Mar 29, 2015

[TV] Looking: Season 2

When Looking first started airing, it was clearly an attempt to tell a different sort of story versus what we has already been covered before. Sure, everyone remembers the significant impact shows like Queer as Folk had on public perceptions of the LGBT community, and Looking clearly wanted to become the next part of that particular conversation.

In recent years it feels like LGBT-focused shows have been struggling to stay on the air. I can sort of understand how US network television shows like Sean Saves the World may have a harder time since they're part of the programming block that potentially affects the most people in the wide open broadcasting block. Thus in contrast you sort of expect that pay-TV networks that often take bigger narrative risks may prove to be a better medium for fostering these stories.

But it seems that wasn't the case for Looking. It's on a somewhat somber note that I write this review since news broke out quickly after the season finale that the show had been cancelled, with only vague promises of a sort of movie special to wrap up lingering plot lines. For now I'll stick to a "I'll believe it when I see it" sort of mentality.

Synopsis: Looking is an LGBT comedy-drama series created by Michael Lannan for HBO. The show is loosely based on Lannan's short film Lorimer. This second season is the last full season order for the show, but there's news of a special to act as a true series finale.

The second season takes place about 2 months since the events of the season 1 finale. Dom () is still involved with the older and wealthier Lynn (Scott Bakula) as Dom pursues his dream of putting up a restaurant of his own. Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) are out at some party at a cabin in the woods as Augustin is now single after his breakup with Frank and now he's a free man. Patrick is pretty much single as well, except perhaps for his on-going fling with the still-committed Kevin (Russell Tovey). And thus while at the event, Patrick actually calls Kevin over for a little tryst in the woods.

The season is largely defined around these events. Dom has some trouble dealing with the open nature of his relationship with Lynn. Augustin has fun with someone at that party in the woods. And of course Patrick tries to figure out whether or not he should continue to see Kevin despite his relationship. Oh, and Ritchie (Raúl Castillo) is still around to some extent, so that's fun.

The season was crafted in a manner that they had some pretty clear character goals that they wanted t accomplish this time around. And with 10 episodes instead of 8, they certainly had more of a chance to tell more stories than during the first season. And I think they writers had a better idea of how they felt each character reacts to circumstances more than the first go-around, which again isn't too much of a surprise. If anything, you have to appreciate that they managed this part well enough.

But it's hard to say if those goals were sufficient since Dom's story shifts pretty quickly and Patrick continues to flip back and forth in terms of his priorities and what he wants. And for Patrick, that's pretty much the very definition of his character I suppose. Of all the characters, Augustin probably had the best story arc in terms of potential, although this does not necessarily mean it was executed well. So I think in terms of how the season began, it seemed to be a lot better prepared to be successful.

But things didn't quite work out so well in terms of the actual episodes and somewhere in the middle I was wondering where the show wanted to go. As much as we were the following the different character stories around, not everything made all that much sense. For example, Doris (Lauren Weedman) had a lot of character developments like finding a boyfriend and her father dying, but in some ways the felt like diversions that weren't too tied into the many narrative flow all that well. And it's a shame since Doris was probably the most well-adjusted character in the show.

The Richie arc really didn't go anywhere significant, and that's a shame since Raúl Castillo demonstrated what a fine actor he is in the first season. This season felt like a bit of a waste of his talents and he could have had a more active involvement in things. He was one of the more balanced characters in the first season and this one just sort of had him being somewhat somber and sad for Patrick, but only from a distance. The last episode tried to bring Richie back into the picture somewhat, but it's hard to say whether or not that was truly enough.

Despite the less than ideal nature of Kevin's character though, I naturally enjoyed seeing more of Russell Tovey. And let's face it. this season involved seeing quite a lot more of Russell Tovey in all senses of the word. he was adorable even back during his initial Being Human days and now he's just freaking hot on so many level. Allow me this moment of indulgence.

On the whole, the second season of Looking was only "just okay" and didn't quite break as much ground as the first season did. And while the show certainly had a distinct tone that set it apart from most LGBT television ventures, it wasn't as strong a piece as it could have been. Thus the season can only really get 3 Patrick and Kevin hot and steamy hookups out of a possible 5.

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