Looking Season 2 Ep. 1 Recap: "Looking For The Promised Land"

Photo Credit: HBO

(Typically, my recaps for 'Looking' are posted on Butlerway.com. But as the site is experiencing some technical difficulties at the moment, I'll post my recap of the second season premiere here. When the site is back up again, I'll resume posting recaps there, and post links to the site on this blog. Got it? Now on with the recap!)

Welcome back to the Castro. Well, not exactly. When we last left our boys—and Doris—Patrick had botched his relationship with Richie and gotten his cherry popped by his boss Kevin, Dom had pulled off a successful pop up of his restaurant while still pursuing the ever-inscrutable Lynn, and Agustin got high (let's assume he took Molly for the sake of continuity) after blowing up his relationship with Frank and hitting rock bottom professionally.

“Looking For The Promised Land,” the season premiere of Looking's second season, finds the trio escaping the city for Lynn's cabin in Russian River, which apparently is a west coast version of Fire Island in that its a place where gay folks go to get away from the San Fran grind. As with most of the show's episode titles, “Looking For The Promised Land” has more than one meaning; it obviously refers to the fantastic party the guys, joined by Doris, attend after happening upon a beach full of bears earlier in the day. But it also refers to how Patrick, Dom and Agustin are each searching for their own utopia.

However, as with last season, the guys are getting in their own way of achieving emotional paradise. After after encountering a Richie look-a-like at the party--a subtle, sly fakeout by the show--Patrick makes a call to who we assume is Richie, but who actually turns out be Kevin. The two engage in some in-the-woods action (a callback to the series premiere where Patrick bumbled a random hookup in another wooded area), and it'd be easy to blame Patrick's newfound sexual confidence on the Molly and being on vacation if not for the fact he hadn't already banged Kevin once before. Well actually more like three or four times before.

Yes, our little Paddy is the other man, as Kevin is still booed up at the moment, a secret that weighs on him throughout the episode until he confesses to Dom and Augustine during their pre-dawn post party recap (heh, recap) the next morning. While he's down for a break room blowjob, Kevin doesn't appear to be in any rush to break up with his boyfriend, and Patrick's self-aware enough to know what he's doing isn't likely to end well. But some part of Patrick also appears to be getting off on it, as having an affair is uncharacteristic behavior for him. His story is shaping up to be the classic rom com conundrum: choosing between passion (Kevin) and stability (Richie).

Dom and Lynn have finally started their relationship, but it's open relationship. Exactly who came up with that idea is never revealed, but watching Dom flip through an old photo album and hearing him talk about wanting Lynn to be more open about his past has me thinking he wasn't the one who suggested it. Of course, monogamy is not a natural state for Dom, so having an open relationship may have been a way for Lynn to both protect himself while also giving Dom what he believes he wants. Dom does take a guy back to the cabin and is all post-coital smiles the next morning, but I have a feeling it'll be harder for him to deal with their open relationship status as time goes on.

Judging from Patrick none-too-subtle remarks, Agustin's been reacting to his breakup with Frank in typically Agustinian fashion. Meaning he's been drowning his sorrows in alcohol and random, loud hookups. He also seems to have given up any notion of being an artist, as he tells Eddie (a.k.a. Damien from Mean Girls), a bear he meets at the party, that the world is probably better off without his art. Agustin is a tricky character to get behind. On one hand, it's easy to relate to his sense of aimlessness and dissatisfaction. But on the other hand, it's hard to feel much sympathy or empathy for a guy who can be (and has repeatedly been) an intentional asshole to his friends. Just because you acknowledge your shitty behavior doesn't make it any less shitty.

However, what keeps Agustin from being totally unlikable is underneath the snark, he does carry genuine affection for his friends (a trait that is more prominent in this episode than it was last season), and his commentary, however biting, is often spot on, particularly when it comes to Patrick's personal life. If he could just start to deal with some of his own issues. his actions would probably come off more supportive than shady.  Maybe meeting Eddie, who works with homeless gay and transgender youth and has a certain joie de vivre, despite his HIV positive status, can help him find some focus and direction. At least, if he doesn't find a way to push him away.

The episode ends with Patrick stopping talk of Kevin and the affair by asking they talk about it tomorrow, and instead take in the moment, look up at the sky and pretend things will work out for the best. It's an understandable request, but like their trip, it's only a temporary escape from the reality that awaits him back home. Tomorrow's coming, and Patrick and his friends are going to have to face it whether they're ready or not.

--Other Thoughts:

“You know I actually prefer you fucked up, because it makes you way less narcissistic.”

“Bring the clone and the seal pup.”

“How did you know it was my door?”
“Because it smelled like misery.”

--A sad, but realistic moment: when Patrick and Dom flip through Lynn's photo album and talk about an old boyfriend who appears in a few pictures. It's almost a given a gay man of Lynn's generation lost someone close to him to AIDS, but neither Patrick or Dom say that out loud, because it's already understood.

--The whole slo-motion sequence of the main cast and the woodland gays dancing to Sister Sledge's “Lost In Music” was the visual highlight of the episode. Though Looking derives much of its emotional resonance from its characters screwing up and questioning themselves, this scene, like the one last season of Richie and Patrick dancing during their first date, proves it can be just as affecting when it captures the characters' joy, chemically-induced or not.

--Doris provided a welcome blast of blunt humor, as her presence usually does. Though I'm happy to see she may also be getting a love interest of her own, as it'll help her character transcend the funny but ultimately one-dimensional fag hag role she occupied for much of last season.