and of course Patrick doesn’t believe him. As they go back to their apartment, Patrick calls Agustín to fill him in, and Agustín tells Eddie he might not need a new roommate after all. Kevin offers to make Patrick a PB&J sandwich, and Patrick reminds Kevin that he hates peanut butter and even has an anti-peanut-butter monologue. Patrick is known, he says, for hating peanut butter. And now he has moved in with a guy who doesn’t know that. This seemingly small thing just brings up all the other larger problems they are having.
They start to have a big fight, and it escalates quickly. Kevin says he has something to tell Patrick, and at first it seems like he’s about to confess that he has an STD. But no. Instead, Kevin says that he wants to try an open relationship. Patrick reacts prudishly and hypocritically to this suggestion. During the fight, Kevin is manipulative and unfair in every way he can be until he finally settles on this very low blow: “Your own mother doesn’t believe in monogamy.” They keep fighting until they are down in the parking lot of their apartment building, moving around desperately like rats in a maze.
Venturing further into the mire, Kevin reminds Patrick that their sexual relationship began when Patrick was still seeing Richie. As he tries to get out of the building, Patrick looks like he is going to cry, and he seems like he is very close to breaking things off for good with Kevin. When Patrick is closest to making this decision, Kevin looks like a spoiled brat who will say anything to get back on the good side of a parent. Finally Kevin just says, “Trust me.” Like a politician! And this keeps Patrick in line for now. But this episode makes it clearer than ever that Kevin is a shady heartbreaker with no redeeming qualities at all, and he probably has many other nasty surprises in store for Patrick.
There are short scenes here where Dom and Doris make up and try to start their friendship again on a less co-dependent basis, but this episode is really one, long torturous punishment for Patrick, who finally escapes his bad relationship with Kevin and goes out into the morning light to see Richie. He tells Richie he doesn’t want to talk and just wants a haircut. “Just buzz it off,” he tells Richie. “You ready?” Richie asks. “I’m ready,” Patrick says
The fate of Looking is still unclear as of this writing. Brandon Nowalk at the A.V. Club recently wrote a piece about how Looking should be renewed for a third season “even though nobody watches,” and that kind of reasoning is probably not going to be very persuasive for HBO execs. Looking back at the first reactions to this show, what comes to mind most is Matt Zoller Seitz’s initial review for Vulture. He wrote, “Looking carries itself as if there have already been nine or ten shows about gay men that could have been paired with Girls on HBO.” He meant this as a compliment, but that lack of difference and urgency is partly what made potential viewers reject this show.
Looking always does small things well, but in this second season it fumbled a lot of the bigger things having to do with plot and character development, and this was frustrating even for the small group of viewers who could be called fans of the show. This is a frustrating series, and some of the frustration is deliberate on the part of the creators, and some of it is not. Patrick’s relationship with Kevin has been a disaster for him and also for the show itself, and this last episode of the second season sets up Richie as a potential savior. Whether Looking itself can be saved is an open question.