A major retraction from me to the makers of Looking, which after finally seen the first season, I get how exquisitely it moves gay male visibility forward on TV. Eclipsing the firsts of both Queer as Folk versions, the show further nuances the cultural tightrope that gay men can occupy between physical contact and profound intimacy/love, often necessitating confrontations with painful truths.
While many linked Haigh’s breakout film to Richard Linklater, I felt Antonioni was more fitting and accurate. Silences, physical shifts, and bleakly beautiful landscapes form the aural and visual core of this series’ palette. Even more interesting is how a fully fleshed group of gay male friends develop well past coming out. And while a plethora of new shows feature gay men in various situations—work, family, school—they’re mostly colorful sidebars.
Less successful here are certain dramatic nuances which don’t fully land even if the choices made are clear and interesting. Richie was and is a wonderful foil and modifier for Patrick, but by the end felt a bit over the top because ultimately San Francisco is a very small place, and a West Side Story take might work better further south. The threat and temptation presented by Kevin to Patrick was intriguing at first but fizzled as the source of his passion never really surfaced—except as a workplace/power manipulation. The women characters fared the worst—unsurprisingly?—with Patrick’s mother starting off frosty with a nice touché reveal, but the fag hag nurse character ultimately was never much more than that.
Is this Haigh’s ploy, showing how unreliable and flimsy everyone around Patrick is, save his friends? And some friends they are. Agustin spent a season almost literally up his own ass because of his immense inadequacy and drove his boyfriend away, while Dom, nearly doing the opposite, hit 30 (yet the actor playing him is obviously 40ish??), and found his benefactor at a sex club who ultimately demonstrates infinitely more patience with him than he does with himself.
The overall quality is so high that the flaws, to me anyway, are that much more stark. I look forward to further examination come the new year.