Looking At Looking Again

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 2 2015 @ 1:51pm

I wrote a review of the breakthrough gay drama about a year ago. I loved it. It spawned quite a thread here at the Dish. Money quote:

Along with Michael Lannan, Haigh is the first director and writer to actually bring no apparent cultural or ideological baggage to the subject matter. There is no shame here and no shadow of shame. There is simply living – in its complexity, realism, and elusive truth. To get to this point – past being either for or against homosexuality – is a real achievement.

Two of Slate‘s gay voices – June Thomas and J. Bryan Lowder – debate it today. Lowder really didn’t like the first season, for all the reasons I loved it. He didn’t seem to think it was gay enough. June has a different response, but her defense of the show this season is not exactly full-throated. I’ve been watching it again with Aaron, and last night, realized I was basically done with it.

Not because it distorts; it doesn’t much. Not because of its realism; I still love that. I just came to terms with the fact that I didn’t care about any of the characters. The lead – a dreadful, dumb, whiney pain-in-the-neck – is so irritating and shallow I actively want him to just disappear. I care not a flying fig what happens to him, unless it be some fatal accident. I don’t see a single redeeming feature in this man-child’s bland insipidity, or any skill in the empty performance given by Jonathan Groff. His British boyfriend? An asshole. But I actually care about this asshole a tiny bit more than any of the main characters. Because at least there is something in him to care about. June agrees:

Take Kevin, Patrick’s boss and sort of secret lover. He has more screen time this year, but he’s still secondary, yet I know him far better than I do Patrick, Agustín, or Dom. I know where he’s from, what his childhood was like, who his boyhood friends were, what card games he played, which pop group’s dance moves he copied. I don’t understand every bit of his psychology—is he just a standard adulterer who’ll never leave his official boyfriend for his bit on the side; is he sticking with John for the sake of a green card; or is he, like Patrick, Agustín, and Dom, lost and looking for direction? Still, he’s not a complete cipher, as the main protagonists are.

Actually, Agustín and Dom are the only two faintly likable main characters in the show. And although both are good actors (disclosure: Murray Bartlett is a friend), they have very little to work with, as they try to bring them to life. And at some point, you can’t keep watching a series where every character is as unlikable as they are shallowly conceived. In the end, I’m afraid, the writing of the main characters is slowly killing off the show for me. I’ll keep watching to see if the occasional twitches of life and texture can repair the character waste-land. But, sadly, my hopes aren’t high.