Photo: HBO/John P. Johnson.
Forgive the (embarrassingly basic) pun, but Looking is starting to look up (bah-dum-cha!). That, or it's already parodying itself; either way, this week's episode gets an approving nod over a raised glass of Malbec from this writer.
What did we learn about The Gay Experience tonight? The two types of LDRs are pretty, well, rough. Long-distance relationships callus you, and the first rule of leather-daddy rules is you must eat meat [insert wink emoji here]. The way the former situation is presented makes me feel all kinds of anxiety, so let's begin with the latter: leather. And, not just leather like "cool leather jacket, bro," but leather vests, chokers, bustiers, police caps, and ass-less chaps.
Enter the Folsom Street Fair, the annual leather and BDSM street fair where, if you haven't been, kink rules, the leather shines, and the sweat off the men wearing it is even shinier. Patrick's office is conveniently located right outside the fair, so naturally he got put into a sticky situation when he agreed to come in and work with the most heart-wrenchingly adorable man to ever grace my tiny NYC television screen, Kevin. Their repressed attraction toward each other really started to boil when they engaged in casual girl talk about the leather fest happening outside the large, super-modern, completely empty office they're in on a Sunday. Girl talk quickly switched into some existential dialogue that actually had me swipe left on a Tinder profile I didn't want to swipe left on.
"You've probably got a pair of ass-less chaps hiding in the back of your closet," Kevin snarked. Yes, Kevin, we all have proverbial "ass-less chaps" in the back of the proverbial closets we sashayed out of. I think that was the moment I started to change my opinion on the show. Finally, a smart approach to humanizing queer culture delivered in a way that speaks directly to Looking's main audience with subtext that applies to everyone — queer or not. When you consider the entire package it's delivered in, too, sandwiched between the fetish party happening outside and the sexual tension between Patrick and Kevin, it begins to carry much more of an impact.
Dom, it seems, is struggling with whatever ass-less chap he has hanging in his closet. He is almost over the hill, has made no progress with his dreams because he put them off for an ex-addict, and doesn't understand how his looks deceive him. His lunch date with Lynn was uncomfortable. Why wasn't Dom at the Folsom Street Fair? He and his 'stache could rock leather like no other. Instead, he plays the non-leather leather-daddy character fumbling with the power dynamic between he and an older gentleman he met while naked in a steam room. He goes from submissive to, as his name implies, a dominant role during his overly extended elevator pitch to start his own restaurant. Does he see Lynn as a mentor? I even humored the idea that maybe he sees Lynn as a father figure to help with whatever
skeleton ass-less chap is hiding in his closet. Or, did the writers contrast Agustín's lust over the $220/hour rent boy storyline with Dom using his charm and Tom of Finland-inspired looks to get money from Lynn.
I don't know, but I'm intrigued. Dom's story is the most unique and multifaceted of the three. He's not the well-experienced, been-there-done-that man eater teaching Patrick the ropes. He's the most lost one of the bunch despite him being the oldest. He and Kevin really are the deeper-dive characters, the ones you have to pay attention to because they break every preconceived notion. Kevin said he didn't want to go to the fair, but then he and Patrick end up having a lil' heart-to-heart in chairs that resemble sex swings. Patrick was even reclining and doing number 17: the spread eagle. (I see what you did there, HBO.) He's the guy who seems to have it all, but his long-distance relationship feels fake. The tension between him and Patrick is almost unbearable. Maybe it's my own crush on Kevin talking, but it's a bit bothersome to see a character who, when introduced, seemed so headstrong, retreat at the sign of a genuine emotion. Sure, it would constitute as cheating, but, as we learned last week, "all relationships open up eventually." Here's to hoping he actually doesn't become the cliché and remains faithful.