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'Looking' Back: Episode 4, 'Looking For $220/Hour'

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We're now halfway through the first season of HBO's Looking. Sunday's episode "Looking For $220/Hour" introduced some soapier elements and (finally) some real conflict for our leads. It's the best writing we've seen on the show yet, and, if the back half of the season continues the momentum, it could salvage the show and keep me interested in a second season.

Four episodes deep may not be the best time to start getting interesting, but I'm glad to see the show's principle stories finally picking up some steam.

For many viewers, it may just be too little, too late. That's a shame, because I think tonight's episode finally struck the right balance between the show's much-touted realism (some might call it "overly-touted") and some really nice storytelling.

Let's dive deeper into what made last night's installment work, AFTER THE JUMP

  • Bakula_bartlettDom (Murray Bartlett)'s lunch with Lynn (Scott Bakula) hit like a punch to the gut. You could feel the gravity around that table change once Lynn realized this wasn't a date. The pangs of discomfort surfaced again when Lynn called him out for his flirty dinner date suggestion. It's hard not to compare their dynamic with Patrick (Jonathan Groff)'s failed efforts in previous dates. Whereas Patrick's persistent inability to keep his foot out of his mouth made those scenes frustrating, these moments with Dom were hard to watch because they were so much more relatable, so easily understood.
  • Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez)'s little white lie about CJ (T.J. Linnard)'s interest in his project is the kind of thread that you just know is the first to be pulled as his relationship comes apart. It's the kind of non-truth that has the potential to snowball into grander and grander deception, but, for now, it was just an off-handed fib in a bar. Without a dramatic close-up or change in soundtrack to cue us in to THIS IS A THING THAT WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER, the show uses it's understated approach to trust viewers to make these connections.
  • Is it just me, or does it feel like there's no good way for this to end for Richie (Raul Castillo)? Patrick seemed like he was more motivated to atone for his atrocious date than he was pursuing a genuine attraction or connection to Richie. It feels much less likely that Patrick genuinely falls for Richie than it does he'll stick with him long enough to convince Richie he's a good person, before realizing they wouldn't work together in the long term. Patrick has revealed himself to be pretty self-absorbed, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Richie become collateral damage on his journey of self-discovery.
  • I really enjoyed how meat was used throughout the episode to represent temptation. Agustín took a bite out of his Rentboy's bratwurst, despite being a vegetarian, before hiring him for his art project. Dom offered Lynn a taste of his chicken. And, most notably, it was Kevin (Russell Tovey)'s request to indulge in the fried chicken his partner never lets him have that finally made it clear to Patrick that, while he's asking about chicken, what Kevin really wants is a surrogate to play out the things he isn't getting at home. It's things like this that never line up so neatly in real life, and that's exactly the sort of writing magic that I've been eager to see more of among the "realism."

I'm committed to seeing how the series shakes out over the next few episodes, and I'm feeling optimistic about where it's heading.

What did you think of the episode?

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Comments

  1. Sadly, the ratings are "ouch" level. The most recent episode, the 3rd, had 110,000 viewers. For comparison, Game of Thrones, another HBO show, had 2.44 million viewers for the 3rd episode of its first season. I know it's like comparing apples and oranges, but my point is these are bad numbers for Looking. At least HBO took a chance on it at all.

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Feb 10, 2014 12:23:31 AM


  2. Come to think of it, it hasn't helped that Looking has aired opposite the Superbowl and the Grammys, two of the biggest TV events of the year. And now The Walking Dead is back too. Time slot matters.

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Feb 10, 2014 12:25:57 AM


  3. The ratings are clear--Looking is on a level of similar canceled-HBO shows. We'll see, now that the NFL season has ended, if this week brought forth higher ratings for the show.

    Posted by: Francis | Feb 10, 2014 12:30:57 AM


  4. No matter how trashed the ratings are, Looking has become one of the best written, acted, and honest shows I've ever seen, and I'm not fond of begging for crumbs so I'm not typically kind when it comes to viewing and reviewing the usual half-baked garbage that's thrown our way. With a paltry 4 episodes left, one can only hope that the remaining time this show has will help it blossom into a comeback kid. I've become accustomed to disappointment, so I won't get my hopes up, but this show is becoming a diamond before our very eyes. The cast is outstanding, the writing superb. Even the superlative ending with Sylvester playing in the background was a touch I couldn't have dreamt of. Bravo indeed.

    Posted by: ESA | Feb 10, 2014 12:43:33 AM


  5. I have to correct myself, the 3rd episode of Looking didn't air opposite the Superbowl but the day before, on a Saturday. So I think it still pulled in bad numbers because it aired on a Saturday night and others weren't even aware it switched nights.

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Feb 10, 2014 12:45:45 AM


  6. @Spacecadet

    It didn't switch nights. It played early Saturday night, but also aired in its normal time slot on Sunday. With DVR and On Demand the time slot is almost irrelevant.

    This was definitely the best episode by far. I'll be disappointed if we don't get a second season. We've barely scratched the surface in getting to know or care about these characters.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Feb 10, 2014 1:03:21 AM


  7. I really want to like this show - I've seen episodes 1-3- but dang is it boring. I'll watch 4 but if doesn't significantly improve, I'm done. I've seen comparisons of Looking to Girls but, unfortunately, I don't see it. For example, Girls' characters are flawed, funny and realistic, while Looking's characters - so far - are boring, cliche and unsympathetic. Fingers crossed it gets better. Lol

    Posted by: Baltesq | Feb 10, 2014 1:10:50 AM


  8. I have tried. I have really tried to like "Looking". Tonight's episode was when I said, "OK. Enough! This show isn't going anywhere." I wish it well, the cast well. I hope that maybe it will succeed. But, "Looking" just has no focus, no spark, no dramatic tension. It all seems just too, too familiar. Maybe it should relocate to Oakland because with "Looking", there is no there there.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Feb 10, 2014 1:11:41 AM


  9. I watched the first three episodes and the whole time I was thinking "Why am I watching this?"

    The characters lack any punch or wit or surprise. Kind of like the characters in my daily life!

    I have to say the lead's acting is all "golly gee look at me" style acting. His poor acting chops only made a bad situation worse.

    Posted by: American Dreamer | Feb 10, 2014 1:25:53 AM


  10. The first three were forgettable, but this was a much better episode. It's very SF (where I live) and won't attract a huge fan base (SF people will like it or hate it, while most people outside SF---for valid reasons---won't care).

    There's no way HBO could have expected a huge hit with this show. Many straights won't care, many gays will be critics, and it's just not all that compelling. People criticize Mad Men as being about people living but not really doing anything, yet it has a strong appeal. Looking is much the same but doesn't ignite interest. I could walk outside and see this stuff any day of the week.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 10, 2014 1:41:38 AM


  11. The only " saving grace" to this show is that hot English actor with the big ears.. I don't even think he can save this train wreck.. If I was 16 yo / in the closet , then maybe I could see revelance.. Jonathan please come back to Broadway , we need your talent over here

    Posted by: TonyC | Feb 10, 2014 1:46:14 AM


  12. I'm totally committed to this show. I've liked everything so far. I hate that people are calling it boring. What was everyone expecting?

    Also, I wouldn't assume cancellation just yet. Rating are important, but so are DVRs, re-airings, On Demand, HBO GO. I think it all needs to be considered.

    As for the Girls comparison, yes, Patrick may be a little frustrating, but he's far more tolerable than Hannah.

    Posted by: Mike | Feb 10, 2014 2:10:56 AM


  13. I'm with Mike, and the only thing cliché, tired, and boring are the repetitive comments that complain of just that. If you can see this any day of the week, how wonderful it must be for you to be part of a life in a microcosm where people can do pretty much anything they want and experience life without being bothered by the possibility of being beaten to death for just walking down a street hand in hand with another man. Some of us actually grew up with absolutely zero representation cinematically unless it involved murder and serial killings, criminal behavior, or dying of AIDS or being the villain that destroys entire families for being gay and wanting so desperately to be so absurdly abnormal. If you're so dead set against watching an actual gay drama, then go back to watching whatever exciting tripe it is you're regularly glued to and shut up.

    Posted by: ESA | Feb 10, 2014 2:34:59 AM


  14. And I meant "so absurdly normal", not abnormal.

    Posted by: ESA | Feb 10, 2014 2:35:52 AM


  15. It's a very stereotypical show based on sex lives. Instead of "Looking"., they should have called it "Promiscuous".

    Posted by: brian | Feb 10, 2014 2:36:53 AM


  16. Btw: I looked at the "Girls" episode tonight & there was a drop dead hunk having sex w/ one of the girls .. THAT scene was more interesting than 25 minutes of Looking

    Posted by: TonyC | Feb 10, 2014 2:37:04 AM


  17. They don't put either Russell Tovey or Murray Bartlett in leather. This show just keeps missing the mark. Did the creators not realize they only had 8 half-hours to give us more than banal conversations. Some dramatic conflict perhaps.

    Posted by: Quicksilver | Feb 10, 2014 2:53:23 AM


  18. I think it is a show which has a bad first episode but which is improving. But the problem isn't that it is gay, it's the style. It has an indie film sensibility. Which is fine for those that enjoy it but it isn't commercial and most US TV Stations are commercial. HBO might keep it as a loss leader, to buy LGBT good will. But it's sad that this is the only thing that could keep the show going.

    Posted by: David | Feb 10, 2014 3:11:26 AM


  19. Slagging this show seems to be some people's full time job.

    Posted by: Gil | Feb 10, 2014 3:18:26 AM


  20. i wish this show had never aired, ugh. after it's canceled midseason it will be used as an excuse by all the major networks to not greenlight any shows with a predominately gsy cast of characters for years to come.

    Posted by: JMC | Feb 10, 2014 3:20:35 AM


  21. Diarrhea! This show is loose stool.

    "Looking" is so poorly written & has such unappealling characters, I hope HBO puts it out of its (and our) misery ASAP.

    Each week I see defenders of the series make comments that bear little resemblance to the 30-minutes we just saw. They're welcome to their opinions. But anecdotally, I have yet to hear anyone in the real world express praise for this show.

    Perhaps the producers are just trying to be "real" or "edgy" or "something", but they miss the mark on all counts. So disappointing. There's a lot of good TV out there these days. This doesn't come close.

    Posted by: JonnyNYNY2FLFL | Feb 10, 2014 3:35:00 AM


  22. Love this show.

    Posted by: Rocco | Feb 10, 2014 3:57:32 AM


  23. this is my boldest statement about 'looking'. looking reminds me of a lot of gay themed movies i saw when i was a tween to teenager. and i remember thinking, if this is what gay is, then i am not gay. it took a long time before i saw real gay culture, which was basically, nothing extraordinary, just people, who happen to be gay like me. i feel like these characters all grew up in another generation, one where they didnt belong and had to all find each other. how is it that they only have a token straight friend? i mean, it seems like there arent even straight people anywhere really. this series seems to focus on a sliver of the gay community so thin that you could pass it under a closed door. i dont get it, its like an elaborate series of stereotypes.

    Posted by: okso | Feb 10, 2014 4:14:49 AM


  24. Have not yet seen #4 but hope it does go somewhere. I WANT very much to like the show but so far I believe it is too "cute" and just sitting around.
    I like the cast very much; I just wish they would be allowed to say a story that matters.

    Posted by: LG | Feb 10, 2014 4:27:23 AM


  25. Why does the time slot matter? The show is aired throughout the week and with hbo on demand, Tivo, Comcast on demand, etc. You can watch it whenever you want.

    Posted by: steve talbert | Feb 10, 2014 5:09:01 AM


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