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HBO’s Looking at 10: 12 top moments, from parties in the woods to happy endings

Looking
It's been ten years since Looking debuted (Image: Attitude/HBO)

Amazingly, 2024 marks 10 years since Looking debuted on our screens. The series about the lives of several gay men living in San Francisco, starring Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett, Frankie J. Alvarez, Russell Tovey, and more premiered on 19 January 2014.

While it may not have got the audience reception the show’s cast and creators had hoped for, it developed a dedicated fanbase that has continually wanted to see the show rebooted. In part written and directed by Andrew Haigh, more recently of All of Us Strangers fame, Looking explored gay life, neuroses, and problems as they were being talked about by real gay men at the time.

Over its two seasons and movie, the show tackled topics such as sexuality, open relationships, PrEP, HIV and Aids, cruising, drugs, and more. The show also benefited from casting queer actors in most of the queer roles, with actors such as Groff, Bartlett, and Tovey bringing an innate understanding and particular nuance to their roles.

To celebrate this anniversary, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite moments from the series. Enjoy!

Patrick meets Richie

Right from the very beginning, Looking dived into gay culture. The very first scene introduces us to Patrick (Groff) who is cruising in a San Francisco park. Not entirely at ease with the situation, Patrick is saved by the bell (literally) as his phone goes off. Later, we see Patrick on a more conventional date, which also doesn’t go swimmingly well. It’s here Richie (Raúl Castillo) comes along and strikes up a conversation with a deflated Patrick. Ritchie is effortlessly charming, complimenting Patrick and suggestively inviting him to Esta Noche (a real-life LGBTQ venue that sadly closed down in 2014.) It’s the first scene in a winding love story and brought to life by two actors sizzling with chemistry. Playful, funny, charming, and a little bit hot, it’s everything we love about Looking.

Patrick meets Kevin

How many of us have not made a fool of ourselves while playing a video game and simultaneously straddling a giant missile? Kudos if your answer to that is a genuine yes! Much like Patrick’s first encounter with Richie, Patrick’s first meeting with Kevin (Tovey) is also quite memorable. Once again, the scene is playful, helped by the setting of a video game launch which acts as a useful way for Patrick to enquire about ‘which character Kevin plays as’ when he’s really asking if Kevin is gay. And he is. With thumping music in the background and many a clandestine spot within the ship, you could be mistaken for thinking the scene would end in a sexy hook-up. That doesn’t happen. But it’s just the beginning for Patrick and Kevin. There’s an added layer of warmth for this scene from us having recently found out that Tovey was in contention to play Patrick before Groff won the role. Thankfully, Tovey was written in as Kevin and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Patrick and Richie’s day out

As things get more serious with Richie, Patrick calls in sick and the two spend a day together. What follows is the development of a relationship as both men learn about the other, where they’ve come from, their hang-ups, likes, old habits, and pastimes. It’s a sweet and endearing episode that builds up the relationship between Richie and Patrick only for it to take a few steps back in the next couple of episodes. Strong performances from Groff and Castillo sell these two men falling in love.

The party in the woods

Looking‘s second season opens with an escape to the countryside. The episode spends time with its central trio – Patrick, Dom (Bartlett), and Agustín (Alvarez) – developing our understanding of their relationships. After trying some more wholesome activities they come across a party in the woods where they properly meet Eddie (Daniel Franzese) and let loose. The party in the woods acts as a representation of a gay utopia, an escape from the oft-oppressive hetero-normative culture that existed in 2014/2015 and still exists now. It also looked like a lot of fun and we wish we could have been there dancing in the fairy light-lit woods!

Richie helps Agustín

One of the many great things about Looking is how closely it was able to represent the LGBTQ community it was talking about. The good and the bad. On occasion, this meant seeing characters not at their best. One moment, in particular, sees Agustín, a character who spends much of season one making bad choices and reaping the consequences, slumped on the pavement after taking GHB with a former lover. It’s Richie who comes to his aid and takes him back to Patrick’s apartment. What makes the fact it’s Richie who helps Agustín even more heartwarming is the latter’s less-than-effusive reaction to Richie in season one. It’s an example of community helping each other when needed, and the virtues of being good and kind to one’s neighbour.

Dancing Kevin

It’s hard to imagine Looking without Russell Tovey. Patrick and Kevin’s relationship becomes a big part of season two and the two provided some cute and adorable as well as hot and sexy scenes together. This next moment is definitely on the former side. After spending the night together Patrick worries that a small rash could be HIV. He eventually gets a HIV test and shares all of this with Kevin at work. Patrick admits to being freaked out by their secret affair with Kevin admitting he’s not had an easy time with it too. Referring back to an earlier moment where Kevin revealed his past love for Take That, and in an effort to cheer Patrick up, Kevin performs a section of his childhood dance to the band’s song ‘Do What You Like’. He succeeds in cheering Patrick up, who can’t help but laugh, watched on by their colleagues. It’s a sweet moment between the two.

The ‘fun gay’ Halloween party

Ditched by Richie and with Kevin seemingly staying with his boyfriend, Jon, Patrick decides to be a “fun gay” and throw a Halloween costume party. Endlessly explaining his own costume (the video game character Gordon Freeman) as well as highlighting the karaoke sign-up sheet Patrick gets increasingly drunk. When Richie and Kevin arrive with their respective partners Patrick has a full-on meltdown, roasting his friends along the way. We love this scene, because who doesn’t love a character in meltdown (especially when it’s so spectacular) but it also becomes something of a turning point for Patrick.

Doris’ dad’s funeral (The whole episode)

Episode seven of season two focuses on Doris (Lauren Weedman) after the death of her father. She and Dom return to Modesto, California accompanied by Patrick who is still feeling the effects of the Halloween party. It’s a beautiful episode that balances grief with love and friendship and provides a backstory for Dom and Doris as they reminisce over their childhood years together. We love that the show takes time to explore Doris and Dom’s relationship when another show could have left it alone in favour of more time with the leading men. It’s an episode dedicated to true and lasting friendships in a series that’s pretty much about the same. There’s also the hilarious moment when Dom comes out to his deceased father by shouting “I’m gay! I’m gay, dad! I’m a big homo queer!” as they drive through the cemetery his father is buried in. Thankfully everyone survives the car crash that follows although our hearts did stop for a second.

Dom opens his chicken shop

Looking is very much a show about ordinary folk, most of whom just so happen to be gay. But fundamentally it’s about ordinary people just wanting to be happy. Dom spends much of the series trying to make his dreams of running a chicken restaurant come true. By the time we get to the movie we see that Dom has made the restaurant a success. It’s a far cry from where see him at the very beginning of the series where he’s unhappily working as a waiter in a restaurant.

Agustín and Eddie get married

The Looking movie (a comfortable 1 hr 30) had a lot to wrap up. What happened to Patrick after the conclusion of season two? Did he stay with Kevin? What about Richie? What’s Dom up to? And what about Agustín? Thankfully, it manages to wrap up all the loose ends quite neatly and satisfyingly for the audience. Augstín’s whole trajectory is completely changed when he meets Eddie who works with trans youth at a nearby shelter. After pursuing Eddie the two get together with Eddie later convincing Agustín to use his artistic talents to help the kids paint a mural at the shelter. Eddie is without doubt a positive influence on Agustín’s life and so to see the two get married is incredibly heartwarming. And it’s actually Agustín who calms Eddie down at the last minute, showing how far he has come from the show’s beginning.

Doris and Malik try for a baby

Like we said, the movie had a lot to accomplish in the way of providing a satisfying and logical end to the journeys of each of its characters. When it comes to Doris and Malik (Bashir Salahuddin) the revelation that they’re trying for a baby presents hope for their relationship. Before Malik came along Doris had been somewhat of a cynical voice about relationships but upon meeting the right man has clearly changed her mind. Another reason why we love this moment is it continues to build on Dom and Doris’ friendship explaining even more about what they mean to each other. Dom’s reaction to the news is adorable, Doris saying she thought she’d have Dom’s baby is slightly heartbreaking but we know she’s happy with how things are.

The ending

Throughout the series, Patrick is never clearly able to define what he’s looking for in a relationship. First, there was Richie, someone Patrick didn’t seem to have ever imagined himself with. Then there was Kevin, someone Patrick thought he could introduce to his parents, perhaps a safer option for him in general. With both he had tremendous chemistry and with both he had moments of joy and heartache.

After leaving San Francisco after the finale of season two, Patrick returns in the movie for Agustín’s wedding. He finds that Richie and his boyfriend Brady (Chris Perfetti) are more integrated into the central group, offering him a chance to reconnect with Richie. He also reconnects with Kevin, the two arguing about why their relationship ended so quickly. Patrick later feels like everything he touches falls apart after Richie and Brady fight over him. However, Richie returns, and the two share a tender and intimate moment where they lay everything out and ultimately decide to take a chance on each other.

Both characters have had their respective journeys together and apart and they come back together as adjusted human beings recognising their true feelings for one another. It’s the very definition of a happy ending, a modern-day fairy tale.

Looking is streaming on NOW in the UK and Max in the US

The post HBO’s Looking at 10: 12 top moments, from parties in the woods to happy endings appeared first on Attitude.