Looking, Season 2, Episode 2, “Looking for Results”
January 18, 2015, 10:00 PM (EST), HBO
With films like Videodrome and The Fly, David Cronenberg revealed that film and TV is not only visual and auditory, but bodily as well. These mediums have a skin, whose irritation and infection can yield visceral reactions from legions of viewers. The new episode of Looking, entitled “Looking for Results,” explores the bodily component of TV by transforming STDs and neurosis from character traits into overarching themes/metaphors.
Directed by Andrew Haigh and written by Michael Lannan, “Looking for Results” begins with a Patrick and Kevin shacked up in a sleazy, yet ethereal, hotel room. The scene is written in a similar vein as the season 1 episode, “Looking for the Future,” but in this case, Patrick and Kevin (not Patrick and Ritchie) exist in their own intimate bubble. The two discuss their childhood crushes (Patrick loved his father’s friend, while Kevin memorized the dance routine of a British boy band) and explore the game Top Trumps. Yet every bubble must burst and the two must return to the real world by pretending that their “relationship” never existed.
Patrick confesses that he told Dom and Agustin about Kevin, which has delayed effect on Kevin (he begins to think that any conversations Patrick has with coworkers are about him). As the secrets and lies take a toll on the two men’s emotions, Patrick notices he has a rash on his stomach. His neurotic mind believes that this is a symptom of an STD, and he worries that he may have contracted AIDS. Similar to Raskolnikov from Tolstoy’s Crime and Punishment, the rash is a visual manifestation of Patrick’s emotional/psychological state. It becomes a visible reminder of Patrick’s repressed emotions and desires, which explains Patrick’s obsession with classifying the disease that caused it.
Patrick’s neurosis creates a spider web of tangential plot lines by intersecting with the supporting stories of Dom’s open relationship with Lynn, Doris’ flirtation with a mysterious stranger at a bar, and Agustin’s drug-induced search for Eddie at a bear club. It is the latter plot line that prompts the inevitable event: the return of Ritchie. When he finds Agustin strung out in front of a pupusa restaurant, Ritchie takes him back to Patrick’s apartment (much to Patrick’s surprise). After an awkward interaction, Patrick and Ritchie catch up on life. Patrick avoids mentioning Kevin by saying that he isn’t “seeing anyone,” but the awkward conversation leaves Ritchie cold. Ritchie rebuffs Patrick’s invitation to grab lunch, though he recants and gives a small glimmer of hope by saying he’ll think about it.
The next day, Patrick visits an Out of the Closet (the labels on the sales racks are a dead give away for the thrift store franchise) and has an HIV test. The scene echoes a similar moment from the first season of Girls in which Hannah obsesses over finding out if Adam gave her an STD. The sterile color palette and the lingering long take only exacerbate the awkwardness of scene, making Patrick’s joke about being “pregnant with HIV” all the more cringe-worthy. In many ways, Patrick acts as a cathartic agent for our own neuroses and fears about sex. His poking and itching will draw interesting reactions from viewers, some of whom may find themselves scratching their legs and arms (even if there is nothing on their own bodies). Patrick tests negative, and tells Kevin about his ordeal. Kevin reveals that he too is having an adverse reaction to the secrets and lies (he has headaches that he hasn’t had since he was a closeted kid), and he tries to alleviate the situation by performing a boy band dance routine for Patrick.
The highlight of this episode is its exploration of the fears of relationships: the fear of sex, the fear of disease, the fear of honesty, the fear of jealousy, the fear of rejection, etc. These fears all manage to find a visceral component in Patrick’s rash, which repeatedly interrupts the characters’ lives, even though they try to avoid it. Though not an original metaphor, Haigh and Lannan’s exploration of Patrick’s psyche redeems the series from its lackluster premiere last week.
Visual/Bodily metaphors make this episode of Looking one of the more cringe worthy, relatable, and surprisingly intimate episodes of the season thus far.